It is foolish to confuse a moment of forgetting with stupidity. All people who speak make mistakes. We forget things. We confuse words. We lose our train of thought. And if you listen to a recording of yourself for even an hour in your daily life you’ll notice all sorts of gaffs, odd pauses, and long moments of complete inability to remember facts you are certain that you know.
Taken in context of everything else you say, these moments are easily overlooked by your coworkers and family. But taken out of context, and shown in isolation, its easy to make you look downright stupid. Even though all those who think you are stupid based on a small sample, make the same mistakes in their own lives every day.
Presidential debates are shows. They mislead us into thinking speaking on TV is the primary function presidents have, and better speakers will make for better presidents, which is sketchy logic at best. A candidate can claim whatever they like at the lectern, but doing the job requires a very different set of skills.
In the case of Rick Perry, I won’t say much about his merit as a presidential candidate. It’s safe to say I’m not a fan. But I can say that a flub, on its own, is a poor basis for evaluating anyone’s ability to do anything. He could have handled his forgetting (and his campaign) with much more poise, but the mistake itself is almost noise.
A week ago, a 4 minute video, often titled with suggestions Perry was drunk when he spoke, made the rounds. It was excerpted from a 20 minute speech, and it is informative for anyone who only watches the highlights to watch both.
It would have been nice to see discussion of the merit (or not) of his ideas drive how we evaluate him, but that would involve more effort from us than watching entertaining video clips that gives us the illusion of feeling smart.