Former Texas Governor Rick Perry joined me today to discuss a wide range of 2016 issues:
HH: So pleased to begin this hour with Governor Rick Perry, four term governor of Texas. Governor Perry, welcome back, always a pleasure.
RP: Good to be with you, sir, how are you?
HH: I’m terrific. As we speak, Senator Paul has launched a filibuster in the United States Senate, and last Friday on this show, former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell says he wants Section 215 of the Patriot Act renewed. And obviously, Senator Paul doesn’t. What does Rick Perry think?
RP: Well, number one, I’m glad that Senator Paul’s in the United States Senate. Debate, transparency, really good things. I think it’s good to have people like Rand Paul in the United States Senate out there pointing out from time to time when things might be getting a little bit off track. I’m not saying this is. But it’s good to have a voice, a contrarian from time to time that’s thoughtfully, intellectually engaging in a process like that. Now from my perspective as an individual who’s been the commander-in-chief, if you will, of the Texas military forces and our National Guard for the last 14 years until January, having worn the uniform of this country, seeing what’s going on in this country and in the world over the last decade, it is very, very important for us to be able to have a technological advantage, and use every advantage that we have to be able to identify these people that would come into our country or would put our allies in jeopardy. And so I happen to think that the Patriot Act, again, we’ve been a country that always balanced our civil liberties against protecting our citizens. And that’s what this debate is about. But I will always, I will always err on the side of defending our citizens’ safety, but again being very mindful that our civil liberties don’t need to be trampled on. And if there are agencies or people that are abusing that, they need to be held accountable, and use every bit of the power of this country to punish anyone who is using the Patriot Act in a way that is not appropriate. And when I talk about appropriate, we all, I think, understand what I’m talking about here.
HH: Now let me ask you as well…
RP: People don’t need to have their, people don’t need to have their cell phone calls listened on if they’re just talking about their personal business. But if you’re in the business of trying to hurt America, then we need to be using that Patriot Act to go after those people and to eliminate them.
HH: Senator Paul also said in the course of his conversation I caught, “There can be a mixture of opinions on what Edward Snowden did.” Is there a mixture of responsible opinions on what he did, Governor Perry?
RP: Well, listen, I think that Snowden verged on absolute treachery, if not absolutely so. There, if you’ve got a problem with this country, there are ways of dealing with it. Taking that information and putting it out the way he did put American citizens and American allies in jeopardy. I don’t consider that to be anything close to patriotic. I consider it to be treasonous, as a matter of fact.
HH: Now Governor, you’ve been on this program three or four times this year. Your opponent, if you’re the nominee, has taken about four questions total all year long. Is that acceptable in a public figure?
RP: I think I’ve already answered more questions than she has in the last year in the public. No, it’s not, and listen, the Democrats are, I think, starting to get really nervous about Hillary Clinton. When you start looking at what she’s doing from the standpoint of this Clinton Foundation, there is a clear quid pro quo about speeches her husband has given. I mean, $30 million dollars in the last year and a half for speeches? I mean, that is a stunning number. Then when you look back at when she was Secretary of State, the places that Bill Clinton went to give speeches, I mean, I just think this thing is so, I mean, it’s getting so smelly, Hugh, that even Democrats are starting to say you know, this may not work out well for us in the end. Then when you add to it her just refusal, and this seeming, I mean, I am stunned that a person who would stand up in front of the American people and say listen, I want you to consider me to be the president of the United States, and not to answer questions, is totally an absolutely outside the realm of reality.
HH: You know, you always bring up for a quick laugh your brain freeze on stage in 2012 when you forgot a non-essential detail. But Hillary appears to have forgotten that she used a lot of different emails on her private server. And her lawyer appears to have misled Congress and forgotten the False Statements Act. This is not a laughing matter, is it?
RP: No, it’s not. And you know, the fact is this is not a lapse of one’s memory. This is a lapse of one’s ethics. And that’s the real issue here. There are real ethical questions that have to be, must be answered by the Clintons from the Foundation through the Secretary of State. And we haven’t even gotten into this entire Benghazi issue. And as we peel back the layers of the onion, if you will, this becomes more and more rotten.
