Perry says Bush never was fiscal conservative
Texas governor makes pointed remarks at a party
fanning support for Giuliani.
By W. Gardner Selby
Friday, December 14, 2007
Texas Gov. Rick Perry aired unusually pointed
criticism of President Bush while stumping in Iowa for
Rudy Giuliani for president last week. Perry predicted
too that if Democrats prevail next year, the war on
terrorism will return to U.S. soil.
Video posted online shows Perry saying that Bush
failed to rein in spending increases as governor of
Texas and "has never ever been a fiscal conservative."
He also said Washington isn't working.
And although Giuliani would keep up the war on
terrorism, Perry said, "if we elect the Democrats
across the board, the war on terror is not going away.
It's just going to have to happen here. And I want the
war, and I want the conflict, to be over there in
their country. I want to stop it over there before
they get back over here."
Perry also revealed in his Iowa appearance that GOP
presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, the former
Arkansas governor, had asked Perry to chair his
campaign earlier this year.
"It was a hard conversation to call him and tell him I
was for Rudy," Perry said. "He was disappointed, a bit
frustrated. I still love him, and he still loves me."
Perry, who has tentative plans to campaign for
Giuliani in South Carolina and New Hampshire next
week, spoke to 20 to 30 people at an evening house
party promoting Giuliani in Ely, Iowa, on Dec. 6, less
than a month before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses kick off
the election year.
Video snippets from the stop, which followed Perry's
appearance at a Christmas party thrown by a local
Republican group, were posted on YouTube.com by the
party's host, Craig Nelson.
Nelson, an accountant who works in nearby Cedar
Rapids, said he met Perry at a gathering of business
leaders and elected officials in Cedar Rapids when the
Texan endorsed Giuliani on Oct. 17.
Of the governor's stop at his house, Nelson said
Thursday: "I just thought he was very honest. I didn't
expect anything else from him."
Perry, who spoke in Nelson's living room after a drive
through several inches of fresh snow, cast Giuliani as
someone who could work with Democrats to make progress
in Washington where "it ain't working today. They are
spending too much money, it takes too long and they're
doing more harm than good."
Perry called Giuliani a fiscal conservative, unlike
Bush, who preceded Perry as governor.
Perry, responding to a party guest's suggestion that
federal spending could kill candidates with voters,
said that as governor, Bush consistently signed into
law budget increases.
"Let me tell you something," Perry said: "George Bush
was never a fiscal conservative. Never was. ... Wasn't
when he was in Texas. ... I mean, '95, '97, '99,
George Bush was spending money."
Perry turned to his press secretary, Robert Black, who
had joined him at the Iowa stop.
"Do you agree?" the governor asked.
Perry said that as governor, Bush signed a 1997 law
making it harder to file lawsuits in Texas.
"It was OK," Perry said. "I mean, they did some things
in '97 that was better than what we had, it wasn't
anything like we did (on tort reform) in 2003. But
George was never a fiscal conservative. I think people
thought he was."
Perry raised his arms and fluttered his hands before
adding: "Look, he was better than Al Gore," the 2000
Democratic presidential nominee versus Bush.
Gov. Bush had to work with Democrats holding the jobs
of lieutenant governor and speaker of the Texas House,
But, Perry said, every governor has veto powers. "And,
frankly, my criticism is that he (Bush) should have
told those guys (Democrats), look, you're spending too
much money, and I'm going to veto some line items (in
the state budget)."
Perry described Giuliani as a fiscal conservative and
supply-side Ronald Reagan Republican.
Perry said: "George Bush is not, and he never was." He
added that "we made an error with that phrase
'compassionate conservative.' He didn't elaborate on
the description that Bush applied to himself in the
The Bush critique was more direct than what Perry said
at an April 2004 rally at the Texas Capitol urging
real tax relief "instead of some tax charade that's
been going on the last decade," a statement his office
described then as taking in two rounds of cuts under
Bush, governor from 1995 until late 2000.
Perry, who like Huckabee but unlike Giuliani has
opposed abortion and gay rights, said in Iowa that
Huckabee "asked me to be his national chairman about
six months ago. And I told him, man, I love you like a
brother. But, I said, just let me, let me, let me
Perry and Huckabee visited troops in Iraq together in
early 2006. Huckabee also visited Perry, Lt. Gov.
David Dewhurst and state Comptroller Susan Combs in
Austin in July.
In Austin on Tuesday, Perry briefly called Huckabee
his favorite for president before saying he'd
misspoken and supports Giuliani.
In Iowa, Perry said of Huckabee: "I just don't think
he can win."
Huckabee's campaign did not return a phone call
Framing his case for Giuliani, Perry said that as
mayor of New York, Giuliani erased debts, cut taxes
and presided over reductions in crime.
The governor suggested that steering New York is more
of a challenge than leading Arkansas or Massachusetts,
where GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was
governor from 2003 through 2006.
"No offense to Arkansas, no offense to Massachusetts;
they're not big states," Perry said. "And managing one
of those states is different than managing Texas or
California or Florida or New York."
Perry sounded wary of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New
York, who's been a front-running Democratic
"I care about our country," Perry said. "I care about
not letting Hillary Clinton be the next president of
the United States."