Rick Perry announced his candidacy for President in Addison, Texas on Thursday, June 4, 2015. He gave his speech surrounded by a host of veterans including Navy Seals, Marcus and Morgan Luttrell. Marcus is the author of the book, Lone Survivor. Also on the stage was Taya Kyle, the widow of the late Chris Kyle, best known as the American Sniper.
Perry served as Governor of Texas for 14 years. The moment for which he may be best known in Presidential politics is the “oops” moment at one of the Presidential debates in the last election when he lost his train of thought. There was no “oops” moment in this speech.
He has had four years to prepare for another run and it is clear that he has used that time wisely. Although he never mentioned the name Ronald Reagan in his speech, there were more than a few subliminal references.
Perry started his speech with a reference to World War II and his father, who served as a B17 tail gunner in 35 missions, returned from that war and started out as a tenant farmer. Perry’s character was shaped by growing up in a small community.
His mother used to bathe him in a number 2 washtub on the back porch. She sewed clothes for him all the way through his college years. He attended Paint Creek Rural School, played six man football, and became an Eagle Scout. He went to Texas A&M, became a cadet, and served as an officer in the Air Force.
He made reference to his optimistic outlook that came from farming. He also spoke about the enduring values that shape his life.
“There is no person on earth more optimistic than a dryland cotton farmer. We always know that a good rain is just around the corner, no matter how long we’d been waiting. The values learned on my family’s cotton farm are timeless: the dignity of work, the integrity of your word, responsibility to community, the unbreakable bonds of family, and duty to country. These are enduring values. Not the product of some idyllic past, but a touchstone of American life in our small towns, our largest cities, our booming suburbs.”
He spoke of having a view of America from the aspects of a dirt farm to the Governor’s office in the Texas capital. He noted that America is the only nation founded on the power of an idea. The idea to which he referred is found in the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence.
Throughout his speech, he made reference to a social compact that connects the generations. He referenced this compact throughout his speech.
“It has always been the case that there has been this social compact between one generation of Americans and the next: to pass along an inheritance of a stronger country full of greater promise and possibility. And that social compact – it has been protected at great sacrifice. It was never more clear to me than when I took my father to the American cemetery that overlooks the bluffs at Omaha beach. On that peaceful, wind-swept setting, there lies 9,000 graves, including 45 pairs of brothers, 33 of whom are buried side by side, a father and a son, two sons of a President. They all traded their future for ours in a final act of loving sacrifice.”
Perry even noted that the headstones of the graves at Omaha beach all faced West toward America. He said , “… we must ask ourselves: ‘Are we worthy of their sacrifice?’”
He moved from the sober picture of Omaha beach to where we find ourselves today. “The truth is we are at the end of an era of failed leadership.” He addressed the stagnant economy and America’s failed leadership in the world. He placed the responsibility on Obama referring to him as, “a divider who has sliced and diced the electorate, pitting American against American for political purposes.”
In foreign affairs, he also pointed to the inevitable results of Obama’s policies.
“The world has descended into a chaos of this President’s own making, while his White House loyalists construct an alternative universe where ISIS is contained and Ramadi is merely a ‘setback’ – where the nature of the enemy can’t be acknowledged for fear of causing offense.”
He also linked the failure of Vietnam, “where politicians didn’t keep faith with the sacrifices and courage of America’s fighting men and women” to the fall of cities in Iraq. He called it a “national disgrace.”
He referred to the stagnant economy and failure of world leadership as the “end of an era of failed leadership.” Instead of just listing the woes of the day and failures of Obama, Rick Perry, laid a foundation of optimism.
This is where his speech had a hint of Ronald Reagan. He spoke of the resilient nature of Americans.
“But my friends, we are a resilient country. You think about who we are. We’ve been through a Civil War, we’ve been through two world wars, we’ve been through a Great Depression – we even made it through Jimmy Carter. We will make it through the Obama years. We will do this. You know, the fundamental nature of this country is our people never stay knocked down. We get back up, we dust ourselves off, and we move forward. And you know what – we will do it again.”
He went on to list conditions for which many have simply resigned themselves to accept. He said that we don’t have to settle for world chaos or apologize for American exceptionalism. We don’t have to accept “crumbling bureaucracies that target taxpayers and harm our veterans.”
Against that backdrop, he said that he is running for President to create jobs, give every citizen a stake in the country, and restore hope to forgotten middle class Americans. Then he took a shot at Hillary Clinton and her “reset” button.
“And yeah, it’s time for a reset, time to reset the relationship between government and citizen. Think of the arrogance of Washington, DC, representing itself as some beacon of wisdom, with policies that are smothering this vast land, with no regard for what makes each state and community unique. That’s just wrong. We need to return power to the states, and freedom to the individual.”
He turned his attention to address specific groups of people. In keeping with the social compact across generations, he turned first to the millenials.
“I want to speak to the millennials just a moment. This massive debt, it’s passed on from our generation to yours, this is breaking of a social compact and you, you deserve better. And I am going to offer a responsible plan to fix the entitlement system, and to stop this theft from your generation.”
He addressed the “forgotten Americans” as those who were in debt, working harder, falling behind, and facing rising costs for health care, child care, tuition costs, and student loans. He spoke to those families on food stamps, welfare, unemployed, and underemployed. To these groups, he said, “I hear you, you are not forgotten. I am running to be your President.”
Class warfare has been a strategy used against Republicans. Perry prepared for that by making a clear distinction between Wall Street and Main Street. He made it clear that he supports capitalism, but not cronyism.
