National Press Club

Mr. Perry Comes to Washington

July 2, 2015 | By Wesley G. Pippert | PippertW@missouri.edu

Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas and 2016 Presidential hopeful, speaks at the National Press Club.

Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas and 2016 Presidential hopeful, speaks at the National Press Club.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

With a few mild zingers Rick Perry told a National Press Club luncheon Thursday that what distinguishes him from the other Republican presidential candidates is that he is the only one with line military as well as executive experience.

The former Texas governor and Air Force captain for the most part did not single out by name others of the multiple cast of candidates but he disassociated himself from Donald Trump's remarks about Mexican immigrants and he praised Carly Fiorina as a "particularly capable" executive. Without naming them, he singed fellow candidates Marco Rubio of Florida and fellow Texan Ted Cruz by saying first-term U.S. senators couldn't match his qualifications.

Later, Perry was asked how he would get his agenda through Congress. "This would not be my first rodeo," he said, adding he had worked with both parties as Texas governor. He said he would "find those things we agree on." And then: "The hell with K street," he said, referring to the nickname often given to lobbyists.

Perry's speech was billed as one dealing with economic policy and many of his remarks dealt with how his administration would help African-Americans far more than has he felt had occurred in the Obama administration.

He started with the stories of two African-Americans in Texas, one of whom, Jesse Washington, was castrated and burned in 1916 -- and pictures of the torture put on postcards for sale, and the other, Wallace Jefferson, whose great-great-great grandson Perry appointed to the Texas Supreme Court.

"I am running for president because I want to make life better for all people. even those who don't vote Republican," Perry said. "Republicans have much to do to earn the trust of African Americans. ... We lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln."

As for economic policy, Perry said his first priority would be "to reignite the engine of American economic growth by reforming the tax code and requiring federal agencies to adhere to a strict regulatory budget."

Perry proposed earned income tax credits and block grants for states. He also proposed reducing federal regulations that he said drive up the cost of hiring new workers, reforming drug-related sentencing laws that now make it hard for young people just out of prison to get a job, and to improve schools.

If these happen, Perry said, "we will have done more for African-Americans than the last three Democratic administrations combined."

NPC President John Hughes passed along one question from the audience about means testing for entitlements.

"I have no problem with means testing," Perry said. "I'm pretty sure Donald Trump can do without Medicare." Trump is a wealthy entrepreneur.