Rick Perry is a Victim

Stress nightmares suck, and I’ve had them all — I’ve boarded the T bare-assed, I’ve forgotten to show up for my fill-in-the-blank (job interview, wedding, funeral), and I’ve stared at a quantum physics exam (does this even exist?) which I need to pass to graduate. Naturally, I spend the next day trying to shake that “holy crap” feeling. So I kind of think I know what Rick Perry was thinking during the GOP debate when he plum forgot the third federal department he fantasized about 86-ing after ditching Commerce and Education.

Though it’s devastating, we need to face facts: Perry was just the latest victim of the hegemony of threes. Modern speechwriters and motivational speakers always claim that talking points are triplets, and when challenged, they’ll cite historical sources — the Three Little Pigs, Three Musketeers, Three times’ a charm, Threedom. Perry’s writer was no exception. But in the era of YouTube and Michele Bachmann and texting while driving, we’re learning that three’s just one too many goddamn things to remember.

Then again, it’s possible that Perry’s apparent “gaffe” was actually an opportunistic ruse. Could he be the newest ambassador of the rapidly growing “doubles” — or, if you’re PC — “pairs” craze? Though it’s a relatively recent movement, the basic ideology is that no one has time for multiples, so let’s forget whatever we can’t remember in the first place. I first heard about this back in 2005 while reporting a piece for the Globe, but I didn’t think it had legs. Now I’m waking up.

It’s already had an insidious effect on our national culture. Believe it or not, there was a time when it took three to tango. And many once thought that three heads were better than one (one is actually enough). Three wrongs didn’t make a right (now they do, of course), and if you tripped, everyone would have a hearty laugh that you had three left feet. All of this lore is gone now, of course, lost to the ages.

Then again, exactly which department did Perry want to exorcise? Mitt Romney, the patient father, helpfully offered up the EPA, but Perry, the petulant child, would have none of it. Then Perry did what I do when I find myself in the kitchen wondering why the hell I’d walked over there: He retraced his steps. The meddling agencies he’d 86 were … commerce and education … but no third appeared out of the haze. That’s because there is no third Department. There is no spoon. And I’m quite sure that someday, two will be one too many. Then we’ll be voting to keep everything as it is or ax it all.