Checking in ... again. Texas Governor Rick Perry's Iowa visits are probably more than evaluating the ethanol industry. Could it be a high octane run for the republican presidential nomination? We're exploring the possibilities with Governor Rick Perry on this edition of Iowa Press.
Borg: When Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, spends time in Iowa it gets attention. And this week he has been spending time in central Iowa and in Davenport also, conferring in Davenport with what is described as a business roundtable, a conservative group called Americans for Prosperity sponsored that event. Governor Perry's second visit to Iowa in four months is getting national attention because after 14 years as Governor he is leaving that office at the end of this year. And he isn't ruling out another run for the republican presidential nomination. Governor Perry, welcome back to Iowa Press.
Perry: It's good to be with you, good to be back in Iowa, yes sir. A chilly day you have going.
Borg: We've had several of them.
Perry: I imagine you have.
Borg: It isn't just a cold reception for you. Across the Iowa Press table, Des Moines Register Political Columnist Kathie Obradovich and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.
Henderson: Governor, a judge this week said that the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas was "a state imposed inequality". If that judge were sitting at this table, what would you say to him?
Perry: Actually I sat by that judge for a number of years in the Texas legislature and Orlando is representing, I think, the left side of the political aisle if you will when it comes to those decisions. I'm a big believer in the 10th amendment. I believe that whether it is in Texas or it's in Iowa or the other 48 states that the citizens of those states can best decide the decisions that affect their citizens better than a federal judge, for that matter, or someone in Washington, D.C. So, again, I don't think it is -- we'll see, this will go to the United States Supreme Court and be decided. But it goes back to that entire conversation that we've had across this country about who best to make decisions about our children's education, or for that matter health care, as the Affordable Care Act has been debated up and down, back and forth over the course of the last three or four years, who best to make the decisions about health care, about decisions on marriage. I think the local legislatures working with the governors and the people are a better place than this one size fits all that seems to come out of the current administration and a Washington that frankly is almost, they don't even talk to each other much less get anything done.
Obradovich: If you were appointing federal judges would you have a litmus test for them on issues such as gay marriage or abortion?
Perry: No, what I'd have a litmus test on is would they look at the Constitution and make decisions that were within the realm of the Constitution. And in issue of abortion and on marriage I would suggest to you that the Constitution does not address those and those should be left to the states following that 10th Amendment direction that our founding fathers had that said, you know, there's a few things that are enumerated in the Constitution and then everything else should be left to the states. That would be my test is a man or a woman who wanted to be on the Supreme Court if they did, in fact, believe that the Constitution was something that needed to be used as their guide and not to add things to nor subtract them from.
Obradovich: When you were in Iowa in November we talked to you about how republicans can win back the White House and one of the things you said was that republicans needed to "come together and find our middle ground." Some republicans in Iowa think that that middle ground means shut up about gay marriage, you can keep your values but just don't talk about those particular conservative values. I assume that you disagree with that.
Perry: No, what I agree with are people who basically say those are decisions that should be decided in Iowa, not in Washington, D.C. and that gets back to that whole conversation that I think is worth having in this country about -- I think our country would be happier, I think it would be healthier. We've got 50 laboratories of innovation out there and certainly we're not all the same. I can assure you that folks in New York are different from folks in Iowa. So the idea that we should be trying to make everyone fit into a relatively small box, whether it's socially, whether it is economically or whether it is in other areas is a bit adverse from my perspective from the standpoint of how you make our country more productive and happier when it comes to if you are an individual who this issue of legalization of marijuana, which I don't agree with, but there are states that think that should be -- and that's their call. And I think the issue of marriage is one of those as well.
Obradovich: So if the Texas Supreme Court had made the decision instead of a federal judge you would have been okay with it?
Perry: No, because the people of the state of Texas have already made that decision and we had a piece of legislation that passed in the 2000's and it was sent to the people of the state of Texas, overwhelmingly passed, I think 75+% voted that marriage is between one man and one woman. And for the people of the state of Texas they made it abundantly clear. Now, if that has changed in the state of Texas I'd suggest to you the Texas legislature would come back and they would put that in front of the people of the state of Texas, takes a two-thirds vote in both houses. But if it went to the Texas Supreme Court I would suggest to you they would find that the people of the state of Texas were right in making that decision.
