CONCORD — Texas Gov. Rick Perry arrived in New Hampshire under indictment Friday, but also as a hero of sorts to many fellow Republicans in the Granite State.
While Democrats quickly blasted him as a bully and said the New Hampshire GOP has a history of supporting “scandal-plagued bullies,” Perry told the New Hampshire Journal in an interview he believes most Granite Staters understand that the action that led to his indictment was his defense of the “rule of law.”
Perry had been scheduled to appear in court in Travis County for an arraignment on Friday morning, but his attorneys earlier in the week filed a not guilty plea on his behalf, waiving the appearance. Instead mid-day Friday, he was relaxing a the Hilton Gardens in Manchester enjoying the cool weather and preparing to get started on his highly-publicized six-stop foray into the first-in-tne-nation primary state.
“The motto of the state is ‘Live Free or Die’ and that is a good reflection of a lot of the people here,” Perry told the Journal. “They understand the importance of liberty and freedom and they are willing to fight for the rule of law, and that is what this boils down to.
“Any objective observer who looks at that video” of an obviously intoxicated District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg “abusing law enforcement officials and being booked into the county jail at almost twice the legal (blood alcohol) limit, and then take into account that she was involved in the Public Integrity Unit that would prosecute drunk drivers and unethical behavior by statewide public officials, it became clear that the vast majority of the people of the State of Texas would not support that office with state dollars.
“I’m sworn to uphold the laws of the State of Texas and one of the requirements is to have good judgment and good judgment is to say in this case that we’re not going to support an agency that is headed by someone who has shown such poor judgment.”
Perry said he was shocked when the grand jury brought back the indictment last Friday, but he noted that “the vast majority of observers,” including Democrats David Axelrod and Lanny Davis, as well as Prof. Alan Dershowitz, “have called this outrageous or sketchy. Lanny Davis said that those who supported this were no better than Joe McCarthy.
“Obviously the people of the Granite State are all about the rule of law and protecting the rule of law,” he said. “It is a straight up question of does the governor have the right to issue a veto and make judgment calls. I’m leaving office in five months. I’m concerned about future governors of Texas. Their authority should be protected so that they can make judgment calls.”
Prior to the interview, Democrats hit Perry hard on his claim that the indictment was a political ploy.
Texas state Rep. Lon Burnam, in a conference call with reporters arranged by the Democratic National Committee, said Perry “is a master of misinformation” because while Perry “is trying to say this is partisan, the people who were involved in this indictment were not.”
Burnam, a nine term lawmaker, acknowledged he was being partisan, but he also said it is a fact that the chief judge of the State of Texas was appointed by Perry himself, while the presiding judge in the case was appointed by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
Burnam said the indictment “is not over the veto” by Perry of funds for the Lehmberg-led Public Integrity Unit of the District Attorney’s Office, but instead “over the blackmail, the threat” of the veto if Lehmberg did not resign.
He said Perry’s actions are a product of the one-party dominance in Texas. “Russia has more diversity in its government than Texas does,” he said.
Burnam said the indictment will be “an initial plus for him in the context of the Republican Party,” but, “By the time this thing plays out – three, five, six months from now – I think he will be such damaged goods as to him not being able to repair the damage in the context of the national Republican primary.”
New Hampshire Democratic state Rep. and former Merimack County Attorney Katherine Rogers of Concord said she was troubled by “how quickly the New Hampshire GOP rushed to his defense” by issuing a statement and calling the indictment “ridiculous” just a few days after it was handed down.
But she said, “The New Hampshire GOP has lifted up scandal-plagued bullies for years,” citing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his “Bridgegate” scandal.
“As Governor Perry brings his indictment and his scandal and his bad record to New Hampshire, and he gears up to run for President, my message to the governor is simple: We don’t need and we don’t want leadership like yours,” Rogers said.
Perry responded, “The facts are the facts. I said in 2013 that with this clear video evidence” of Lehmberg’s behavior, “I said I would veto” funding for the office if she did not step down.” And he said he carried through on his promise.
Perry, who while not saying so, is laying the groundwork for a second run for the GOP Presidential nomination with the current visit to the state and visits to other early primary and caucus states.
“2016 will get here soon enough,” he said. “My focus is on what happens between now and Nov. 4 of this year, making sure we have a way to impede this President” from carrying out what he views as a misguided agenda.
“For instance, I’d like to see a United States Senator from New Hampshire who would support me on securing the border with Mexico,” he said. “His policies have lured a lot of these individuals from Central America into the United States and his inaction in securing the border has resulted in some of these people doing harm to American citizens.
