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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Rick Perry

    • 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate
    • Texas Governor (2000-2015)

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Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who led an unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, announced in June 2015 his intention to seek the 2016 nomination.

Perry's decision to launch a 2016 presidential campaign was made despite a criminal indictment in Texas for his 2013 attempt to oust a county district attorney who was investigating public corruption. Mother Jones reported in June 2015: "Last August, a grand jury indicted Perry for abusing his power as governor. Perry has repeatedly requested that judges dismiss the case, only to be rebuked as the allegations progress toward a trial—one that could play out during the heat of the GOP primaries."[1]

According to the Atlantic, Perry has entered the 2016 presidential race as a "national-security stalwart," promoting an "assertive American foreign policy against ISIS in the Middle East and Vladimir Putin in Eastern Europe."[2] Perry's hawkish positions echo those of other GOP candidates, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) as well as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The Atlantic's neoconservative contributor David Frum has lauded Perry on foreign policy, saying he is an "alternative to the neo-isolationist approach championed by Sen. Rand Paul."[3]

Perry has advocated the use of torture, has called for "providing lethal aid" to Ukraine to use against Russian-backed separatists, and has stated that American ground forces may have to be deployed against ISIS in Iraq.[4] He has also lambasted President Obama's diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute, stating that his "very first act as president will be to rescind any agreement with Iran that legitimizes their quest to get a nuclear weapon."[5] Perry has in the same vein claimed that the White House's efforts at détente with Cuba has "empowered the Castro regime with no thought of the Cuban people."[6]

A harsh critic of President Obama's foreign policy and an opponent of immigration reform, Perry has contended that "no one should be surprised that dictators like Assad would cross the president's red line because he knows the president won't even defend the line that separates our nation from Mexico."[7]

2012 Campaign

In August 2011, after he announced his candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Perry catapulted to the head of the Republican primary race. However, a series of high profile gaffes severely damaged his campaign and in January 2012, after poor showings in early primaries, Perry announced he was dropping out the campaign. He said he would throw his support behind Newt Gingrich, the main remaining rival to Mitt Romney for the nomination.

Among Perry's weaknesses as a presidential candidate during the 2012 campaign was his poor comprehension of U.S. foreign policy. His campaign website offered only brief, vague remarks on foreign policy, including a common conservative refrain that Perry rejected "the notion our president should apologize for our country but instead believes allies and adversaries alike must know that America seeks peace from a position of strength."[8]

Perry made headlines with a September 2011 speech to conservative Jewish leaders, during which he said: "Well, obviously, Israel is our oldest and most stable democratic ally in that region. That is what this is about. I also as a Christian have a clear directive to support Israel. So from my perspective, it's pretty easy. Both as an American and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel."[9] Few mainstream politicians—despite widespread support for Israel—couch their language in such stark biblical terms.

Although the speech drew predictable support from neoconservatives and other "pro-Israel" figures like Devon Gaffney Cross of Secure America Now, it was heavily criticized by many observers. William Saletan, in a scathing piece for Slate.com, wrote: "Bush never said he had a Christian duty to stand with Israel, because to say such a thing would have been stupid and dangerous. By framing U.S. foreign policy in terms of a religious alliance between Christians and Jews, Perry is validating the propaganda of Islamic extremists. He's jeopardizing peace, Israel, and the United States … [and] he has vindicated Bin Laden's narrative."[10]

Blogger Andrew Sullivan also lambasted Perry's "theological foreign policy," calling the Texas governor "Bush without the sophistication or conscience." Sullivan wrote: "In that sense, Perry is the best thing for Jihadism in a very long time."[11]

Daniel Larison of The American Conservative attacked Perry not for his Christian-based support for Israel ("this is a common view among a significant number of evangelical and other Christians, and Perry has made a concerted effort to identify himself as one of these people"), but rather because "Perry takes it as a tenet of his faith that he ought to endorse a particularly close relationship with another state. The 'clear directive' doesn't leave room for considerations of national interest or chaged circumstances. That suggests that he would support that relationship in its current form no matter how costly it might become to the U.S., and it would mean that there is virtually nothing that an Israeli government could do that would make him change his position."[12]

