Texas Governor Rick Perry joined me in hour three of my show Tuesday to discuss the end of his 14-year run in the Austin statehouse –and perhaps the start of his 2016 campaign– with a side of Johnny Football thrown in:
HH: So pleased to welcome back Texas Governor Rick Perry, nearing the end of a record run as the chief executive of the Lone Star State. Merry Christmas, Governor, welcome.
RP: Well, Merry Christmas, Hugh. I hope you have a great one, and it’s awfully good here in Texas. I suspect it’s going to be a record year for us economically and otherwise. So Santa’s going to be busy on Christmas here.
HH: Now Governor Perry, how long have you been the governor of Texas?
RP: Well, on the 20th day of December, I think we were celebrating our 14th year. So it’ll be 14 years, and a bit over. So a good gun, and it’s been a great honor for my wife and myself to serve.
HH: That is remarkable. And will you be used to not being governor? I mean, that’s going to be quite a change in your life not to be on call 24/7.
RP: Well, I suspect I’ll still be on call 24/7. It just may be in a little different role. I’m not going to ride off into the sunset. I’m going to continue to stay engaged, and you know, go do some private sector things. And who knows? We’ll be in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina during that period of time, too. So we’re going to be staying busy.
HH: I was just going to ask. I see you’re going up to the Family Conference in Iowa, in early 2015.
RP: Yes, we are.
HH: …in early 2015. Is that the sort of tip of the hat that Jeb Bush gave us last week?
RP: Well, I don’t think anybody’s surprised, and I’m not being coy about the preparation work that we’ve been doing for the last 24 months. And there’s huge preparation that a person has to do to be ready to run for the presidency of the United States. So we’re not ready to announce anything, yet, but if we do decide to run, we will be prepared, and I think that’s what people want to see. They are ready. Pessimism has really swept across this country. I think that’s what happened on the 4th of November. You saw a pessimistic America telling this president we weren’t happy with his vision. We weren’t happy with this recalcitrance. We weren’t happy with his executive orders. And we weren’t happy with the direction he was taking this country. And we sure weren’t happy with the gridlock in Washington, D.C. So they’re ready for a positive vision of this country, that our better days are ahead of us, and you know, whether I decide to run for the presidency or not, that’s going to be my message, because there is a blueprint for that type of optimism. There is still an optimistic place in America. In fact, there are a number of optimistic places. I look to Florida, I look to the Carolinas, I look to Texas, obviously, and there are some good things going on in America. We just need it to happen in more than just four or five states.
HH: Now Governor Perry, at this hour, over at www.drudgereport.com, Matt’s got up Kaboom: Dow 18K, GDP Best In Decade. And obviously, the storyline is a frothy market and a 5% 3rd quarter. Does that mean the pessimism in November was misplaced?
RP: Oh, I don’t think so at all. As a matter of fact, if you look at the job creation numbers, and it’s still a great concern to people. There are a lot of Americans out of work. The participation rate is the lowest it’s been since 1978, which means that there are just a lot of Americans that have completely quit looking for work. And it’s because this president has blocked things like the XL Pipeline. Hugh, this country could explode economically with the right leadership in Washington, D.C. You open up the XL Pipeline. You look at the federalist state, and allow for the production of our natural resources on the federal land. While our national private sector energy production has gone up by 61% while President Obama’s been in place, it’s gone down 6% on the federal estate. If you were to put some tax policies into place and give incentives to our business men and women across this country instead of disincentives, we see companies moving offshore because we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, you simply change a few things with the right kind of leadership, and the right kind of vision, and the right kind of optimistic vision for America, and our best days are ahead of us. And we will blow away those numbers from the standpoint of what the GDP can be and should be, and hopefully will be as we go into 2017, and we change leadership and change the vision for this country’s future.
HH: Now Governor Perry, last week on Friday, I got an email from a CEO, pretty big company, and they had been talking presidential politics, and he wanted to know my opinion of you specifically, because he believes in governors, not Senators, and he wanted to know whether or not I thought you would be back. And this is after Jeb had announced. And I said I’ve been on a stage with him. He’s tanned, rested and ready. I think he’s going to have some fun. Are you approaching a second campaign that way?
RP: Listen, again, I’m going to be prepared, Hugh. One of the things that I learned in a very difficult time in 2011 was if you’re going to run for the presidency, you better spend the time and the effort in preparation. That’s the reason I’ve been to the Hoover multiple times studying at the feet of George Schultz and John Taylor and Lanhee Chen. I mean, I’ve spent multiple times with Henry Kissinger talking about the foreign policy that we don’t have in this country today, and what we do need to have. The Hay Institute folks, all across the board, I’ve even been to the Brookings Institute to sit down and talk health care policy with them, just so I’ll understand where folks on the left are coming from when they talk about making access to health care more available. So the preparation side of this, and again, if I decide to make this run, I’m going to be prepared. And we’ll have some fun at the same time. Speaking of having fun, are you still using that moniker Johnny Radio?
