Tonight, all three local news networks had slightly different short clips of Rick Perry in Boston as “the keynote speaker at the Pioneer Institute’s awards dinner” (the link goes to a fourth clip, because that’s the only one I can find right now). And on all three networks, Perry looked terrible — 1980s-Katherine-Hepburn terrible, with a quaver in his voice, an unnaturally stiff posture, and a slight trembling in his hands. I wondered if he was still fighting some kind of epic hangover, after Monday night’s debate/pig-pile. But a commentor on an earlier thread linked to a Texas-based blog that raises a different possibility in my mind. From Paul Burka, senior executive editor at the Texas Monthly:
Perry was clearly off his game during the tea party debate. He looked uncomfortable, his face was strained, his combativeness was muted. He looked to me like a man with back pain. I wondered if he were wearing a brace. I’ve had back surgery, and it hurt to watch him…
He just wasn’t presidential. He was low-energy and the feistiness wasn’t there. That’s why I’m wondering whether the back operation didn’t go well… He just didn’t seem presidential, and I think the reason was that he was hurting…
The big question mark for me is Perry’s health. Tonight was one of those rare moments when the camera didn’t love him. He has plenty of time to get back on his game, assuming that his physical condition holds up. But I am beginning to wonder whether he will have the stamina to hold up to the demands of a grueling campaign if his back is injured. For now, that’s just as big a threat as Romney is.
More details on Perry’s surgery, which “included experimental stem-cell therapy“, here.