Perry’s ‘Ooops’ Hardly The Only Gaffe in CNBC Debate

Mitt Romney would like to claim the charge of his history of flip flops was cooked up by Democrats, but the conservative author of this book also happily recounts each of his shifting positions, too.

Rick Perry’s on-stage memory lapse may have stolen the show as the low point of CNBC’s GOP presidential debate, but he is hardly the only one to have “stepped in it” Wednesday night, as Texas governor himself might put it.

Perry may have done his White House bid irreparable harm when he stumbled and forgot the third of three federal agencies he vowed to eliminate if elected president. He ticked off the Commerce and Education departments before fumbling for the last one. (That would be the Energy Department, Governor.)

But at least two of Perry’s Republican opponents also committed big whoppers, as well, however.

Trying to claw her way back into the race, former tea party queen Michele Bachmann suggested that all Americans pay something in federal taxes, even the very poor.  

“I have everyone paying something because everyone benefits by this magnificent country. So even if it means paying the price of two Happy Meals a year, like $10, everyone can afford to pay at least that,” she says. “And what it does is create a mentality in the United States that says that freedom is free. But freedom isn’t free. We all benefit. We all need to sacrifice. Everybody has to be a part of this tax code.”

Although this may sound reasonable at first, it’s nothing more than the right’s attempt to wage class warfare on the working and middle classes in this country.

She’s right that freedom isn’t free. And we do all benefit. So, then, why is Bachmann asking lower income Americans to pony up but not saying a word about all the corporations who are indeed benefiting, but who are getting away not only paying zero tax — but in some cases actually getting tax refunds?

For instance:

  • Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009.  Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its filings. 
  •  Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.
  • Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.


And the list of powerful corporations avoiding taxes — and remember, Bachmann’s GOP rival Mitt Romney happily counts corporations as people! — goes on. If Bachmann is sincere that we “all need to sacrifice,” how about squeezing even just those $10 from these big companies first?

Speaking of Romney, he used the debate to try to blame Democrats for all the criticism that’s aimed at him for waffling on big issues. “I think people understand that I’m a man of steadiness and constancy,” Romney claims.

Except, of course, that’s not true at all.

Not only have conservatives been painting the former Massachusetts governor as a flip-flopper, many of those on the right doing so are the same ones who also denounce Romney as not acceptable for the White House due to his Mormon faith.

Conservative commentator Tricia Erickson’s publicist in September emailed me an exhaustive encyclopedia of Romney flips, flops, and other assorted switcheroos as part of a publicity campaign specifically to promote Erickson’s book, Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus The Office Of The Presidency of the United States of America.

Clearly, “Romney as flip flopper” is not merely a Democratic caricature.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if they’re served up by Democrats or intolerant conservatives like Erickson.

The record clearly shows that on abortion, gay rights, the Wall Street bailout, and more, Mitt Romney has indeed been on every side of every major issue for decades now. 


Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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