ADDISON, Texas — In a crowded, humid airplane hangar just north of Dallas, former Governor Rick Perry launched his second Republican presidential campaign, delivering a message of patriotism, economic populism and optimism for America’s future.
Perry, now the tenth Republican to throw his hat in the ring for 2016, is one of only two contenders in the field with military experience. The stage was set up in front of a C-130, the type of plane Perry flew from 1972 to 1977 for the Air Force in missions in Europe and the Middle East.
This plane is a C-130, the same type Perry flew as an Air Force captain in the 1970s pic.twitter.com/2u0JswfT1m
— Sarah Rumpf (@rumpfshaker) June 4, 2015
Retired U.S. Navy SEAL Pete Scobell delivered the opening remarks.
“I was fortunate enough to be a part of an elite group of fighters as a Navy SEAL,” said Scobell, adding that SEALs take seriously the oaths they pledge to our country and to each other. Scobell was joined on stage by retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor, Marcus’ twin brother Morgan Luttrell, also a Navy SEAL, Taya Kyle, widow of American Sniper author and Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, author Brad Thor, and several other military heroes, including two World War II veterans.
“We lack leadership in Washington,” Scobell continued. “We lack loyalty to the ideals of this country in the people who lead our government.” However, the reason that he and the others on stage were supporting Perry was that “they know what I know…Rick Perry is the leader this country needs…the man we need as our next Commander-in-Chief.”
When he met Perry, Scobell noted that he was “immediately struck” by how Perry was “a man who cares deeply” about our military, “not looking to befriend veterans for a short term political gain.” Scobell asked those in the audience who had served in the military to raise their hands and many went up throughout the crowd.
“I ask you to join me in this fight,” Scobell implored. “We want a president with the character of the men and women who serve, who can’t be knocked down,” and “with the right man in the White House, America’s best days are yet to come.”
Perry’s wife, Anita Perry, introduced her husband.
“Rick and I are excited to be here today,” she said, adding that it was “heartwarming to see so many friends and family.” She shared the story about how she had met Perry, and their first date to his football game. Perry rode on the team bus, and Anita rode with his parents and sister to the game. “What every girl dreams of for her first date,” she quipped.
He asked her to marry him sixteen years later, and they settled down in Haskell, a small town in West Texas, “halfway between Abilene and the end of the earth.”
“Family has always come first” she continued, and it is “not just about bloodlines, but the people you adopt in your life,” friends like Marcus Luttrell. When Luttrell was suffering from PTSD after his service, the Perry family invited him to live in the Governor’s Mansion with them and speak of him as a member of their family. (Perry himself would later say Marcus was a “second son” to him and Anita.)
“He came to us broken, having borne the brunt of battle…[and] taught us the importance of perseverance, of never giving up,” said Anita about Marcus, the affection evident in her voice.
“We need a president now perhaps more than ever who puts the American people first,” said Anita. “I know a man who has all the right qualifications to make America great again…please welcome my husband, Rick Perry.”
Keeping the patriotic tone, Perry opened his remarks by saying that he “was born five years after the end of a global war that killed more than 60 million people…the son of a veteran of that war, who flew 35 missions over war-torn Europe as a tail gunner on a B-17.”
Perry told of his humble upbringing. “Home was a place called Paint Creek, too small to be called a town, but it was the center of my universe.” His parents were poor tenant farmers who raised their family “during a time of great hardship,” with “little expectation beyond living in peace, putting a roof over our heads and putting food on our table.” They had no indoor plumbing and his mother sewed his clothes until he left for college at Texas A&M University.
After graduating from college and serving in the Air Force, Perry returned home “to the rolling plains and big skies of West Texas” to farm. “There’s no person on earth more optimistic than a dryland cotton farmer,” said Perry, speaking of the “timeless” values he learned on that farm: “the dignity of work, the integrity of your word, responsibility to community, the unbreakable bonds of family, and duty to country.”
Texas’ economic success will be a central theme to Perry’s campaign, and he proudly mentioned, “I led the world’s 12th largest economy” as Governor.
