These words from Governor Rick Perry probably killed off his chance of being nominated as the Republican candidate. In the live tv debate last week he was in attacking form, “I will tell you it’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce. Education…………..and what’s the third one”? 60 painful, for him, seconds later, “Sorry. Oops”.
Whether it was one of those memory blanks that can happen to anyone or whether, which seems unlikely he did not know the answer, most viewers will read the worst into his gaffe and assume he does not know what he is talking about. Initally he handled his lapse with a smile, maintaining strong eye contact.
Had he finished that way much would have been forgiven. Instead he looked away as if for help, compounding the D’OH! impression. In any live presentation it is easy to forget that the words alone are a minor part of the communication impact. The way you say it, the body language, the tone and expression play the major part.
The supreme communicator President Ronald Reagan handled gaffes effortlessly with his engaging folksy style and with clever words. Challenged in debate by Walter Mondale, targetting his age over one of his many lapses of memory, he turned the tables with humour saying “I am not going to debate for political purpose my opponent’s youth and inexperience”. Even Mondale laughed.