Presidential candidate Rick Perry on Wednesday apologized for saying that anyone who opposed giving tuition breaks to the children of illegal immigrants “did not have a heart.”
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, the Texas governor said he had made a poor choice of words during the Sept. 22 presidential debate, but he stood by his view that the decision in his state to extend tuition breaks was the right one.
“I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate,” Perry admitted. “In Texas in 2001 we had 181 members of the legislature – only four voted against this piece of legislation – because it wasn’t about immigration it was about education.”
During the wide-ranging interview, Perry:
• Opposed the idea of a fence stretching the entire length of the Mexican border;
• Repeated his claim that social security is “a Ponzi scheme,” saying it’s so bad it “would make Bernie Madoff blush;”
• Attacked challenger Mitt Romney as “a flip-flopper;’
• Accused President Barack Obama of sending government agencies to “go to war” against business, and;
• Said most voters want their president to be “a person of faith.”
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Perry said a fence stretching the entire length of the Mexican border would be expensive, ineffective and would trample on property rights.
However he wants what he calls strategic fences in urban areas combined with more border agents and eye-in-the-sky planes to beam down real-time information on suspect activity.
“In the metropolitan areas where the fencing actually can play a positive role, absolutely,” he said. “But you have to have boots on the ground.
“I cannot overstress how important it is to have that law enforcement presence that can immediately move to an area where you are seeing activity because you have got the aviation assets in the air, that’s how you secure the border.
“But having an obstacle without observation is no obstacle at all. So just the idea of building a fence and saying, ‘That will take care of it, let’s just build a fence,’ has never worked in the history of mankind.”
Perry said that his decade-long tenure in the Governor’s Mansion in Austin has given him a unique perspective on the immigration issue. “Nobody has dealt with this issue more than I have,” he said.
“As Texas governor, a border governor, you have to deal with these issue, you can’t just talk about them 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.”
But he said the biggest immigration issue is the failure of the federal government to uphold its constitutional duty to secure the border.
“We wouldn’t be having these conversations today, whether it’s about in-state tuition for illegal immigrants or whether it’s the Arizona law or whether it’s voter-ID which we passed in Texas, or sanctuary cities and the banning of those… None of those would come up if the federal government had simply done its job through the years to secure our borders.”
Perry is leading the race for the Republican nomination for the presidency in the opinion polls despite perceived poor performances in a series of debates. He again took the opportunity to attack his nearest challenger, Mitt Romney for “flip-flopping” on the issue of healthcare. Perry said that President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law was “patterned on” the bill Romney signed into law when he was governor of Massachusetts.
“In his book, he said … I want to do what I did for Massachusetts for the rest of the country,” said Perry. “He took that line out of his paperback that’s in publication today, so again, another one of those flip-flops from the governor of Massachusetts.
“When he finds that something he believes in strongly is not acceptable in the political arena in today’s presidential race, he tries to change his tune.”
He said a repeal of Obamacare is the “highest calling for whoever is the next president,” although he hoped that the Supreme Court will have ruled it unconstitutional well before the next inauguration. He said the incoming administration should then “transition into a program where the states play a substantially greater role, where Medicaid is block-granted back to the states and they have the ability to come up with various innovative ways with menus of ideas of how to deliver healthcare to the people of their states.
“That’s the way to not only get the budgetary side of this under control but actually to deliver healthcare to more people in more thoughtful and more innovative ways.”
On social security, Perry said that seniors and those nearing retirement have nothing to worry about. “The program that has historically been in place will be in place for them,” he said.
He attacked members of both parties for trying to scare seniors by saying they would lose their social security payments. “That is very immature from my perspective,” he said.
“Americans want answers, they want straight-speaking, truth-telling individuals working for them and that’s what I’ve done.
“Kids know, 25-36 year-olds, they know that social security, if they keep paying into the program that we’ve got today, it would make Bernie Madoff blush. This is a Ponzi scheme for them.”
He said possible solutions include allowing people to take their accounts and put their money in the market, “staggering the age upward” for when people can collect and giving states more say.
“The states could play a more active role in dealing with social security for their state employees and/or their retirees – obviously not for the general population,” he said. "In my book I talked about three counties in Texas that had taken advantage of opting out of social security and today Brazoria, Matagorda and Galveston counties all see substantially higher payments to their retirees than had they stayed in the social security program."
Perry attacked the Obama administration for the explosion in regulations that he said were hurting the economy.
“I really believe in the free market and one of the problems that we’ve got in this country is government sticking their nose into way too many areas that frankly the private sector will work its way through and the marketplace will work its way through.
“There is agency after agency in Washington D.C… that have basically been loosed to go to war against job creators in this country and that is one of the things, as president, that I will do. We will pull back all these regulations and rein in these agencies that are running looseherd over the private citizens and the job creators in this country.”
On energy, Perry accused Obama of trying to make America “look like Europe” with high gas prices caused by a failure to develop our own resources.
“This administration does have an energy policy,” he said. “It is to make our country more dependent upon foreign sources of oil. That is bad for America economically, it’s bad for America strategically.
“That is his plan for energy prices to skyrocket so that America looks more like Europe. I don’t want America to look more like Europe.”
Perry, who has led much-attended prayer rallies in Texas, also talked quite openly about his faith during the interview. He was asked about comments made by the Rev. Franklin Graham, who told Newsmax in one exclusive interview that he believes Obama discriminates against Christians while showing undue favoritism toward Muslims.
Graham was banned last year by the Obama administration from a Pentagon prayer gathering for the National Day of Prayer.
Perry, who hosted a highly controversial prayer rally called “The Response” shortly before jumping into the presidential race, said that Americans overwhelmingly want a religious presence in the White House.
“The president of the United States should be a person of faith and not be afraid to stand up and talk about the values that they believe in their heart,” he said.
“Those Judeo-Christian values that this country was based upon are still very important to the vast majority of the people of this country. They want to see those exhibited both in word and in deed.”
Perry also attacked the administration’s foreign policy as “muddled,” saying the United States should always stand by its allies, especially Israel. “Israel’s not perfect but they are a friend and we should send message after message that if you attack Israel, you attack America.
“Our allies don’t know whether we’re going to be standing with them or not,” he added, mentioning the decision not to sell the newest weaponry to Taiwan and India for fear of offending China and Pakistan.
“We need to clearly send a message, we’re going to be there for our allies in those regions of the world. India had to go to France to buy the fighters that they needed – bad message.”
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