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‘Tough Guy’ Rick Perry Makes Waves on Republican Campaign Trail

August 17, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination just days ago, but he is already making waves by touting his state's job growth and low taxes as a model for the nation. Judy Woodruff discusses the background and style of the newest official GOP hopeful with Paul Burka of Texas Monthly.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the campaign trail, where Rick Perry has burst on to the scene and has been causing quite a stir.

He entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination just five days ago, but already Texas Gov. Rick Perry is making waves. On Monday, in Iowa, he went after Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, with an ominous warning against any expansion of the money supply.

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-Texas presidential candidate: We would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.

(LAUGHTER)

GOV. RICK PERRY: I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous — or treasonous, in my opinion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: While campaigning in Iowa, Perry pounded the president on his jobs record in town after town.

GOV. RICK PERRY: We are in economic turmoil. And if we don’t have a president of the United States that gets America working again, we are in trouble.

Then, government, get out of the way!

JUDY WOODRUFF: And he has repeatedly cited his own jobs record as governor of Texas.

GOV. RICK PERRY: Since June of 2009 — you know, Texas is about eight percent of the population of America total, but 40 percent of all the new jobs created in the United States were in the state of Texas.

CHILD: How many jobs are you going to…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Perry has been governor for almost 11 years, and has never lost an election in his 27 years in public office.

A fifth-generation Texan, he was raised on his family’s farm near the small town of Paint Creek. He served in the Air Force, and this week, he said the troops want a commander in chief who, unlike President Obama, has worn the uniform.

The president answered it all in a CNN interview last night.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You’ve got to be a little more careful about what you say. But I will cut him some slack. He’s only been at it for a few days now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This morning, in New Hampshire, Perry moved to a new subject: climate change.

GOV. RICK PERRY: I think we’re seeing it almost weekly, or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that manmade global warming is what is causing the climate to change.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Perry continues his campaign in New Hampshire tomorrow, the first-in-the-nation primary state.

For more, we are joined by Paul Burka. He’s the senior executive editor of the magazine Texas Monthly. He’s been covering Texas politics for more than 35 years.

Paul Burka, thank you very much for being with us.

PAUL BURKA, Texas Monthly: Thank you.  

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk first about Gov. Perry’s jobs claims, that he has, in Texas, as governor, been responsible for creating 40 percent of the new jobs in this country over the last two years.

First of all, is that borne out by the facts, and, second of all, what sort of jobs?

PAUL BURKA: Well, the answer to the first question is, yes, it appears to be borne out by the facts.

The second question is really more interesting: What kind of jobs? And that is something that there’s going to be quite a lot of debate about. For example, one of the important companies that Gov. Perry brought in was Countrywide. And that was right at the beginning of the mortgage crisis that Countrywide was involved in.

And they set up a call center in the Midland-Odessa area. As I recall, it was around 500 jobs. Well, the call center collapsed because the mortgage industry collapsed. And so that didn’t hold. That wasn’t Gov. Perry’s fault, but, nevertheless, call centers are not the type-A job that you would like to see come to your community.

Now, I don’t want to sound elitist about that, because if you’re dealing with people like we have in Texas, where we have the largest number of people without a high school diploma, we want those people employed. So call centers do some good. But, nevertheless, there is a question about how good these jobs are.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So…

PAUL BURKA: Certainly — yes. Well, go ahead.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I was just going to say, picking up on what you just said, so his policies as governor were responsible for the creation of all those jobs?

PAUL BURKA: Yes, he has a fund that the legislature provides him of several hundred million dollars, which he uses to recruit companies. He makes trips to states like California and says, come to Texas because we don’t have a state income tax. He is very aggressive about pursuing jobs.

I mean, I think it has clearly been his number-one priority from the first day he became governor.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Paul Burka, his comments about the Federal Reserve Board chairman, Ben Bernanke, and he said, in essence, if they expand the money supply, then we in Texas would treat him ugly, has he held that view? Has he talked a lot before now about Mr. Bernanke and the Fed?

PAUL BURKA: I never heard him mention the Fed. It has not played any role in any of his speeches that I have heard, certainly not in any of his proposals before the legislature.

But it is classic Rick Perry, because Perry is an extremely aggressive politician. And he will push these things to the limit. And I think what he sees is — and we learned it when Gov. Perry made some remarks about Texas possibly looking at secession in 2010 — that he knows that, when he makes these statements, that the media’s going to hate it, the people on the left are going to hate it, but the people that like him and have this streak of Texas exceptionalism are going to love it. So it’s break-even at worst for him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I asked about the Fed because he said today this is something that he feels passionately about.

I also want to ask you about this other comment he made today, where he said the evidence is just not there that — that humans are making global warming worse.

Is this something that he’s talked a lot about as governor?

PAUL BURKA: He hasn’t talked a lot about it, but that is what he believes, and he has — he has said that. And it’s not something that comes up all the time. And we don’t — it has been an issue in Texas a little bit, because carbon capture is very important. We have very dirty air in our big cities.

We have a lot of coal plants that the governor has supported. And so there’s certainly a concern in Texas about — about global warming. I’m from Galveston. The home I grew up in was about six feet above sea level. And we get — we do get hurricanes. So, Texas is concerned about the future. And I think Gov. Perry is, too. But it’s not been a subject of debate in the legislature. And it’s not a big issue in Texas in political circles.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What else would you say, Paul Burka, about Gov. Perry’s — you mentioned that he’s aware, when he makes these statements that are controversial, the reaction. His ability to withstand the sort of glare that comes with running for president, that it’s this relentless coverage of every word spoken, to what extent is he prepared for that?

PAUL BURKA: I think he’s pretty well prepared, because he’s a very disciplined guy. He was an Air Force pilot. He went to Texas A&M and was famously a Yell Leader there and can stir up a crowd.

And I think Perry is used to the criticism. He’s been in Texas politics for 10 years. He really doesn’t care what other people think about him. He only cares about what his plan is. He’s always got a plan. And that’s what makes him formidable in politics. He’s — he’s just a tough guy. And I think that’s served him well, because he’s had some very tough races and some very tough criticism over the years.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Paul Burka, I’m sure we’re going to be coming back to the question of Rick Perry in the future.

But thank you very much for giving us your perspective, having covered him. Thank you so much.

PAUL BURKA: Thank you.