Gov. Brewer Experiences Brain Freeze During Debate

During her opening statement in a televised debate Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer stumbled and stammered, and even paused for about nine seconds. Then she bolted after the debate when reporters asked her about a statement she made about headless bodies supposedly found in the Arizona desert. Melissa Block speaks with E.J. Montini, a columnist for The Arizona Republic, about Brewer's performance during the debate.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In a political debate, usually the opening statement is a clean hit out of the park. You prepare. You write your thoughts down. No surprises. So, Arizonans are left to wonder just what happened to Republican Governor Jan Brewer on Wednesday when she gave her opening statement in the first, and probably only, debate of the governor's race. Her statement started out awkwardly:

Governor JAN BREWER (Republican, Arizona): Thank you, Ted, and it's great to be here with Larry, Barry and Kerry(ph), and thank you all for watching this tonight. I have done so much...

BLOCK: After that brain freeze, Brewer seemed to collect her thoughts.

Gov. BREWER: We have cut the budget, we have balanced the budget, and we are moving forward. We have done everything that we could possibly do.

BLOCK: Now, at that point, the governor stopped, looked down at the desk, laughed nervously. There was nine seconds of silence before she continued with a big smile.

Gov. BREWER: We have did what was right for Arizona. I will tell you that I have really did the very best that anyone could do. We have...

BLOCK: Well, the next day, Governor Brewer told the FOX affiliate in Phoenix: I'm human, and I just blanked out.

Political columnist E.J. Montini of the Arizona Republic joins me to talk about this and other things that came up in the debate. Hey, E.J.

Mr. E.J. MONTINI (Columnist, The Arizona Republic): Hi, how's it going?

BLOCK: Okay. And your headline: No more debates for Governor Deer in the Headlights.

Mr. MONTINI: No, that's exactly correct, yeah. I would imagine that her people will keep her as far away from TV cameras and other political candidates as they can.

BLOCK: What do you make of that explanation, just sort of froze and...

Mr. MONTINI: Well, you know, the fact of the matter is I think that all of us would agree that, as someone said, you know, she just lost her train of thought. And I believe that's true. It's just unusual to lose your train of thought when it's still in the station.

BLOCK: And it did look like she was looking at notes.

Mr. MONTINI: Yes, she had a very hard time there. And it's not going to go away, I would guess. From a news point of view, it's not that big. But from a social media point of view, it's pretty much of a hit.

BLOCK: Something that gets just passed around constantly.

Mr. MONTINI: Yeah.

BLOCK: Let's talk about something that came up later in the debate. Governor Brewer's Democratic opponent, the Attorney General Terry Goddard, pressed Governor Brewer to explain statements she's made about beheaded bodies in the desert.

He says that she is driving business away from Arizona by making false statements like that. Did she have an answer to him on that?

Mr. MONTINI: Not at the time, but she has since said that essentially, she thinks people maybe have been confused, that she wasn't talking about the Arizona Desert but in Mexico. And that's a disingenuous answer in and of itself.

The fact of the matter is that Governor Brewer, in running her primary campaign and also in pushing the national issue with the immigration law here, and as well as Senator McCain in running his primary campaign, I think have done a lot of harm to Arizona by portraying the state as a much more dangerous place than it actually is, essentially ignoring the law enforcement fact in order to present this image of a deadly, dangerous place, which given the fact that it's a tourism state, can do a lot of harm.

BLOCK: Well, and is any of this making any difference with voters in Arizona?

Mr. MONTINI: I believe that it probably affects Jan Brewer's chances of being Sarah Palin's running mate in 2012 a lot more than it hurts her chances of becoming Arizona's governor in 2010.

BLOCK: In staying governor.

Mr. MONTINI: Yes. I think she'll be our governor. It is a lot to overcome. The having signed SB 1070, Arizona's immigration enforcement law, just catapulted her so far ahead of all the other candidates that it is a very long road for any of them to get back.

BLOCK: Well, E.J. Montini, thanks for talking with us.

Mr. MONTINI: No problem.

BLOCK: E.J. Montini is a political columnist with The Arizona Republic.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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