Former Texas Governor Rick Perry joined me on Tuesday’s program:
HH: Pleased to welcome back the former governor Texas, Rick Perry, to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Governor, great to have you back.
RP: Hugh, it’s awesome to hear your voice and be on your program again. How are things in your part of the world?
HH: Terrific. I was in the audience at the Heritage Foundation a week ago Friday night when you were the main speaker, but I was a couple of chairs back…
RP: Get out of here. Why didn’t you come say hey? I did not spy you out there. That was not a small crowd, though.
HH: I was just enjoying you working the room and doing a great speech, and you were fired up that night. Are you feeling the energy here?
RP: Well, I’ll tell you what, you know, I learned some great lessons about 2011 and 2012, the least of which is those that if you’re going to participate in that process, you better be healthy, and you better be prepared. And frankly, I wasn’t either one of those. So over the last three years, one, I’ve gotten really healthy, and secondly, just the preparation side of it, whether it is going out to the Hoover and learning at the feet of some of the great and extraordinary leaders that you have out at the Hoover Institution, including George Schultz, across the board to people like Eric Edelman or Cohen and Henry Kissinger. I mean, I’ve had a most enjoyable period of time really learning foreign policy and getting down in the weeds in it where we can really discuss it at length. And the other side of that is to be healthy. And I am healthy, and I think you saw that reflected the other night.
HH: Yeah, I did, and remarked upon it on the air. And I want to come back to that foreign policy in a moment, Governor, but I want to start, I began the program today with Governor Kasich, your buddy from Ohio. And I asked him, my state, California, has got a terrible drought. The state you used to lead’s got a terrible drought. 95% of the surface water in the United States is in the Great Lakes. How can we go about getting that water to where we need it? And he talked a lot about, you know, maintaining lake integrity. But have the states cooperated enough on this drought and using the resources of the country to serve the country, Governor Perry?
RP: Well, probably not, and that may be an issue that you know, I’m a big 10th Amendment guy, and that the federal government needs to do a few things and do those few things well. But infrastructure from the standpoint of water distribution may be one of those. And frankly, Texas has enough water. We just don’t have it in the right place. And I think that’s the story for our country just as much as it is a snapshot of what’s happening in the state of Texas. And certainly in California, I will suggest to you, that is as much a manmade drought out there with substantial amounts of water going to flow to no good use, frankly, that could be used in that Central Valley to keep the food supply going to not just this country, but to the world. So there may be a real aspect of, you know, think about it this way, Hugh. If those billions and billions of dollars that they dumped into this stimulus program back in 2009, had they used that money to help build infrastructure to move water around, just take the issue of the life-giving liquid of water, how much better this country would have been served than the way it was spent, frankly, wasted during that 2009-2010 period…
HH: It makes you crazy. Yeah, we built an 800 mile Alaskan pipeline, the Erie Canal, the Trans-Pacific Railroad. You know, it would only take about $5 billion bucks to bring Great Lakes water to the West, and I cannot believe…
RP: Well, and think about the jobs that would get created. You know, you would think that our Teamster Union friends would be standing up going you know what, that sounds like a really great idea, because this puts my people to work, and it gets families taken care of. You open up the XL pipeline, same story there. Being able to create a national water infrastructure along with driving the U.S., well, not just U.S, but North American energy, I’m talking about Canada, the United States and Mexico. They have more known reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia. So listen, we can get this country back to work in a hurry. The water infrastructure is one of the ways, the energy infrastructure, you couple the energy proliferation that we could have in this country along with corporate tax policy that gives incentives for companies to come back on the manufacturing side, and you do that with some corporate tax policy, this country’s greatest days can be ahead of it. You heard me talk about that on the stage at Heritage.
RP: And I believe it with all my heart. This isn’t just some rhetoric. I have seen it happen in the 13th largest economy in the country over the last decade in my home state, is we, you know, from ’07 to ’14, we created 1.5 million jobs in my home state, and it was because we diversified our economy so much. That same thing can happen to America with a few good decisions in the right corporate tax policy and a leadership change at the top, obviously.
