I think the Washington Post is being too kind. As Joel Achenbach reports:
It was the Hoover Dam of mental blocks. Pundits referred to it as a “brain freeze” or a “gaffe.” In Internet parlance, it was an “epic FAIL.” But to neuroscientists, what happened to Texas Gov. Rick Perry Wednesday night looked like something very ordinary, exacerbated by stress: a “retrieval failure.”
It happens more often as we age. But the brain scientists say it shouldn’t be seen as evidence of an intellectual deficit or some medical problem. Instead, they say, retrieval failures offer a glimpse into how the brain does and doesn’t work, not just in the skulls of presidential candidates but for everyone else, too.
It’s impossible to know what exactly was happening inside Perry’s head at the Republican presidential debate, and the pundit class will continue to debate whether it was a neurological hiccup or a telling sign of a candidate who doesn’t know his own policies. What’s certain is that, at a crucial moment, on stage, live on national television, Perry could not remember the name of one of the federal agencies he would like to abolish.
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