COMMENTARY | The video of Texas Gov. Rick Perry giving a speech in New Hampshire appears he is not quite himself, a bit out of it and possibly drunk. The campaign says there was nothing amiss during the un-Perry-like presentation, that the governor was "passionate." And given the staid, stick-your-chin-out-and-bear-with-it attitude that is a hallmark of the obstinate modern Republican, there might never be anything else said about the performance. From Perry and his camp. But there are plenty of others willing to offer an explanation.
Speaking at the Cornerstone Action Dinner in Manchester, N.H., Perry told jokes that only he seemed to find amusing, made exaggerated gestures and facial expressions, and went off on inexplicably wild peripheral tangents.
One of the more bizarre moments came when he seemed to get sidetracked by the New Hampshire state motto. "This is such a cool state. I mean come on. 'Live free or die.' You got to love that right?" said Perry. "I come from a state you know where they have this little place called the Alamo and they declared, 'Victory or death.' We're kind of into those slogans, man: 'Live free or die.' 'Victory or death.' Bring it."
Jon Stewart had a field day with it on Monday night's episode of "The Daily Show." After showing some highlights (lowlights?) of the speech, Stewart offered: "Best case scenario: That dude's hammered. Worst case scenario: That is Perry sober and every time we've seen him previously he's been hammered."
Of course, Stewart was referring to public statements, speeches and debate performances where Perry has seemed a little overly energetic, agitated, animated and/or incoherent. Which, in addition to the precipitous fall in the polls from front-runner to also-ran status in the space of six weeks, might have given Perry ample reason to be drunk at the New Hampshire event.
And that is not to mention his sixth- and seventh-place standing in the Republican nomination race in New Hampshire.
Jay Leno asked his audience on "The Tonight Show" if it was Perry or Charlie Sheen.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," host Joe Scarborough commented that it was "truly bizarre behavior," while co-host Mika Brzezinski labeled Perry's antics "really loopy."
Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post called the speech the "Best Man Speech from Hell." Pulling from the Milner "passionate" excuse, she noted, "But it's tough on the campaign trail. Look sober and collected, and everyone accuses you of being Mitt Romney. Look wild and unhinged -- I'm sorry, passionate -- and everyone assumes you're on some combination of alcohol and Quaaludes."
From drunkenness to high on drugs to a psychotic episode, the comments have poured in about Perry's speech. There have been a few who have stated Perry was having a good time (like Robert Costa of the National Review on "Morning Joe"), but few they remain.
So was the governor of Texas drunk or in some way intoxicated during his New Hampshire speech? Given his past speeches and mannerisms while debating and stumping, it is difficult to say. Perry has always given off a hyper-Bush-as-preacher vibe. And maybe that was all there was being exhibited in Manchester on Friday. Maybe.