When five Republican governors took the stage in the Aspen Institute’s Doerr-Hosier building Thursday, it was easy to see that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was sporting the biggest attitude.
Perry, who was lieutenant governor in 2000 when George W. Bush left for the White House and is now seeking a third term, was wearing jeans, a black sports jacket and a black T-shirt reading “Marshall Law has been declared.”
Perry explained that “Marshall Law” is the name of a Texas country-music band and he was giving the band a little national exposure at the Aspen Institute.
“They told me I couldn’t wear the one that said ‘Secede,’” Perry quipped before serving up a big plate of Texas-style Republican red meat for the audience, many of whom were in Aspen to attend a Republican Governors’ Association fundraising event.
Perry, 60, is the financial chairman of the governors’ association and if he wins re-election in November against Houston Mayor Bill White, he’s likely to find his name on many short lists of potential Republican nominees for president in 2012.
During Thursday’s event Perry was asked what he thought about Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindall signing into a law a bill that allows people to carry concealed weapons into churches.
Perry seemed to relish the question about guns, saying “It’s one of my favorite subjects.”
“I’m a big believer that most of us out there are sheep,” Perry told the audience. “And we go about our business and we want to be left alone and we’re pretty comfortable. And there are some people out there that are wolves, that take advantage of the sheep.
“And I’m a big believer, in all across this country, that we need a few sheepdogs. And one of the ways that you’re a sheepdog is to have a concealed weapon — be trained appropriately, have the correct type of background — and if you’ve done those things, you should be able to carry your concealed weapon anywhere.”
Perry, a former Air Force pilot, is also clear on where he stands on securing the 1,200-mile long border that Texas shares with Mexico. He wants 3,000 more border patrol agents and over 1,000 National Guard troops along the Texas border between Brownsville and El Paso.
“The way that you secure the border with Mexico is with boots on the ground,” Perry said.
The Obama administration announced Thursday that Texas agencies would get $17 million more in federal funding this year for border enforcement as it relates to smuggling and terrorism.
But Perry said the immigration issue won’t be solved until there is a Republican president and a Republican Congress.
“Because I don’t see this administration as going to do anything other than to leverage it as a political issue, and try to make this about being racism when the fact of the matter is it has nothing to do with racism and has everything to do with about securing the border and the safety of the citizens on both side of that border,” Perry said.
And Perry also wants to see more high-tech solutions used, including predator drones flying above the border to give real-time information to law enforcement.
Once the border is secure, Perry said he would give illegal residents a year to register with the government, give their biometric identification information, and then check in once a year for a new work permit until they’ve become citizens.
“The ones that have a record, the ones that are bad actors, the ones that are not over here just looking for work and to help their family, they’re not going to go register,” Perry said. “And we will find them. We will find them.”
He also said, “I totally respect and understand what they are doing in Arizona.”
Gov. Perry said border violence is increasing in Texas to the point where bullets from Mexico hit the city hall dome in El Paso recently.
“It is going to spill over into the United States,” Perry said of the border violence. “I’m going to be a very pissed-off governor when the American people get killed by terrorists because our federal government continues to fail to do their job.”
When asked about Iraq and Afghanistan, Perry said, “I think Iraq is a great example of how you can go in and develop a democracy in a part of the world where democracy is very much needed,” and that, “Afghanistan is going to be a very, very long, tedious, expensive and bloody process.”
And sounding like a candidate for national office, Perry also said he wanted to “to make a very important statement” to the Aspen Institute crowd.
“This administration and the way they have treated the great democracy in the Middle East — Israel — is an absolute affront to democracies all across the world,” Perry said.
Perry ended his remarks in Aspen with ominous warning.
“I think we’re fixin’ to go through a very, very difficult time as a country,” Perry said. “There’s no use sugar-coatin’ it. We’re fixing to have some of the hardest decisions and difficult decisions to be made all across this country. There are going to be things happening over the next five years that you’re gonna sit back and say ‘Dang, I didn’t think that could ever happen before.’ But to save this country, it’s gonna have to.”