HH: Now let me ask about a different federalism question, and that’s the fact that Colorado and Washington State make it legal to grow and distribute marijuana. And that’s gotten into the interstate commerce stream. Chris Christie and Marco Rubio want to prosecute those states and shut it down. Ted Cruz, your colleague from Texas, says not so fast. Governor Kasich’s of two minds on this. Where’s Rick Perry on this?
RP: Well, I’m a big believer in the 10th Amendment. And Louis Brandeis said, and he was an old liberal Supreme Court justice, but he respected the Constitution. He said the states are the laboratories of democracy. He said they’re going to experiment from time to time, and he said every now and then, somebody’s going to make a mistake. And they’re going to pay a price. But he said at least they haven’t destroyed the republic, and that’s exactly the way I look at it. I don’t agree with those decisions that were made by that, by the state of Colorado or Washington, but I will defend it to my death, if you will, to allow them to make those decisions. So you know, I think I’m closer to Ted there than I am to Chris.
HH: Well, let me push you on this a little bit, Governor. We’ve got a federal law, though, and that was passed by the people’s representatives, and it controls heroin, it controls marijuana, it controls everything in between. When do states, when they violated willy-nilly the federal law, how can we criticize President Obama for not enforcing the immigration law when we want to allow states to blow of the federal drug law?
RP Yeah, well, I just happen to think that that’s one of those that maybe the federal government got wrong to begin with from the standpoint of you’ve got to have some, you’ve got to have, you either believe in the 10th Amendment or you don’t, is kind of where I come down on it. So I happen to believe that those states have that right to experiment if you want to call it that. I think they will look back and they will find that it was a huge error that they made. But I’m going to stick with the founding fathers rather than picking and choosing which ones I want to defend and which ones I don’t.
HH: Okay, last question, and this is into the wedding wars. Every Republican is getting asked, I’ve done it myself, and other people have done it to other people, whether they would attend a same sex wedding. What’s Rick Perry say?
RP: Yeah, well, I probably would, but I think the real issue here is you know, that’s the gotcha question that the left tries to get out there so everyone will talk about…
HH: Well, I actually put it out there, so I’m part of the problem if it’s a gotcha question, but it grows out of my belief that we’re focused on the wrong thing. I mean, the Islamic State is throwing gays…
RP: Right, and that’s exactly where I was going with my response, Hugh, is that we need to be, you know, stand up and say hey, listen, you know what, that’s an interesting question, here’s my answer, but get this thing back to talking about how do we get Americans back working again, how do we get this economy back on track. I mean, to me, there’s two big issues out here in front of us. It’s the economy, and it’s national defense. And if you’re not really not talking about those two on a regular basis and coming up with solutions on how to get this country back working, how to get this debt under control, and how to put America back into a position of being respected by our allies and being an influence in the world, then you’re spending some time that frankly doesn’t need to be spent on some issues that are secondary or tertiary to the future of this country.
HH: Let me move to foreign affairs, Rick Perry. I’ve been asking people about the Putin primary, which is which of the Republican candidates would Vladimir Putin least like to be facing across a negotiating table? How do you think you’d do up against Vladimir Putin?
RP: Well, listen, as the only person who’s worn the uniform of the country, most likely, and now if Lindsey Graham is an officer in the United States Air Force as well, but if Lindsey doesn’t get into this thing, I will be the only person who’s worn the uniform of the country for 14 years, been a commander-in-chief, deployed our National Guard and our Texas military forces multiple times. And I think when you talk about you want somebody with a backbone, and I just want to hearken people back to last year when the president of the United States would not do his Constitutional duty and secure the border, I looked him in the eye and I said Mr. President, if you won’t secure the border, Texas will. And that’s exactly what we did. Americans have seen me in action, and I would suggest to you that Vladimir Putin does not what to be sitting across the table from the former Texas governor.
HH: All right, now I’ve got to ask you, this is sort of a political question, Jeb Bush carries the burden of his last name, but there’s also the Texas effect. Do you think that America is ready for another Texan after W?
