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A year of oops: five big political gaffes of 2011

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Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (r.) reacts after Rick Perry said he was unable to remember one of the three federal agencies he is vowing to close if elected president, during the CNBC Republican presidential debate in Rochester, Michigan, November 9.
Mark Blinch/Reuters
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2. Rick Perry: cutting bureaucracy straight out of memory

Don’t you hate that tip-of-the-tongue moment, when that obvious thing you just meant to say vanishes from thought? Now imagine standing on a lit stage in front of millions of your potential voters, bloodthirsty journalists, and a group of people who have vowed to defeat you: This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s epic brain freeze at the GOP presidential debate on Nov. 9.

In what some consider one of the most painful debate moments of all time – George H.W. Bush looking at his watch doesn’t come close – Mr. Perry, without prompting, stepped out to declare, “It’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone.” OK, Commerce, Education – so far, so good. Then he said, “The third agency of government I would do away with, the Education, the, uh, Commerce. Let’s see. I can’t. The third one I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

The answer finally came when the spotlight was long gone: It was the Department of Energy, Perry pointed out later in the debate. Afterward, Perry sought out reporters to at least get a Texas one-liner out of a gaffe that took a toll on his candidacy: “I’m sure glad I had my boots on, because I sure stepped in it out there.”

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