There is an old schlock movie called FORCE TEN FROM NAVARONNE with several of my favorite actors, including Edward Fox and Robert Shaw, in which Fox plays a World War II British munitions expert who at the crucial point in the film is charged with blowing up a Yugoslav dam whose destruction will release water that will destroy a bridge the Germans are going to use. [Got that?] After the charges are set off, nothing happens for a while, and Carl Weathers [an American sergeant] berates Fox for having failed. "Be patient," Fox says serenely. A tiny crack appears in the wall of the dam, allowing a trickle of water to escape. Little by little, the cracks widen, until the entire dam disintegrates, unleashing a torrent of water that knocks down the bridge.
Last night, while Susie and I were recovering from our journey, the Republicans held a debate, the first in which Perry appeared. Perry repeated his attacks on Social Security, and in general played to the worst prejudices of the Republican base. [His remarks about executing prisoners in Texas were ugly and despicable. Naturally, they were cheered to the echo by the audience.] Today, the Chattering Classes are trying to decide whether this was indeed the first tiny crack in what might be called Dam Perry. In my entirely amateur judgment, it was. Perry appears to have shown himself to be flat-footed, oddly inarticulate, and fatally ready to embrace and repeat his most extreme pronouncements. No one can win an election in America on a platform of savaging Social Security.
Bachmann is clearly yesterday's news, and the rest of the field, save Romney, is going nowhere. Romney had the good sense to defend Social Security. In the short run, that will cement the Tea Party's contempt for him, but it is early days yet, and by next February, which is when the very first caucus will be held, I predict he will be the clear front runner, unless yet another candidate enters the field.
My preference, of course, is for a candidate who is a total loser, and I think Perry is just that. But I suspect there are enough rationally self-interested people in the Republican Party to put paid to his chances.
We shall see.