RP: Well, we’re all different people, and you know, whether Jeb will have to explain what his differences are. I’ve got a record of 14 years of serving the people of the state of Texas, and I want to hold that record up, and I’ll challenge anybody on the dais with me to discuss it, whether it’s job creation, whether it’s how we run the state. You can’t touch Texas when it comes to the last seven, eight years of job creation. That’s just, I mean, 1.5 million jobs were created from ’07 to ’14. The rest of the country lost 400,000 jobs. So if your issue is do you want to have a better economy to be able to take care of your people, do you want a safer border so that people will feel safe in their communities, people have seen the results of that leadership out of Texas in the last seven or eight years, and I will suggest to you that is going to be what this campaign’s going to boil down to, is who has not only the vision, but who’s got the record to get this country back on track.
HH: Now Rick Perry, I want to turn to Defense matters. I know you’re an Air Force veteran, but I want to talk about aircraft carriers.
HH: We’ve got 10 groups. The Heritage Foundation says we need 13. Chuck Hagel talked about going to 8.
HH: What’s Rick Perry think about that?
RP: Well, I’m a lot closer to the Heritage Foundation. When you look at the deep water Navy that we do not have today, and our capabilities we do not have today, and what’s going on in the South China Sea, you need to be really concerned. The Chinese ability to reach out and hit some of our carriers with weaponry that we don’t have the technological advantage with, that is where we’ve got to, you know, when you look at the Ohio Class subs, and these things are fixing to be, they’re fixing to be outdated…
RP: When those cores are used up and those radioactive cores are used up, we’re going to be in trouble. And we must have a thoughtful plan in place. The last time the Defense Department, and this is under Gates back in 2012, and they put forward and projected that we need to spend $1 trillion dollars over the next ten years to get this military back to what it needs to be. We’ve got one fighter, the F-35 that’s in production today, I mean, we’ve got the smallest army that we have had since 1940. Hugh, I mean, this is a pattern for disaster if we do not build our military back up. The good news is we can. You remember the late 70s. I left the Air Force in ’77, which saw Jimmy Carter starting to hollow out our military just the way this president has done. But in a short ten year period of time, by 1989, we saw the Berlin Wall fall. We saw the end of Soviet communism, because we had a president that got this country back on track economically, and we rebuilt our military. And America’s influence became very, very important to the whole world. And the whole world was safer. So that’s where we must look internally on the economic side, which in turn will allow us to become militarily capable of projecting America’s interests around the world. If you have a stronger America, you will have a safer world.
HH: You anticipated my question on the Ohio Class submarine, because I ask it of everybody. But let me ask you then about whether it’s fair game to require if people want to be president specificity on things like carriers and Ohio Class subs and F-35’s. Should our candidates on the Republican side be prepared to talk in detail about these weapon systems so they’re backbone systems?
RP: Well, I think they do. That’s not to say that one person having a total and absolute grasp down into the weeds, you know, what’s important to you? I mean, are you going to be an individual that can stand up and say this is what’s important to the future of this country and here’s the reason it’s important. You know, I graduated from college with the former chief of the Air Force, Mike Moseley. My best friend in college is a three-star Marine, Lt. General, who was chief of staff to Tom Metz over…I mean, having those personal relationships, having worn the uniform of the country, having been the commander-in-chief for the Texas military forces and the Texas National Guard and having deployed them both internally and as the military, the U.S. Military took them and deployed them into Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve been into those theaters with those individuals. And you need to know what is required. You need to know these systems. You need to understand the complexities of it. And frankly, you need to have somebody, either yourself or somebody really close to you that knows this procurement. I will suggest to you we can probably save $100 billion dollars a year in procurements, but it’s going to require someone that’s got not only the will, but the expertise, and then a Defense secretary that can’t be kowtowed to the Defense Secretary, that can’t be sandbagged, if you will, because the DOD has to be responsible, but we’ve also got to build our military back up. So I think it’s, you know, it’s a give and take here. You’ve got to get rid of the waste. You’ve got to get rid of the problems that you have there. But we’ve got to build this military back up if we’re going to have a future in the world.
