ORLANDO, Florida — Two days before he will launch his second presidential campaign, former Gov. Rick Perry addressed a crowd of business leaders, conservative activists, and media in Orlando for an “Economic Growth Summit” organized by Let’s Get to Work, the political committee of Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL).
Perry left office this past January after fourteen years in the Governor’s office, the longest of any Texas Governor. The outstanding growth of Texas during Perry’s tenure is a favorite topic, and he spoke favorably of his competition with Scott to grow their states’ economies, and the issue of the Tenth Amendment’s reservation of powers to the states.
Quoting the well-known United States Supreme Court dissent by Justice Louis Brandeis, which referred to the idea of states as “laboratories of democracy,” Perry noted that this gives states the freedom to experiment.
This competition between the states is the “fabric of America, continued Perry, and it also allows the states to make mistakes. “Colorado came to mind for some reason,” he quipped, referring no doubt to the state’s recent legalization of marijuana.
Perry described how, when he was governor, he would wake up in the morning and look to the East. “I knew for a fact [Louisiana Governor] Bobby [Jindal] was over there,” said Perry,” and he was “trying to make his state more competitive” with Texas for jobs. Continued a grinning Perry, “but nobody gave me more blues than Rick Scott.”
Praising all this competition as honoring the “spirit of Louis Brandeis,” Perry said that it showed “the beauty of our founding father’s vision for America.”
Regarding the upcoming 2016 presidential election and what skills were needed in the White House, Perry sought to distinguish himself, as a Governor, from the Senators who were running. “I’m biased, I’ll admit that,” said Perry. “I think that executive experience is really important.”
“These governors are really important,” continued Perry, noting that the job granted a unique type of experience, competing with other states, learning how to work with your legislature and both parties.
The “single most important thing” for a governor or president to do, was to create the “most powerful economic engine you can,” according to Perry. “Get that right first,” he continued, saying that in Texas, he focused on four key areas: tax reform, regulatory reform, lawsuit reform, and public education reform. “If you get those right, I suggest to you, everything else will take care of itself.”
Texas is now the twelfth largest economy in the world, according to Perry. Policies enacted in Texas since he became governor in 2000 contributed to the Lone Star State creating one-third of all the jobs in America, a total of 1.5 million jobs. Collectively the other 49 states lost 400,000 jobs during that period.
“Can’t state how important that is,” said Perry, “to have a regulatory environment that’s fair and predictable.” California, a popular target of criticism for Perry, is a place where it can “take years, literally, to get permits to build” and businesses are reluctant to invest in growing jobs.
In contrast, Texas “passed the most sweeping tort reform in the country” in 2003, which sent a message to businesses that they would be protected against frivolous lawsuits. Medical malpractice reform had been especially beneficial to the state, with 35,000 more physicians licensed in Texas than a decade ago.
“These policies matter,” said Perry.
On education, Perry said with pride that Texas had the second highest high school graduation rate in America, and the number one rate for Hispanics and African Americans. “Want to send a message to those communities that we care about you and your children?” asked Perry. “Graduate them from high school.”
Turning briefly to national security, Perry said that his world view had been shaped by his military experience and time being the “commander in chief” of the Texas National Guard. “As an individual who wore the uniform of this country back in the early 70s, it grieves me to see the hollowing out of our military,” said Perry, the budget cuts, unfocused policy, and reduction of readiness. Other than Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), considered an extreme long shot, Perry will be the only Republican candidate in the race with military experience.
We “need to have an economic climate to make sure that the resources come in so that you have the strength to ensure that peace,” said Perry, but instead we were down to only ten carriers, and had only one fighter in development, the F-35, which has been plagued with delays and budget overruns.
Perry acknowledged the burden that military operations put on service members and their families. America needs to explore all our options before we go to war, said Perry. However, “when we’ve explored all options, we need to respond in a powerful way” so that world knows, when America sets a red line and it is crossed, they know that “there will be consequences to pay.”
“Peace Through Strength” is the right policy, said Perry. America needs to be strong economically, rebuild our military capability back up, and send a message to both allies and foes. This was not what the Obama administrations was doing, he continued, listing off several foreign policy failures such as the continually unstable situation in Iraq, Iran’s advance toward nuclear weapons, and the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel.
If he were president, said Perry, “the message will be very clear, if you are an ally of the U.S. you will not have to be looking around and wondering if we will be there.”
Perry then turned to border security, noting Texas’ 1200 mile border and the tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied minors who made headlines crossing the border last summer. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if the federal government actually secured the border,” he asked hypothetically. “I know a little bit about that.”
Obama had failed to fulfill this responsibility, said Perry, telling how the President had come into Dallas last year “on an important mission, to raise money for endangered Democrats.” That line drew laughter, but Perry’s tone quickly turned serious.
Noting how it was common etiquette for governors to greet the President at the airport when he visited their states, Perry said that he had accepted Obama’s invitation, as long as he was willing to listen to what was actually going on on the border.
“The President didn’t understand some very important facts,” said Perry, who informed him that “his border patrol” was stationed 50 miles back from the border, in an “apprehension” stance, not “prevention.” Obama was surprised to hear that, and Perry invited him to the border to see it for himself, “but he didn’t take me up on that.”
Perry said that he then “looked him in the eye” and said, “Mr. President, if you won’t secure the border, Texas will.” Last summer, he directed the border surge of Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety personnel deployed to the border. Although the plan was criticized for focusing on the Rio Grande Valley border sector instead of the entire border, Perry touted a 74% decrease in apprehensions during the surge.
“Executive leadership matters” in dealing with crises like this, said Perry. “Nobody gives Rick Scott a manual that says, this is how you’ll deal with the next hurricane,” or the BP oil spill washing up on Florida’s beaches. Perry said that he did not have an instruction manual to tell him what to do when the Space Shuttle exploded over Texas, Hurricane Katrina refugees flooded in, during the surge of border children, or there was an Ebola outbreak in Dallas.
“That executive leadership is incredibly important and the only way you can get it is by living it,” said Perry, who said that he was “excited” about the prospect of having someone in the White House who understands that concept.
It was time for the White House to “finally trust governors and trust states,” he continued, recalling a governors’ meeting in Washington last year. Jindal asked Obama why not block grant Medicaid funds to the states. Obama admitted that he did not trust states to do it the right way, said Perry.
On a related note, “it’s beyond me why anyone would think a bureaucrat in D.C. knows better than your governor and your legislator” how to run education system, which is “why I’m against Common Core,” said Perry.
“Let these states compete against each other,” said Perry. “Let the states decide these issues.”
“I think we’re just a few good decisions, and obviously a leadership change at the top” away from a “bright future” for America, said Perry, adding that it feels “like it’s 1979 again,” where our country is “in a malaise” but on the edge of a new, more hopeful, era.
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) June 2, 2015