“The American people, they see this rigged game, where the insiders get rich, the middle class pays the tab. There is something wrong when the Dow is near record highs, and businesses on Main Street can’t even get a loan. Since when did capitalism involve the elimination of risk for the biggest banks while regulations strangle our community banks? Capitalism is not corporatism. It is not a guarantee of reward without risk. It’s not about Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.”
Perry again emphasized optimism in his outlook for a bright future.
“I know for certain our country’s best days lie ahead. There is nothing wrong in America today that a change of leadership will not make happen. We’re just a few good decisions away from unleashing economic growth, and reviving the American Dream.”
He outlined specific steps he would take on his first day in office. He will issue an immediate freeze on pending regulations. He will send a comprehensive rollback and reform bill to Congress to roll back the “job-killing mandates created by Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and other Obama-era policies.”
In the arena of reigning in bureaucracy, he said, “health insurers will have to earn the right to your money, instead of lobbying Washington to force you to hand it over.”
He continued that he will issue an Executive Order to approve the Keystone pipeline. He also promised to issue an order on the first day to authorize the export of American gas and oil. He related energy to national security and particularly the leverage that Russia has over European nations.
“Vladimir Putin uses energy to hold our allies hostage. If energy is going to be used as a weapon, I say America must have the largest arsenal.”
Rick Perry then presented his argument for experienced leadership. He said that he knew his plans would work because they have worked in Texas already. He proceeded to list key accomplishments while he was Governor.
He said that Texas companies created almost one third of the new jobs in America. During the last seven years he said that had it not been for Texas companies creating 1.5 million new jobs, America would have lost 400,000 jobs.
In education he noted that Texas had the 2nd highest graduation rate in the nation. Among African Americans and Hispanics, Texas led the nation in graduation rates. This statement is clearly an outreach to groups that may traditionally vote Democrat.
He signed balanced budgets for 14 years. The Texas Constitution required it as most state constitutions do.
Perry has sometimes been criticized for a program that gave immigrants in-state tuition at Texas colleges. While he supported programs for people living and working in Texas, there was no doubt about his stand on border security.
“When there was a crisis at our border last year and the President refused my invitation to see that challenge that we faced, I told him, ‘Mr. President, if you do not secure this border, Texas will.’ Because of that threat posed by those drug cartels and those trans-national gangs, I deployed the Texas National Guard. And the policy worked… If you elect me your President, I will secure that border.”
He also addressed international relations. With a striking similarity to Ronald Reagan he went beyond promising action his first day and said that his first act would involve Iran.
“The great lesson of history is strength and resolve bring peace and order, and weakness and vacillation invite chaos and conflict. My very first act as President will be to rescind any agreement with Iran that legitimizes their quest to get a nuclear weapon.”
Perry made one more distinction between himself and some of the other candidates. He emphasized his experience and made a particular reference to Senators and perhaps former Senators who were in the race.
“We have seen what happens when we elect a President based on media acclaim rather than a record of accomplishment. This will be a ‘show-me, don’t tell me’ election, where voters look past the rhetoric to the real record. The question of every candidate will be this: ‘When have you led?’ Leadership is not a speech on the Senate floor, it’s not what you say, it is what you have done. And we will not find the kind of leadership needed to revitalize the country by looking to the political class in Washington.”
In shoring up the strength of his leadership, he referenced several ways in which he had been tested. Space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana when it re-entered the atmosphere. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike hit Texas. The first Ebola diagnosis in the United States was in a Dallas hospital. He also referenced the drug cartels on the border.
He told how he had brought together people from varied organizations to meet these challenges. In another statement of unbounded optimism and confidence he spoke of the spirit of America.
“The spirit of compassion demonstrated by Texans is alive all across America today. While we’ve experienced a deficit in leadership, among the American people there is a surplus of spirit. And among our great people, there is a spirit of selflessness – that we live to make the world better for our children, and not just ourselves.”
Perry told a story about the character of America demonstrated by George Washington.
“It was said that when King George III asked what General Washington would do upon winning the war, he was told that he would return to his farm and relinquish power. And to that, the monarch replied, if he does that, he would be the greatest man of his age. George Washington lived in the service of a cause greater than self.”
Looking around the crowd of veterans on the stage with him, he named Medal of Honor recipients Mike Thornton from the Vietnam war and Marcus Luttrell from the war in Afghanistan. Perry has a close personal relationship with Luttrell and referred to him as a second son.
He pointed out Taya Kyle, the widow of Chris Kyle. As he did so, he recognized the impact of war even after the war when he spoke of “the grief of every family who has lost a loved one to the great tragedy of this war, or its difficult aftermath.”
He closed with another proclamation of the greatness of America found, not in government, but in the people.
“Let’s give them a future greater than the greatest days of our past. Let’s give them a President who leads us in the direction of our highest dreams, our best dreams, our highest hopes, and our greatest promise.”
Rick Perry covered all the bases in his announcement speech. He knows that he will be dogged by the “oops” moment from the last election. It is evident that he has taken that moment of failure and used it as a powerful force in preparation for the 2016 campaign.
The key for Rick Perry will be in the first couple of debates. Everyone will be watching to see if there is another “oops.” There is no doubt that he has used the time since then to prepare and make sure that there isn’t another one.
One thing is for sure. The only “oops” anyone may have uttered about this speech came from his competition.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts. Please share these with your friends.
Also, let me hear from you. I always enjoy hearing back from you and I try to respond when you take the time to write me.