HH: Let’s wrap up, Governor Perry, by talking about the use of that force. In the waters off of Italy yesterday, there’s this terrible tragedy. 900 people are dead.
HH: And Hillary passed off Libya from Qaddafi to the jihadis, so people are doing whatever they can risking their lives and their families to get the hell out of Libya. Do we owe Libya more than we gave them? And what do you think our policy ought to be about this, another failed state in the making, that’s just going to be jihadi Grand Central Station?
RP: Well, the problem is, and we’ve seen this. You saw it in Libya, you saw it in Egypt, you saw it, and I mean, we could have stopped ISIS, I will suggest to you, in Syria, with the funding of the Syrian rebels appropriately. And plus, I think we would have gotten rid of Assad as well. And we had a second chance with ISIS, and that was in the northern part of Iraq with the developing, or not developing, but delivering lethal weaponry to the Peshmerga. They would have stopped ISIS in its tracks. They would have defeated ISIS at that particular point in time. But every time we’ve had this mentality, we’re going to take a hands-off approach. We’re going to, it really disturbs me that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the Secretary of State and the President, have had the opportunities to make a safer world, and they made decisions that moved America away from being able to influence what was going on particularly in that part of the world. And now we see this president and Iran negotiating what I consider to be an absolutely, has the potential to be a catastrophic deal with Iran, and allowing that country to get a nuclear weapon.
HH: If that deal emerges as its outlines are understood right now, if the Corker-Menendez bill fails to kill it, would Rick Perry as president revoke it on day one?
RP: Well, I told an audience last week that between the time I would be sworn in and until before the inaugural ball, sign an executive order to terminate that, because it’s worth nothing more than the piece of paper it’s written on, from my perspective. This is a bad deal, and no deal is a lot better than a bad deal. You allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon, and all you have done is guaranteed a Sunni bomb.
HH: And let me ask you about the Sunnis, then. General, now President al-Sisi working with the Saudis and the Jordanians to fight back against the Houthis, ought we to be more behind President al-Sisi and his alliance than we have been?
RP: Yes, yes, and I think one of the things that this shows is they did not, they didn’t coordinate with us before they started this, and I think that is a great indication of the lack of trust that the Arab alliance, if you will, has for the United States at this particular point in time. But we do need to be, we need to be talking to al-Sisi. We need to be talking to the king of Jordan. We need to be working with the Saudis. Our allies in that region, we need to be coordinating with them, and we haven’t been. And part of the reason we haven’t been is because I don’t think they trust us at this particular point in time. Again, I go back to Libya, to Egypt, to Syria, to Iran. They’re seeing all of this, and they are substantially either, I don’t think they’re confused. I just think they, I think they think that America is very weak right now. And I tend to agree with them.
HH: Yeah, just this afternoon, we’ll close with this, just this afternoon, Saudi Arabia announced they’ve suspended the bombing, and Iran congratulated them on the cease fire. And it seems like we’re a bystander, Rick Perry, like the Saudis…
RP: Yeah, well, we are. We’ve been a bystander for a long period of time. I mean, the reason that Putin annexed Crimea, the reason he has entered into Ukraine is because he saw all this. We watched this, and he realized that it’s not going to be a problem, because the United States, with this leadership, is not going to be, they’re not going to be leaning forward, they’re not going to be expressing America’s interests. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen. And the Middle East is now in chaos because of America’s retraction from being involved in that part of the world. And I think we are in some very, very dangerous waters.
HH: Very last question, Rick Perry, when are you making it official?
RP: End of May, first of June is when we will make an announcement.
HH: Always a pleasure, Governor, come back early and often between now and the primaries in February and March.
RP: Love to do it, Hugh. Yes, sir.
HH: Thank you.
RP: God bless you, and we’ll see you out that way. So long.
HH: Be well.
End of interview.