HH: Well, if it works, Governor. I just want to know, I’m doing a better job at the radio than your alum is doing for my football team.
RP: Well, that’s very, I was going to make that point that you know what? You’re performing at a higher level than Johnny Football is, so hopefully he’ll heal up and have a good game or two before this season ends up. But again, a gamer is a gamer, and Johnny Football is a gamer.
HH: We’re still excited about him, but he went down pretty easy. And actually, it raises a political question. He took a hit, and he got his hamstring broke, and we don’t think he’s going to play this week, which is a big disappointment.
HH: And hits are coming, right, at you. They’re going to come from Jeb, they’re going to come from all over the place. Do you think you’re better, ready for that, having had the 2011 experience?
RP: Well, there’s not any doubt that having gone through one of these experiences, when you look back since, I think, Dwight David Eisenhower, our nominee has run more than once, and there’s been some pretty spectacular flame-outs back over the years, and people have come back. So whether it’s on an athletic field, or whether it’s in the field of politics, failure is not the end of an individual’s opportunity to prove that they’re ready enough for the job. So I look forward to the contest if I decide to make it.
HH: Amen to that. Now one more political question before I go to the foreign policy stuff I want to talk to you about. If you run, and if Ted Cruz runs, and with Jeb running, that’s almost two and a half Texans, because his brother’s the president and lives in Houston, his father lives, I mean, that’s two and a half Texans. Is there enough space in Texas for two and a half presidential candidates?
RP: Well, if the election was just about Texas, that might be a legitimate question. But this is about 49 other states, so it’s going to be, the country is big enough for all of those individuals. Jeb’s a good man, a good friend. He was a good governor. You know, him getting in the race, I think, helps the field. I would suggest to you he’s probably, since he said what he said, he’s probably the frontrunner at this particular point in time.
HH: And what about Senator Cruz? Any worry there that bad blood will erupt in Texas? You’ve had some pretty tough intramural battles down there before.
RP: Oh, you know what? Politics is politics, and I think both Ted and myself, and certainly Jeb and the other candidates are, we’re all mature individuals. And at the end of the day, it’s shaking hands and doing what’s right for America. That’s what the people of this country want. They’re interested in your vision, and we’re going to have an optimistic one, just like we’ve had an optimistic vision for Texas. If folks want to keep more of their money, if they want to have a brighter economic future, there’s a blueprint for it in a place where optimism is at a real access, and that’s in Texas.
HH: Now a lot of people are going to look at this race, and they’re going to size the candidates up knowing that Hillary, I’ve got her poster behind me, #ready, hashtag ready, that Hillary’s going to be on the stage opposite whoever the Republicans nominate. And she is going to trumpet her foreign policy credentials. And all of our governors, you and Governor Bush and Governor Kasich and Governor Walker and Governor Jindal, there’s just not that foreign policy experience. So how do you counter her argument that I’ve been around the world 25 times, and I’ve got all these accomplishments?
RP: Well, there’s a difference between traveling a lot and making good decisions, and I think that’s going to be the real question. She’s got a lot of questions about her performance, about the positions she’s had, whether it’s Benghazi, or whether it’s allowing the Iranians to head towards a nuclear weapon. I mean, the list is pretty long in her foreign policy debacles, from my perspective, and I think Americans want to see a president of the United States that sends the message to our allies every day that there’s two things – America’s best interests, and making sure that our allies know that we’re going to be there with them. And this secretary of State, and this president of the United States, both did a miserable job. I would put it in the feckless foreign policy category. And so if she’s planning on running on her foreign policy record, that may be like Jerry Brown running on his economic record.
HH: Okay, that’s very funny. Let me turn, Governor, then to the serious issues of the day. This week, we saw two police officers assassinated in New York City. We saw Mayor de Blasio yesterday saying to the media, don’t divide us anymore, blaming the media. A lot of people, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol on this program yesterday pointing at Al Sharpton, the President’s friendship with him. What is your commentary on what is happening to race relations in America right now?