“Having an individual who will support the rule of law and that hold the President to performing his constitutional duties is important,” Perry said. “I have faith that someone like that can be elected, rather than a lap-dog for Barack Obama. Senator (Jeanne) Shaheen votes 99 percent of the time with Barack Obama.”
Shaheen, he said, “will have to be responsible to the people of New Hampshire and explain why she thought it was in their best interest to vote 99 percent of the time with Barack Obama. I don’t see how she can argue that that’s in the people of New Hampshire’s best interest. It seems to be in the Washington Democratic party’s best interest.”
Perry, however, said he is not weighing into the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate.
“I will come back after Sept. 9 and be very supportive of whoever is chosen by the people of New Hampshire,” he said.
Perry later Friday will be the featured guest at an event sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation in Manchester, where a study of the state’s business tax structure will be unveiled.
The study will show that New Hampshire has the second highest business tax burden per capita and the third highest business tax rate in the nation, that business tax revenue has grown slowly in the past 12 years and that as a result, young people are leaving the state for better prospects elsewhere. Click here for the full study.
“There is no longer theory here,” Perry said. “There is practical data that shows that when you over-tax, over-regulate, over-litigate and don’t produce a skilled workforce on account of the condition of public schools, you start losing business to other states. Companies that require a skilled workforce go somewhere else.”
He said that Texas has been “an experiment” in implementing those four basic components and “since I’ve been governor for almost 14 years, 35 percent of all of the private sector new jobs in the United States have been created in Texas. Some say it’s because of the oil and gas industry, but that still makes up the same 14 percent of the state’s economy that it has since 1984.
“The real story here is the rest of the economy has diversified by a massive amount,” he said, noting that Texas has now surpassed California in high-tech exports.
“I think it is time for New Hampshire to take a look at which of these two political parties will make New Hampshire again competitive in this region, and of course I’m biased on that,” Perry said.
Perry has been weighing in on international affairs. He did so in a speech to The Heritage Foundation on Thursday and did so again in speaking with the New Hampshire Journal.
“This President has made error after error dealing with the Middle East,” as well as Russia and Ukraine, he said. “I don’t know if he is just timid or whether his philosophically wants to retreat into the boundaries of the United States and pull the sheets up over his head and hope the bad guys go away.
In dealing with ISIS, “I would suggest that we need to increase the intensity and volume of the airstrikes substantially. But boots on the ground can be taken care of with peshmerga (Kurdish fighters).
“They do not have the weaponry they need. I have called on the United States and our allies to deliver immediately those supplies to the peshmerga so that they can fight this fight. They can eliminate ISIS.
“I don’t want to take (the possibility of returning U.S. troops back to Iraq) off the table, however,” he said. “I would not signal to our enemy that I’m going to unilaterally disarm.
“We need to move now with speed and violent force to eliminate the people who killed James Foley,” the New Hampshire-based journalist who was beheaded by ISIS earlier this week.
He reiterated that ISIS adds to the existing security threat at the nation’s southern border.
“The United States government needs to carry out its constitutional requirement of securing our border. This is not a state function,” said Perry.
“But if the United States won’t protect the border, Texas will and that’s why I’ve deployed 1,000 National Guard troops on the border” and other state personnel.
“The President has within his power the ability to secure the border with boots on the ground and with a major expansion of aviation assets, including drones that can look down day and night and in all weather conditions. You can have the strategic fencing but it is not effective if you don’t have the boots on the ground.
“The good news is that since the surge in our forces and with the major news stories that the Texas National Guard is coming, we’ve seen a major decrease” in breaches of the border – at least by half, he said.
Just as the murder of Foley was “unconscionable,” said Perry, “It was also unconscionable to have two individuals – one with multiple deportations and another arrested multiple times — brutally murder a border patrolman when he was on a fishing outing with his family.”
He also said he is not surprise that border security has become a major issue in the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire.
“It is more of an issue of the rule of law,” he said. “Americans whether they live five miles from the border or 2,000 miles from the border, are very concerned that the administration is disregarding the rule of law. The rule of law says you can’t change Obamacare just because you want to change it.
“The rule of law is telling Americans you can keep your doctor and then the people finding out that that’s not the case,” Perry said. “The President has lost the confidence of the American people because he is intentionally disregarding the rule of law on a number of issues.”
As for his own misstep in his short-lived 2012 presidential run, Perry said, “America is a place that has respected second chances and I hope the people of New Hampshire will take a look and say that they judge on what people learn from their missteps and see that they’ve improved and were genuinely humbled by things that have happened in their lives.”
Overall, Perry said, he has a “new grandbaby and another one on the way so all of the things that matter are very, very good. And there is never a dull day, it seems, in my professional life.”