Rick Perry on Painkillers During Run

While Rick Perry was running for president, I speculated on this blog that painkillers might be causing some of his goofiness and giddiness, not just from watching him at the debates, but that clip of a speech in New Hampshire where he got all giggly over a bottle of maple syrup.  I didn’t have any inside information, I just knew that he’d recently undergone back surgery and thought that might be interfering with his run.

Now Politico‘s e-book, “Inside the Circus,” appears to confirm my speculation:

“A bad back doomed any chance Perry stood to break through.  It became an open secret that he was using painkillers in sufficient dosages to keep him standing through the two-hour debates.”

They may have kept him standing literally, but they also probably caused his fall.  Oops!

The Mitt Paradox

“Many Republican political professionals are worried that Mitt Romney’s public image is now defined by a word never associated with winning presidential campaigns — weakness — and are urging him to take dramatic steps to recast his reputation between now and the fall.

“The advice, echoed in interviews with numerous influential GOP figures, comes as Romney finds himself tormented by a contradiction: With each passing day of the primary season, he is coming closer and closer to being presidential nominee — and seemingly further and further away from being president.”

“Romney Fights ‘Loser’ Label,” by John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin, Politico

To me, Mitt just exudes fearfulness and timidity.  He doesn’t have that “3 AM phone call”  leadership aura about him.  So many times in the debates he had a scared look in his eyes that made me wonder how he’d handle being on the world stage with hostile leaders, as opposed to a theatrical stage with fellow Republicans.

Plastic Mitt’s Failed Attempts at Cultural References

In an attempt to seem human in the debate last night, Mitt Romney threw out a cultural reference, albeit an old one, to Seinfeld.  He said, “As George Costanza would say, when they’re applauding, stop.”

The quote didn’t sound right to me, since I couldn’t recall poor George ever getting applauded for anything.  The quote was actually from Jerry Seinfeld talking to George and went like this, “You hit that high note, you say good night and walk off.”

Not a big deal, but I doubt Mitt was ever a Seinfeld fan, so it just adds to his image of a phony trying to connect to regular people.

Republican Debate

Mitt clearly packed the hall tonight.  He had a strong performance, as did Newt, but it doesn’t really matter so much for Newt.  It was a missed opportunity — maybe his last — for Santorum.  Santorum had some strong moments, but overall he was defensive and often meandering.  If I’m Mitt, I’m breathing a big sigh of relief tonight.  He looked and sounded presidential.

I was troubled by Mitt’s answer on Syria when he said that we should reach out to the Alawites and tell them that if they dump Assad, we will help them.  Realistically, how much could we do for them?  They are a hated, Shia-related minority that’s been running the country for decades and taking the best jobs and most of the wealth, and there is huge pent-up resentment against them.  Even if we tried, could we stop them from being massacred or at least stripped of much of their wealth and power and influence in a new Syria, not ruled by a member of the Assad family?  I don’t think so.  So his answer seemed incredibly naive to me.

Mitt then went on to say that if we could pull Syria and Lebanon away from Iran, there would be more of a chance for sanctions to work.  I think Iran would be more determined than ever to get nuclear weapons.  I don’t see a solution to Iran going nuclear other than a military one, unfortunately.   There is no reasoning or negotiating with this Iranian regime.  President Obama has given them every chance.

So tonight’s debate didn’t give me any comfort that Mitt has a realistic grasp of how to deal with Iran.

Also, I can’t stand it when Mitt takes credit for Massachusetts’ top-rated schools.  Massachusetts has had outstanding public schools since the mid-seventeenth century.  His single term as governor had nothing to  do with it.  He’s the rooster taking credit for the sun rise.

Will Santorum Wear Ashes Tonight?

Rick Santorum will attend an Ash Wednesday service today, unlike Newt, so we know Santorum will receive ashes.

But there’s no rule about how long you have to keep the ashes on your forehead, so I don’t know if Santorum will wear ashes to the debate.  I hope he does, and I’m guessing he will.  That’s what I would do.  To me, he’s there not just as a presidential candidate, but as a representative of all Catholics in this country.

Debate Reminder

There’s another presidential debate tomorrow on CNN at 8 PM EST.

Will Santorum double down on the crazy?  Will Mitt praise the height of the trees in Michigan and babble incoherently about his love of lakes and cars?

That’s the last one for awhile.  They cancelled the debate scheduled for March 1 because only Newt was willing to attend, although I’m sure he would have been happy to appear by himself and fight with the moderator for two hours.

Mitt to Staffer Who Helped Him Win Florida Debates — “You’re Fired.”

Mitt Romney (left) and Brett O’Donnell are shown in this composite. | AP, Reuters

Brett O’Donnell, who worked on the 2008 McCain and 2012 Bachmann campaigns, and whose debate coaching has been credited with Mitt’s two excellent debates in Florida after two lousy debates in South Carolina, has been fired because Mitt thought he was getting too much attention and credit.  From Politico*:

“After O’Donnell was identified last week as advising Romney and then highlighted in subsequent news accounts as being one of the reasons behind the former Massachusetts governor’s improved debate performances, Romney campaign officials grew uneasy.

“O’Donnell received phone calls late last week from two Romney advisers — campaign manager Matt Rhoades and informal adviser Charlie Black — where it was made clear that there was severe discomfort about how his role was being portrayed in the media and that he ought to tread lightly.

“Then on Saturday, when the New York Times posted a Sunday story online…that again mentioned O’Donnell’s role with the debates, chief Romney strategist Stuart Stevens called O’Donnell. Stevens asked the adviser to contact Jim Rutenberg, one of the Times reporters who wrote the piece, and request that the reporter change the depiction of O’Donnell’s role in what would become a front-page article, according to Republican sources.

“The Times altered some of the language relating to O’Donnell in the final story… but O’Donnell’s name was not removed.  O’Donnell was not quoted in the story.

“Now, though, sources familiar with his thinking say he feels like he has become the fall guy after both senior aides and Romney himself expressed ire about the grab for credit generally and the much-buzzed-about Sunday Times story specifically.

“O’Donnell’s understanding was that… he would be tendered a formal offer to advise Romney on debates going forward.

“But GOP sources say he was abruptly informed on Wednesday that he would be paid for his work to date but would not be retained in any formal capacity.”

Mitt desperately needed those two strong debates in Florida.  O’Donnell clearly helped save his sorry, ungrateful ass.  Mitt may have just cut off his nose to spite his face.

* “Romney splits with debate adviser credited for turnaround,” by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman

Newt Continues With the Excuses

Newt continues to blame Mitt for his last two poor debate performances:  “You cannot debate somebody who is dishonest.  You just can’t.”

Um, Newtie, yes, you can.  You say he’s dishonest, you explain why, and then you tell the truth.  In your case, you throw in the words “fundamentally” and “consultants.”