In a separate blog post discussing Perry's claim that the Obama administration was "appeasing the Palestinians," Larison wrote that "Perry is going to treat anything that Obama has done or failed to do on these issues as appeasement, because the accusation of appeasement is the inevitable line of attack that he and other Republicans are always going to use when it comes to policy on Israel and Palestine. Accusations of appeasement are very much like accusations of 'isolationism,' and their utility comes from how wildly inaccurate and inappropriate they are. If Obama reiterated and briefly took seriously standing U.S. policy on settlement-building on occupied territory, to take one example, that will be lumped in as an example of appeasement. The goal is obviously not to describe the policy or even to contest the policy on its merits, but to define it as a policy that is supposedly both treacherous and weak, which then allows it to be dismissed out of hand."[13]

Perry showed signs of a "pro-Israel," neoconservative bent early in his bid. Before he had even announced his campaign, in addition to criticizing President Obama's handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, Perry wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for the arrest of all U.S. citizens "found to be in violation of U.S. law by their participation in" the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. It was soon after revealed that Perry had held a foreign policy briefing with Bush-era hardliners Douglas Feith and William Luti, as well as with neoconservative pundit Andrew McCarthy. Politico reported that the briefing had been convened by Donald Rumsfeld.[14] (For more, see Right Web, "Perry's Neocon Clues," July 22, 2011.)

Despite his views on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, Perry did not won over all neoconservatives. For instance, the Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin repeatedly attacked Perry, calling him—according to a report by Politico—"sleepy," "hostile," "dreadful," "provincial," "cloying," and "buffoon." According to Politico's Ben Smith, "Rubin, caustic and single-minded, has proven immune to the usual approaches from Perry's staff: She can't be schmoozed, can't be convinced. They respond diligently, if glumly, to emails that arrive in Austin like hostage notes, and often echo or prefigure former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney's attacks on him. 'It's just very high level saturation bombing from our perspective—we don't know why,' said a Perry ally, who said the campaign has given up on swaying her. 'It's just duck and cover.'"[15]

In addition to his remarks about Israel, Perry also drew criticism for his comments that U.S. troops should intervene in Mexico to help that country's efforts against drug cartels. He said in an October 2011 New Hampshire speech, "It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and keep them off our border."[16] Steven Taylor of Outside the Beltway called this "Rick Perry's worst idea yet," saying it would be merely a "serious escalation of the current policy" already failing, would "lead to an escalation of violence," is "tone deaf" historically, and "is an egregious example of American hubris."[17]

However, this view appeared to be the result of pressure he was facing from conservatives over earlier comments he made on immigration in a September 2011 debate. When defending a 2001 bill that provided illegal immigrants with in-state tuition at Texas public universities if they had lived in the state for more than three years, Perry said: "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart."[18]

Perry continued by mocking a long preferred immigration policy of conservatives, namely building a fence spanning the U.S.-Mexico border to keep illegal immigrants out: "You can't just talk about it and say, 'Oh, let's build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso and that will take care of it.' We have to live with reality."[19]

Despite his debate comments, Perry's campaign website claimed he would "secure our international borders" and "take decisive action to defend our sovereign border because there can be no homeland security without border security."[20]

Perry returned to this theme after an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States—via a Mexican drug cartel—was revealed. Calling the allegation "business as usual for Iran," Perry told an Indianapolis audience, "We cannot have national security until we have border security."[21]

Before become Texas governor, Perry served as lieutenant governor under George W. Bush from 1999-2000, and before that was commissioner of agriculture in Texas from 1991-1999.


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[1] Patrick Caldwell, "The Legal Trouble That Could Haunt Rick Perry's Presidential Campaign," Mother Jones, June 10, 2015,http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/rick-perry-president-indictment.