Getting some of the loudest cheers of the afternoon was this section of the speech:
I know that America has experienced great change, but what it means to be an American has never changed: we are the only nation in the world founded on the power of an idea that all “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Our rights come from God, not from government, and our people are not the subjects of government, but instead government is subject to the people.
Perry then turned to the economy, and had sharp words for how President Barack Obama had handled these issues. “Our econ slowdown is not inevitable, it just happens to be the result of bad economic policy,” said Perry, criticizing
how the Obama administration’s policies had “slammed shut the door for the average American trying to climb the economic ladder.”
“Weakness at home has led to weakness abroad,” continued Perry, and now “the world has descended into a chaos of this president’s own making.” He scoffed at the idea that Iran could be trusted to honor any agreement not to make nuclear weapons, and said that “no decision has done more harm than the president’s withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.”
“Let no one be mistaken, leaders of both parties have made grave mistakes in Iraq, said Perry, “But in January, 2009 – when Barack Obama became Commander-in-Chief – Iraq had been largely pacified.”
“America had won the war. But our president failed to secure the peace.”
“Cities once secured with American blood are now being taken by America’s enemies, all because of a campaign slogan,” continued Perry. To see what happened in Vietnam — “a war where politicians didn’t keep faith with the sacrifices and courage of America’s fighting men and women” — happening again 40 years later, was “a national disgrace.”
However, Perry was still optimistic about the future for this “resilient country.” America had made it through two world wars, a Great Depression, “we even made it through Jimmy Carter. We will make it through the Obama years.”
“The fundamental nature of this country is our people never stay knocked down. We get back up, we dust ourselves off, and we move forward. And we will again.”
Raising his voice, Perry fell into a rhythm as he laid the foundation for the announcement all had gathered to hear:
I want to share some important truths with my fellow Americans, starting with this truth: we don’t have to settle for a world in chaos or an America that shrinks from its responsibilities.
We don’t have to apologize for American exceptionalism, or western values.
We don’t have to accept slow growth that leaves behind the middle class, and leaves millions of Americans out of work.
We don’t have to settle for crumbling bureaucracies that target taxpayers and harm our veterans.
And we don’t have to resign ourselves to debt, decay and slow growth.
We have the power to make things new again. To project American strength again, to get our economy going again.
“And that is why today I am running for the presidency of the United States of America,” Perry said emphatically as the crowd cheered.
Perry said he was running “to create opportunity for all, to give every citizen a stake in this country, to restore hope, real hope, to forgotten Americans,” subtly referring to the “Hope” slogan used in Obama’s campaigns.
He then shifted gears to address the millennial generation, saying that America’s “massive debt, passed on from our generation to yours” was “a breaking of the social compact.”
“You deserve better,” said Perry, pledging to offer a “responsible plan” to reform the entitlement system and “stop this theft from your generation,” and work to stop rising tuition and skyrocketing student loan debt.
He then broadened his populist message, calling out to “those forgotten Americans drowning in personal debt, working harder for wages that don’t keep up with the rising cost of living,” “the one in five children in families on food stamps,” “the one in seven Americans living in poverty,” “the one in ten workers who are unemployed, under-employed or given up hope of finding a job,” and the “small businesses on Main Street struggling to just get by, smothered by regulations.”
“I come here today to say your voice is heard,” said Perry. “I hear you, you are not forgotten. I am running to be your president.”
Calling the current economy a “rigged game,” Perry said, “there is something wrong when the Dow is near record highs, and businesses on Main Street can’t even get a loan.”
“Capitalism is not corporatism,” he continued. “It is not a guarantee of reward without risk. It is not about Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.”
“The reason I am running for president is I know for certain our country’s best days lie ahead. There is nothing wrong in America today that cannot be fixed with new leadership,” said Perry. “We are just a few good decisions away from unleashing economic growth, and reviving the American Dream.”
He then listed several campaign pledges, including reforming the tax code that was “riddled with loopholes that sends jobs overseas and punishes success,” reduce the corporate income tax rate (currently the highest in the western world), and force agencies to “live under strict regulatory budgets.”
