More than three years after Rick Perry’s presidential hopes were dashed in his famous “Oops” moment, the former Texas governor is said to have boned up on the issues and seems revved to go for it again, this time with a new twist or two. At Dallas’ Tower Club yesterday, Perry implied before delivering a real stem-winder that Gov. Greg Abbott was giving in to the conspiracy crowd on the Jade Helm 15 military exercises. In a Q&A he also defended the so-called Texas Dream Act, which lets illegal immigrants apply for in-state tuition. “Rick Perry, the unlikely voice of reason!” someone said, skeptically, later in the day.
Besides his newish spectacles—the image above appears on the back of his RickPAC political action committee business card—Perry was a little less buttoned-down Tuesday than during his governor days, clad in a patterned sport coat and slacks instead of his usual dark suit. But the talk he delivered to the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth was vintage Perry—one part Winston Churchill, one part Elmer Gantry.
The country’s feeling pessimistic with a lack of strong leadership, he said, and changes are called for, pronto. Chief among them: cut corporate tax rates (which he said would lift wages); scrap excess regulation; and let the states flourish as laboratories of innovation. Perry also ripped President Obama’s “delusional” foreign policy, likening 2015 to 1979, when the country was demoralized and militarily weak.
If—more likely when—Perry announces his GOP presidential bid, he’ll tout as he did yesterday the success Texas enjoyed during his years as governor. Mainly: 1.5 million jobs created between ’07 and ’14, while the other states lost 400,000. He’ll also cite his executive experience during times of crisis, including the Hurricane Rita evacuation.
Compared to newbie legislators running for president, those credentials are not unimpressive, especially when they’re reeled off in Perry’s folksy, plainspoken style. When someone asked him how he liked retirement, for example, Perry said, “I looked at him like a dog that heard a funny noise.” And, before he jump-started the state’s economic development efforts in the early 2000s, he contended, Ann Richards’ approach to attracting new jobs had been, “Y’all come! It’s great down here!”
As entertaining as he might be to listen to, in the end Perry’s biggest problem may also be Jeb Bush’s: burnout among the electorate on Texas and Texans (and Bushes) in the wake of the eight-year presidency of George W. Not sure any amount of boning up on the issues—or new pairs of glasses—will be able to overcome that.