RP: Well, I think you’ve got to go back and make a clear statement that it’s an absolute tragedy anytime a law enforcement official loses their life. But the death of these two officers is absolutely reprehensible and senseless. And it’s wrong to perpetuate tragedy with violence. I support the rule of law about as strongly as anybody that there is. And you’ve got to commend the men and women of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day. You know, our prayers are with the families of these individuals. I stood on the Capitol steps when our law enforcement men and women are honored every year. And you see the families of those who have lost loved ones, and it tears your heart apart. And so our prayers are with the families of these law enforcement individuals who have lost their lives. And we need to honor them. We need to recognize that they leave home every day and they kiss their loved ones goodbye, and they don’t know whether they’re coming home or not. And you know, with that said, it’s equally important that the people of our communities that they serve, they trust them. And this inflammatory, these inflammatory words that come out of people like Sharpton is not helpful. And we need to be really thoughtful. The inflaming of this country to make political statements is not healthy.
HH: Governor, yesterday, Bill Bratton, the New York police commissioner said, “It’s quite apparent, quite obvious that the targeting of these two police officers was a direct spin-off of this issue of these demonstrations.” Do you agree with that assessment?
RP: I do. I think that you have this rhetoric that starting at the top, the President, the governor, the mayor, all of those individuals should have been condemning the type of rhetoric coming out those protests. I didn’t see that.
HH: Clearly stated. Let me move to the President’s other decision of last week, to recognize Cuba. Marco Rubio, who may be on that stage with you come 2015, and Jeb Bush both denounced this. What did you make of the President’s move last week, Governor Perry?
RP: Well, I think it was important for us to wish Mr. Gross a Happy Chanukah. He was home with his family, and that was good. But the fact is did we trade one individual for some bad public policy? And I suggest that we did, that all too often, this president has made decisions that appear to be from a position of weakness. When you look at Mr. Bergdahl that we traded five very dangerous individuals and freed them for an individual who frankly, questionable what his record was with the military. So I’m really concerned, I’m really happy for Mr. Gross. But I’m really concerned that a country that has a long record of human rights abuses appears to have gotten its way in exchange for one individual.
HH: Second foreign policy area, over at www.breakingdefense.com, which is one of my favorite websites, they’re talking about the Navy shipbuilding program. It’s under extraordinary stress. If the sequestration happens, the Littoral combat ships’ going to go, maybe the 11th carrier, the armed drone is on the table. What’s your commitment in terms of, if you run for president, to the nation’s defenses, specifically the Navy, Governor Perry?
RP: Well, you have to look at where the Navy is so important, the South China Sea, one of the most contentious areas in the world, and a place where a deep water navy has to be substantially forceful. And if there is one place in the world where the United States has to have a presence to keep open those shipping lanes that’s in the South China Sea, this administration has hollowed out our military, not just the Navy, but all branches of the service are suffering greatly. And the commitment to building back the economy so that we will have the resources to have a strong military is where we have to be focused. The strength of our military is going to allow us to project around the world. I happen to be one of those individuals who believe that the future peace of the world is going to be inextricably intertwined with the strength of America. We have to be strong economically first before we can be strong militarily. But both of those can go hand in hand. And the next president of the United States has to be ready to put programs into place to loose the American economy. And again, we talked about earlier in this program, you can do it very quickly and simply. The energy industry and our tax policies that can be put into place, and give clear incentives to people on both the energy side and the other business side, explode this economy. And at that particular time, the resources can come in and they can be directed to our military, particularly making sure that we have that strong presence in the deep waters around the world.
HH: Last question, Governor Rick Perry, when you go up to Iowa to go to the Freedom Summit, you are going to be asked about Common Core. I’ve never seen an issue take off at the grassroots as fast as I have opposition to Common Core and the Department of Education’s federalization of it. What are you going to say when asked about it? And what are you going to say when Governor Bush defends it?
RP: I, you know, will allow the Governor to defend his position. Ours has been, and a strong one here in Texas, that we’re against it. We passed legislation banning it in the state of Texas. And I’m a big believer that the states need to be allowed to have the flexibility to decide what their curriculum is going to be. I don’t believe that a Washington bureaucrat is the best decider on what our curriculum should be in Texas, and I don’t think it should be that way in Florida, either. I trust governors and legislatures rather than Washington bureaucrats to decide what curriculum should be in our schools. Our state will be substantially more competitive, and put better curriculums into place than Washington, D.C. will.
HH: Well, I trust you’re right on that, and I trust you’re right about Johnny Football, Governor. We need him to be what you say he is next year.
RP: Well, hopefully, he’ll heal up, and he will learn from his mistakes, be given a second chance, and he will be a successful quarterback for the NFL.
HH: Thank you, Governor Perry, Merry Christmas.
RP: God speed, Hugh, Merry Christmas, brother.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.