Perry made several promises for what he would do on day one as President, including issuing “an immediate freeze on all pending regulations from the Obama administration,” sending Congress “a comprehensive reform and rollback of job-killing mandates created by Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and other Obama-era policies,” “rescind any agreement with Iran that legitimizes their quest to get a nuclear weapon,” and signing executive orders approving the construction of the Keystone Pipeline and “authorizing the export of American natural gas and oil, freeing our European allies from dependence on Russia’s energy supplies.”
Noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was using energy to hold American allies hostage, Perry pledged, “if energy is going to be used as a weapon, America will have the largest arsenal.”
All of these things were possible, said Perry confidently, “because it has been done in Texas.”
During Perry’s fourteen years as Governor, Texas companies created almost one-third of all new American jobs. In just the last seven years of his tenure, 1.5 million new jobs were created. Without Texas, the U.S. would have lost 400,000 jobs. The state leads the nation in exports, including now high tech exports. Texas now has the second highest high school graduation rate in the country, and ranks first for graduation rates for African Americans and Hispanics.
The reason for this success, according to Perry, was a “simple formula”: “control taxes and spending, implement smart regulations, invest in an educated workforce, and stop frivolous lawsuits.”
Perry then turned to border security, mentioning how he had invited Obama to visit the border, but the president had refused. “I told him, Mr. President, if you do not secure this border, Texas will.”
“Homeland security begins with border security,” said Perry, vowing to an enthusiastic crowd, “if you elect me your president, I will secure that border.”
Now, said Perry, is “the time for clear-sighted, proven leadership,” an election that “will be a ‘show-me, don’t tell me’ election, where voters look past the rhetoric to the real record.”
“We have seen what happens when we elect a president based on media acclaim rather than a record of accomplishment.”
Taking a subtle swipe at some of his competitors, Perry continued, “The question of every candidate will be this one: when have you led? Leadership is not a speech on the senate floor, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.”
In contrast, Perry said, “I have been tested. I have led the most successful state in America. I have dealt with crisis after crisis – from the disintegration of a space shuttle, to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, to the crisis at the border, and the first diagnosis of Ebola in America. I have brought together first responders, charities and people of faith to house and heal vulnerable citizens dealing with tragedy.”
“America is an extraordinary country,” said Perry, praising the everyday Americans who “demonstrate tremendous courage,” even though many of them “have been knocked down and are looking for a second chance.”
“Let’s give them that chance,” implored Perry. “Let’s give them real leadership. Let’s give them a future greater than the greatest days of our past. Let’s give them a president who leads us in the direction of our highest hopes, our best dreams and our greatest promise.”
“Thank you, and God bless you.”
The Perry campaign sent out a press release Thursday afternoon announcing the campaign leadership:
Perry for President Staff Announcement
AUSTIN – Perry for President is proud to announce the staff members who will lead Gov. Rick Perry’s 2016 campaign team. The organization reflects Gov. Perry’s commitment to reaching supporters around the country by appointing individuals with proven experience in key roles.
“Fourteen years of executive leadership as governor of Texas taught me the value of matching the right individuals with the right responsibilities,” said Gov. Rick Perry. “Our goal is to reach as many Americans as possible with mine and Anita’s vision for how we can create more opportunity around the country and help build a more secure world.”
“Over the last 15 years, no leader in America has expanded economic opportunity in more ways than Gov. Rick Perry,” said Campaign Manager Jeff Miller. “For more than two years the governor has focused on being substantially better-prepared to stand in the national arena and discuss important policies. Gov. Perry will stand out in a competitive field of candidates as a leader with the right experience to lead our country and the record of results to show for it.”
Perry for President Campaign Leadership
Jeff Miller, Campaign Manager
Rob Johnson, Chief Strategist
Avik Roy, Senior Advisor
Abby McCloskey, Policy Director
Greg Strimple, Pollster
Don McGahn, Counsel
Margaret Lauderback, National Finance Director
Lucy Nashed, Communications Director
Lexi Stemple, Communications Advisor
Erin DeLullo, Coalitions Director
Jamie Johnson, Senior Director
Eric Bearse, Speechwriter
Minnie Salinas, Chief of Staff to Mrs. Perry
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.