[2] David Frum, "Rick Perry's Biggest Advantage in 2016," The Atlantic, October 20, 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/rick-perrys-biggest-advantage-in-2016/381602/.

[3] James Carden, "Rick Perry Gives Hawks a Blank Slate," The American Conservative, October 30, 2014,http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/rick-perry-gives-the-hawks-a-blank-slate/.

[4] Gerry Mullany, "Rick Perry on the Issues," The New York Times, June 4, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/us/politics/rick-perry-on-the-issues.html?_r=0.

[5] James Lindsay, "Campaign 2016: Rick Perry, GOP Presidential Candidate," Council on Foreign Relations, June 5, 2015,http://blogs.cfr.org/lindsay/2015/06/05/campaign-2016-rick-perry-gop-presidential-candidate/.

[6] [vi]Gerry Mullany, "Rick Perry on the Issues," The New York Times, June 4, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/us/politics/rick-perry-on-the-issues.html?_r=0.

[7] James Lindsay, "Campaign 2016: Rick Perry, GOP Presidential Candidate," Council on Foreign Relations, June 5, 2015,http://blogs.cfr.org/lindsay/2015/06/05/campaign-2016-rick-perry-gop-presidential-candidate/.

[8] RickPerry.org, "National Security," http://www.rickperry.org/issues/national-security/.

[9] RickPerry.org, "Gov. Perry's Remarks at Israel-Palestine Press Conference in New York City," September 20, 2011, http://www.rickperry.org/news/gov-perry-remarks-at-israel-palestine-press-conference-in-new-york-city/.

[10] William Saletan, "Alliance for Christ," Slate.com, September 21, 2011,http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2011/09/alliance_for_christ.single.html.

[11] Andrew Sullivan, "Perry's Backs Great Israel – With Cowboy Boots On, Ctd," The Dish, September 22, 2011,http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/09/perrys-backs-greater-israel-with-cowboy-boots-on-ctd-1.html.

[12] Daniel Larison, "Clear Directives," The American Conservative, September 21, 2011, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/2011/09/21/clear-directives/.

[13] Daniel Larison, "Perry and Appeasement," The American Conservative, September 21, 2011,http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/2011/09/21/perry-and-appeasement/.

[14] Jerusalem Post, "Texas Governor: Prosecute US flotilla participants," June 30, 2011, http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Texas-governor-Prosecute-US-flotilla-participants.

[15] Ben Smith, "Rick Perry's worst nightmare: Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin," Politico, October 25, 2011,http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1011/66854.html

[16] Amy Gardner, "Perry: Send U.S. troops to Mexico to fight drug wars," the Washington Post, October 1, 2011,http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/perry-send-us-troops-to-mexico-to-fight-drug-wars/2011/10/01/gIQA2qDGDL_story.html.

[17] Steven L. Taylor, "Rick Perry's Worst Idea Yet," Outside the Beltway, October 1, 2011, http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/rick-perrys-worst-idea-yet/.

[18] Arlette Saenz, "Rick Perry Walks Back 'No Heart' Comment on Immigration," ABCnews.com, September 28, 2011,http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/09/rick-perry-walks-back-no-heart-comment-on-immigration/.

[19] Arlette Saenz, "Rick Perry Walks Back 'No Heart' Comment on Immigration," ABCnews.com, September 28, 2011,http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/09/rick-perry-walks-back-no-heart-comment-on-immigration/.

[20] RickPerry.org, "National Security," http://www.rickperry.org/issues/national-security/.

[21] The Associated Press, "Perry: Terror plot shows border must be secured," The Dallas Morning News, October 12, 2011,http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/perry-watch/headlines/20111012-perry-terror-plot-shows-border-must-be-secured.ece.

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Rick Perry Résumé


    • The Response: Organizer and convener (2011)


    • 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate
    • 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate
    • Texas Governor (2000-2015)
    • Lieutenant Governor of Texas (1999-2000)
    • Texas Commissioner of Agriculture (1991-1999)


    • Independent Real Estate Development


    • Texas A&M University: B.S.


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