Henderson: Your neighbors in the south, Arizona, their legislature passed a law that granted a religious exemption to business owners in regards to the same-sex marriage issue. Jan Brewer, the Governor of Arizona, republican vetoed that. Did she make the right decision?
Perry: She did for Arizona, absolutely. We addressed those issues from time to time and, again, I'm not going to -- I may not agree with a particular position but it is each state's, I think, 10th Amendment prerogative to make those decisions that are within the bounds of the state's discretion when it comes to making --
Borg: Are you saying Arizona is a bit different than Texas? You said it was right for Arizona.
Perry: Yeah, and I said that about a number of things that Arizona has done in the past that I may not necessarily have agreed with. And there are decisions made every day and then people can live where they are most comfortable. It's one of the things -- I go, actually I think someone said that I had come to Iowa to recruit businesses. I recruit businesses practically anywhere I go. But if I were really serious about recruiting businesses, Iowa would not be a real highly productive place. More people are working in Iowa than have ever worked before in their lives, your unemployment rate is 4.2%, your governor has done some extraordinary things here to make this one of the more competitive states in the country. So if I were going to go recruit businesses I probably would go to California or Illinois, better fishin'.
Borg: As long as we're talking about working then let me slip in a question about the minimum wage. President Obama, as you well know, for federal contractors has raised, by executive order, the minimum wage. Is that right for Texas?
Perry: Well, I don't think it's right for our country. And one of the reasons I don't think it's right for our country is because we are at a tipping point in this country from the standpoint we've got so many people out of work. The participation rate, the percentage of people working in America is at the lowest point since 1978. You all remember -- well you all may not remember '78, you may have been in grade school --
Obradovich: Thanks, thanks for that.
Perry: In '78 it was an incredibly difficult time, we had interest rates that were approaching 20%, there was this malaise, as Jimmy Carter called it. It was a terrible time in the United States. And we have approached that again from the standpoint of the number of people out of work in this country. And for the President of the United States to be forcing businessmen and women to raise their minimum rate we know what's going to happen, there are going to be young kids, and a lot of these are going to be minorities, that lose jobs because those businesses basically say, you know what, our margins are so short, they're so close together we're going to have to let people go to meet this requirement of raising the minimum wage. The CBO even said that somewhere between a half a million and a million jobs would be lost because of this.
Obradovich: I saw you on CNN say on "Crossfire" that you didn't think the government had any business setting a minimum wage.
Perry: I don't.
Obradovich: So if it were up to you would you repeal the minimum wage?
Perry: Here's -- I think you leave that to the small businessmen and women. I mean, the competitive nature of the free market works really well. And the idea that government needs to be coming in and telling you what that wage is going to be because what we're seeing with this President is he is using this to go say we're going to raise your, the amount of money that
Obradovich: So yes to the repeal? You'd actually repeal the minimum wage --
Perry: I don't know whether I would repeal it or not but I don't think the federal government in Washington, D.C. needs to be sitting, setting rather, the standard out there. I think it is left to the small businessmen and women of the country. It makes a lot more sense to me than Washington, D.C. Again, that is one of those -- if a state wants to set a minimum wage, that should be that state's prerogative, but not out of Washington, D.C. Again, you go back to -- I think those are decisions that need to be left to the states.
Obradovich: Would you keep a minimum wage in Texas if the federal government didn't force you to have one?
Perry: I'd leave it up to the legislature to have a conversation on it and have a good debate about, you know, is this a job creation or is this a job killer? If it's killing jobs I'm not going to be for it.
Obradovich: Does it help the economy of Texas, though, if the jobs that are created are jobs where the people working them can't afford to pay their rent and can't feed their families?
Perry: Here's reality, because what you're talking about is theory. In the state of Texas over the last decade, almost 30% of all of the jobs created in the private sector in the United States were created in the state of Texas. 95% of those were above minimum wage. So if you want a look at reality and the reality is a place where jobs have been created, where families are taking care of their members better than any other place in this country, I would point you to Texas on that.