HH: Today, Mark Halperin asked a group of Iowa voters a focus group question. I want to play this for you, Governor Perry, because it’s making the rounds.
MH: What did she accomplish that you consider significant as Secretary of State?
Male IA Voter: Secretary of State? I really can’t name anything off the top of my head.
Another male IA voter: Can you give me a minute? Give me two minutes and go someplace else.
MH: Okay, Christina, can you think of something that she accomplished as Secretary of State that impressed you, anything that’s important?
Christina: (pause – air conditioner noise) No.
MH: Amanda, anything you can say to say this is a good credential for…
Amada: No, I can’t honestly say I follow it along, everything that was going on.
Male IA voter: She’s been a a high level in numerous offices for about 25 years now. I mean, it’s either going to be that or it’s going to be Scott Walker, you know, taking away, you know, destroying America’s unions. And there’s just, you know, she’s not perfect. But she’s been in the eye for a long time in the public’s eye, and you’re going to have some stuff on her. But you know, she has great policies, and she knows how to get stuff done.
HH: Rick Perry, that’s Mark Halperin of Bloomberg asking Hillary supporters in Iowa, and they can’t come up with anything.
RP: Wow, that’s stunning.
HH: (laughing) It is. Can you name your accomplishments?
RP: Well, we don’t have enough time. More importantly, people in Iowa can name my accomplishments, I would suggest to you.
RP: When you think about, actually think about jobs we have created, they think about the most dynamic economy in the country.
RP: I mean, they think about the population increase. They know that over the last decade, there’s been a place where freedom really reigned in this country. I’m still always shocked when people hear the numbers from the end of ’07 through the end of 2014, in this entire country, there were 1.1 million jobs created.
RP: And the reason it’s that number is because there were 400,000 jobs lost in the 49 other states when Texas, during that period of time, created 1.5 million.
HH: All right, now I’ve got a quick foreign policy question for you, Governor Perry. It’s important. It’s pressing.
HH: China is building these little islands, and they’re putting airstrips on it, and they’re saying there’s a 12 mile perimeter around them. Would you push that perimeter daily, monthly, weekly, however often, to deny China the right?
RP: Yes, absolutely. And a coalition in that part of the world, I would suggest to you, we’ve been missing a real opportunity to work with India. India could be that real settling, real strong leverage in that part of the world. When you think about China, North Korea in that region, India could be the absolute most important region, most important country for us to have a very strong allied relationship.
HH: And Vietnam and Japan and the Philippines are with us on this flotilla as well, aren’t they?
RP: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. But I’m talking about a big country that has the ability both economically and militarily to weigh in and weigh in heavily. And I think we’ve missed opportunity after opportunity with this administration, whether it was being able to sell the Indians the aircraft that they wanted in their inventory, and we didn’t. They ended up going to France and buying the Mirage fighters. So the point is in that region, we’re going to have to push back. We need to, China is a complex issue. They’re a trading partner that we need to be engaged with. I’m a big believer that if you do trade with people, they’ll become less wanting to fight you.
HH: Oh, then, let me pause, because we’ve got a minute. You used to be a big Ex-Im supporter. I’m a big Ex-Im supporter, and you switched on this. I am stunned by this, Governor.
HH: I think we need this bank.
RP: Well, I think we need to be competitive. And I think we need to have a conversation about how we are more competitive by number one, changing our tax policy and changing our regulatory policy so that our companies can be more competitive. But here’s what changed me. And Hugh, I don’t think anybody can stand up and defend the Ex-Im Bank after the corruption and fraud became…
HH: But reform it. Reform it. Don’t end it, reform it.
RP: Well, and you know what? My deal is that sometimes, you’ve got to threaten people pretty deeply to get their attention, and doing away with them is a very powerful threat.
HH: Well, that’s true. Oh, that’s true. Governor Rick Perry, it is always a joy to talk to you. I think we have covered more questions…
RP: Hugh, good to talk to you, bud.
HH: …in ten minutes than she has in five months. Thank you, Governor.
End of interview.