GOFFSTOWN — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry began a busy two-day visit to first-primary state New Hampshire Thursday with a somber early morning assessment of the nation’s current standing internationally and of its economy.
Warning that a weak America makes the world more dangerous and a strong economy translates into a strong role in world leadership, Perry defended his decision to sign onto a letter to the leadership of Iran warning that Congress will be the final arbiter for any long-term nuclear deal with the United States.
While Democrats have blasted the 47 Senate Republicans and group of prospective presidential candidates who signed the letter, Perry said at a Politics and Eggs breakfast at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics that he was proud to be a part of it.
“I happen to believe that there are some things that are too important, frankly, not to find compromise on,” Perry said in answer to a question from one of about 200 people in the audience. “Allowing Iran to get its hands on a nuclear weapon is not negotiable, in my opinion. And I think the President is making an error.
Perry said he hoped Republicans and Democrats in Washington can find agreement on a number of issues, from the budget to entitlement reform.
But he said the Iran deal is “a really bad example of finding a place we can work together on. There are places out there and things that are so important that we cannot compromise our principles. And allowing this country (Iran), which is still the greatest supporter of terrorism in the world…. I’m sorry but I cannot accept that as a place where I’m going to compromise.”
He said Sen. Tom Cotton and the other 46 senators, including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who signed the letter were doing nothing more than informing the Iran leaders how the United States Constitution works.
“I support the clear message that the United States as a body and certainly the next President of the United States is not going to be held accountable by this President signing this agreement that is certainly not in the best interest of this country,” Perry said.
But Perry said there are other areas in which compromise is possible.
“I think Americans are so sick of the gridlock in Washington, D.C.,” he said. He labeled as “not acceptable” U.S. Senators who subscribe to “taking your toys and leaving,” without naming names.
Admitting he is “biased about this,” he said the 2016 GOP presidential nominee should be a governor.
“The executive experience of having to get things done — governors don’t have the luxury of just having a conversation, giving a speech and walking away.”
He said that no major reforms in Texas during his 14 years as governor – tort reform, education reform or major budget issues — were accomplished on a unilateral, Republican-only basis.
“We need to be working across the aisle, bringing people together,” he said.
He cited “drug courts” established in Texas in 2001 as an example of a program created with Democratic support.
“Texas is not known for being soft on crime,” Perry said. But he said of young people who are convicted of relatively minor drug crimes, “don’t ruin their lives forever. Don’t throw them in prison where they learn to become really first rate criminals. Give them some options.
“The result was we shut down three prisons in the State of Texas,” he said. “We saved $2 billion. That’s real conservatism in my book.”
He called on Washington politicians to “find those serious places – maybe it’s Medicare reform, maybe it’s entitlement reform — where we sit down and find like-minded Democrats we can work with. We used to do that.”
“I’m abundantly optimistic,” Perry said. “Economically, foreign policy-wide….And it will require men and women who put aside some of their differences and find the things that they care about and can work together on.”
Perry said the country has entered “a time of testing, and our political leadership is failing that test.”
He said President is “in denial about the threats that we face.”
ISIS, he said, “filled the void of a failed policy in Iraq….ISIS has taken cities that just a few years ago were freed by the blood of American soldiers.” He said President Obama’s “denial of the religious nature of ISIS…is naïve, dangerous and it’s misguided.”
Calling the battle with ISIS a “war,” Perry said that while the United States and its allies did not start it, “we need to have the will to finish it.”
Perry said Obama’s policy in the Middle East prompted Vladimir Putin to “annex” Crimea and “negotiate a one-sided cease-fire with no real consequences.”
“Our allies doubt us, and our adversaries are all too willing to test us,” said Perry. “I’m not eager to pursue a military action in that part of the world.” But he said for the world to be safer, “I believe with all my heart America must be stronger.”
He also said the American economy must be “revitalized if we are to assert America’s strength across the globe,” calling for cutting the corporate tax rate, which he said result in higher middle class wages.
Perry said regulations under the Dodd-Frank law cause “inequities” by giving preferential treatment to these large institutions on Wall Street while restricting access to funds for Main Street.
“The cost of compliance is overwhelming our community banks,” which he said provide more than half of the nation’s small business loans.
“The next President should look at all the regulations out there that harm full-time jobs, harm full time workers and end it. Period,” Perry said.
Perry touted his record of creating jobs in Texas during his tenure as governor.
“Instead of expanding the welfare state, we built the freedom state,” he said. “In my 14 years as governor, we have created nearly one-third of all the new private sector jobs created in the United States in the last seven years. We created 1.4 million jobs in that state. Minus those jobs the total number of jobs created in America would be 250,000 jobs in the red.”
Top Democrats criticized Perry and the other three GOP candidates headed to New Hampshire this weekend.
“Rick Perry is darn lucky that nature has made Texas a deep source of oil,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on a media conference call with New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley.
“Rick Perry can’t take credit for the fact that there is a lot of oil underground in his state,” Wasserman Schultz said. “What he can take credit for is that he has the highest rate of uninsured in the country” and one of the nation’s largest wage gaps.
But Perry said he signed the largest tax cut in state history, and in 2014, he said, his state had the second highest high school graduation rate in the nation.
“I happen to think it’s time to bring that type of economic revival to every state in the nation, with policies that limit government rather than expand it,” Perry said.
“Our experiment in the Republican form of government is too durable to be sidetracked by one confused administration,” he said. “We survived worse. We survived the Civil War, we survived two world wars. We survived the Great Depression. We even survived Jimmy Carter. We’ll survive the Obama years as well.”