Borg: I'm going to move along because we're running short on time. Kay?
Henderson: Let us talk about political reality. There's an old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. What is wrong about the first impression Iowans had of you?
Perry: Well, I would suggest to you I learned some good lessons about running for the presidency of the United States. If you're going to run I highly suggest you don't have major back surgery six weeks before you get into the race. And preparation is really important. Parachuting into a project as big and as broad and as complex as running for the presidency of the United States is very difficult to do as we did. So lessons learned are important.
Henderson: So why did you? Why did you do it that way?
Perry: I think I love this country. And I have run up some hills before and not been successful in taking them. But the fact is they were hills worth taking and I think that the debate that we brought to the entire process was good, we talked about the free market and how the concepts that we had put in place in a state like Texas and how the 10th Amendment is important, I think the ideas that we laid out whether it was the foreign policy ideas of sending these countries back to zero for foreign aid, the idea of having a flat tax where you can pay it on a postcard, all of those are good ideas and I hope that in 2016 that they're still being talked about.
Obradovich: Speaking about 2016, we're maybe a month shy of 700 days away from the Iowa caucuses at this point. What is the status of your thinking right now about running for president in 2016?
Perry: I've got 11 months left of my governorship in the state of Texas. 2014 is where the focus is. Electing governors like Terry Branstad, there are 36 governorships up for decision between now and November, that is where my focus is going to stay.
Obradovich: But you just said running for president takes a lot of thought and a lot of preparation. So --
Perry: Right, but responding to Kay's question.
Borg: Put it this way, and again this is an if, not hypothetical though. If you were, because you have had some experience with the Iowa caucuses, would you come back to Iowa and run in a process that it a little bit different than a primary?
Perry: Well, again, 2016 is way down the road and I think to spend much time talking about it at this particular juncture is not productive for me.
Henderson: Do you think you'd get a fair shot here? There were actually three winners of the caucuses on caucus night Mitt Romney, certified results --
Perry: I think you make your fair shot so Iowans are fair and thoughtful people. And so they're going to be fair and thoughtful as they decide who is going to lead this state for the next four years and that's the reason Terry Branstad is going to be I think their choice and will win overwhelmingly but I want to help him and make sure that a governor who understands about giving the freedom to the private sector, doesn't believe that all decisions need to be made in Washington, D.C., that the legislature and a governor in Iowa are a lot better to make decisions for the people of this state than Washington.
Borg: I guess what I'm trying to get at, though, do you find the Iowa caucuses to be a good method of winnowing?
Perry: Oh, I absolutely, I think all of this process whether it is in Iowa or South Carolina or New Hampshire, it's all different, it's all good, it's a way --
Obradovich: Does that include the republican straw poll that is a tradition in Iowa? You skipped that last time, came in, in South Carolina --
Perry: I don't think I was even in the race by then --
Obradovich: Well, you announced that day --
Perry: I announced that day, so, hard to be in two places at once. Listen, it's all part of the process and if you don't understand how the process works you might not should get into it.
Henderson: Iowans have been taking a look at another Texan, Ted Cruz has made a number of trips here. What is the difference between a Ted Cruz republican and a Rick Perry republican?
Perry: I'll let other people make that decision.
Henderson: Is there a difference?
Perry: I would suggest to you we're all different in some form or fashion. So a United States senator and a governor are different. I've got to think that Terry Branstad and Senator Harkin are different. And they're different in their function. A governor has to get things done. We have to work with members of both political parties. United States senators talk a lot and it doesn't make any difference whether they're republicans or democrat senators, they are completely different jobs. So the idea that philosophically we probably have a lot of things that we agree on, there may be some that we don't, I've never sat down and put a side-by-side together between myself and John Cornyn or Ted Cruz for that matter. Here's what I do know is that we all believe that the answers are not emanating from Washington, D.C. today and hopefully my senators and the new senator from Iowa will give more of the decision-making back to Terry Branstad and the legislators in Iowa rather than trying to continue to consolidate and centralize power in Washington, D.C.
