Perry’s “16th Century” Gaffe (with Audio)

I attended the post-debate fraternity event last night where Texas governor Rick Perry mistakenly placed the American Revolution in the 16th century:

Our Founding Fathers never meant for Washington, D.C. to be the fount of all wisdom. As a matter of fact they were very much afraid if that because they’d just had this experience with this far-away government that had centralized thought process and planning and what have you, and then it was actually the reason that we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown if you will.

The incident has been widely reported, but I haven’t seen any audio or video, so here is an MP3 audio clip from my recording of the event. It’s low-quality but hopefully intelligible.

While I think the whole issue is pretty trivial, it does threaten to solidify the conventional wisdom that Perry is dumb. Yesterday, for instance, Wall Street Journal editorial writer Joseph Rago said at a pre-debate panel at Dartmouth (where I am on the faculty) that Perry seemed like he “had some sort of mental disability” during the previous debate. A few more incidents like this and Perry will be covered more like Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle than Mitt Romney. And as Palin and Quayle can tell you, once the narrative forms, reporters start looking for anecdotes to reinforce the story you want to tell. It’s a cycle that is very difficult to break.

[Cross-posted at Brendan-Nyhan.com]

Brendan Nyhan

Brendan Nyhan is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College.