Speaking in New Hampshire Thursday, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry invoked the work of former President Reagan and former House Speaker Tip O’Neill as a model of bipartisanship and touted results from criminal justice reform in his home state as an example of “real conservatism.
“He said that as opposed to gridlock in Washington, there was nothing big done in Texas that was the result of only Republican support.
“There were Democrat chairs; there were Democrat leaders that we had to work with,” he said during a question-and-answer session at a “Politics and Eggs” event at Saint Anselm College. “And I think that the next president of the United States - and I am critical of the president and the divisiveness that we’ve seen, pitting individual against individual, gender against gender, pitting economic groups against economic groups, and we need to be workin’ to bring this country together, too - to reach across the aisle, find those places.”
He pointed to prison and judicial reform in Texas as an example.
“Texas is not known as being soft on crime, but what we were doin’ is we were puttin’ kids in jail for long periods of time because of non-violent, drug-related events,” he said. “They broke the law - they did something bad. But don’t ruin their lives forever. Don’t throw ‘em in prison where they learn to become really first-rate criminals. Give ‘em some options - give those judges some options. And that’s what we did.”
He said the results were the shuttering of three prisons and $2 billion in savings.
“Now that’s real conservatism in my book,” Mr. Perry said. “And that’s what we need to be lookin’ at in Washington, D.C. - to find those serious places. Maybe it’s Medicare reform. Maybe it’s our other entitlement reforms where we sit down and we find like-minded Democrats that know we got to deal with this. We used to do that.”
“We saw Tip O’Neill working with Ronald Reagan,” he said. “I’m looking for the next Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill to come forward and find that solutions that challenge us in this country. And they’re out there. You just got to have the will. And we can do it. I’m abundantly optimistic.”
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is another potential 2016 GOP presidential contender who spoken out on the need for drug and sentencing reform in the country.
Mr. Perry also acknowledged Thursday that he’s a “big” fan of Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, calling Mr. Graham, who is weighing a presidential run of his own, his “buddy.”
“I am a big Lindsey Graham fan,” Mr. Perry said after the Q & A. “I think he’s one of the most knowledgeable people that we have on foreign policy and we need to listen to him. He is a very, very bright United States Senator - you know, he’s carved out his niche” in foreign policy.
Mr. Perry said he recently spoke to Mr. Graham, who was in New Hampshire earlier this week, about the situation in Ukraine.
Still, Mr. Perry suggested during the question-and-answer period that someone with executive experience would be better suited for a presidential run.
“I do think that our nominee - I’m obviously biased about this, but I think the executive experience of having to get things done,” he said. “Governors don’t have the luxury of just havin’ a conversation, given’ a speech and walking’ away. There was not one big thing that occurred in the state of Texas - not tort reform, not education reform, not those major budget issues that we had to deal with - that was done with just Republicans.”