Obradovich: Speaking about Terry Branstad, one of the ways Terry Branstad is different from Rick Perry is that our governor worked with both parties to come up with a health care plan that used Medicaid expansion money. You didn't do that in Texas. Did Terry Branstad and other republican governors who have done that make a mistake?
Perry: No, they did I think what they decided was in the best interest of their state. In Texas overwhelmingly the people of the legislature was not in favor of expanding Medicaid because of the price tag. Over $18 billion in the next five years of state money was what it would cost the state of Texas to expand that. What we think is a better answer and better solution -- and I will suggest to you Terry would agree with me on this, is that the decisions need to be left with the states on how to expand, how to implement, to block grant those dollars back to the state to make a lot more sense to most governors, I would think. I don't think there are a lot of governors running on the idea or the elect me and we will do what Washington tells us to do.
Henderson: What is the Rick Perry solution for the immigration debate?
Perry: Well, I think the immigration debate is going to change greatly over the course of the next 24 months or so for a really interesting reason. Now, border security does not change. No matter what happens in the world we need to have the federal government addressing their responsibility of securing the border because a lot of the individuals that are using our border to penetrate the United States are not coming up here to work, they're coming up here with ill intent in mind whether it is drug cartels or individuals other than Mexicans, OTMs as they are referred to, that are using the border to penetrate in. But the Mexican energy industry is changing and it is changing very quickly. Their Congress allowed for the privatization where it's headed to from a nationalized to a more privatized expiration of their energy resources and what is going to happen is a lot of Mexicans who came up here for work are going to be going back to Mexico because the jobs are going to be better, they're going to be closer to home so I think it's going to completely change the whole immigration dynamic and border security is still going to be very important and the issue of how you identify individuals who are not legally in this country, there has always been a way to become a United States citizen, that line is still there, it's still accessible.
Obradovich: We have a quick question about energy, you mentioned energy policy. Here in Iowa the legislature unanimously said that the federal government should keep the renewable fuel standard, which I know you have a different position on. As you come to the state and talk to Iowans how do you reconcile that sort of fundamental disagreement over an industry, the ethanol industry, that is very important to Iowa's economy?
Perry: The bigger issue is a national energy policy, it's opening up the XL Pipeline, it's using our federal lands to create the jobs that can be created and it's having a North American energy strategy from Canada through the United States into Mexico. And I think it's important to have a lot of different forms of energy whether it's wind --
Obradovich: But should renewables have to compete in a fair market?
Perry: I think it's going to be part of our, part of our energy plan is alternative, you know, biofuels and what have you, all of that is going to be a part of it. I'm a big believer that the market will sort its way out through all of that. But the bigger issue for me is to make sure that, they say rather Iowa ethanol than OPEC oil.
Borg: Time for a final question, Kay.
Henderson: Governor, I'll give you a sentence here to answer my question. When I told people I was interviewing you today, almost to a person they said ask him about the glasses. What's your answer?
Perry: An accident as a young man is manifesting itself in my vision finally. So I give the credit to my wife in the style though.
Henderson: You can see clearly now.
Borg: It's a practical reason rather than a fashion statement.
Perry: Oh, yes sir. When I was 17 I was hit in the eye with a rock and it miraculously healed and now it has manifested itself as a deterioration of eyesight in my left eye. And my, as I give the credit to my wife, she picked out the frames and I'm learning to wear them.
Borg: Thank you for coming back and for spending time with us, Governor Perry.
Perry: You're welcome, it's always good to be with you. Thank you.
Borg: Well, Iowa Public Television is now beginning the annual spring Festival programming and next weekend Iowa Press is stepping aside to accommodate those special programs. During our regular Friday and Sunday noon time slots you'll instead of Iowa Press be seeing expanded, spectacular shows. So enjoy them. And thank you for your generosity. In fact, that makes all the programming, including Iowa Press, possible so thank you. We'll be back after Festival with more newsmakers and political updates. Thanks for joining us today.