© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Perry Says Ground Troops Must Be An Option Against Iraq Militants

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks Thursday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks Thursday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, just days after being indicted for alleged abuse of power, has set himself apart from other GOP presidential wannabes in another way — by announcing that he's willing to send U.S. ground forces back to Iraq.

Perry, in a speech at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington today, said the Islamic State is such a large threat to Jordan, Israel and even the United States that a return of "boots on the ground" in Iraq ought to be up for consideration.

"Signaling to your enemy what you are not going to put on the table is very, very bad — both strategical and tactical errors by this administration," he said. "We need to have all of our options open."

Referring to the Islamic State, which is also know variously as ISIS and ISIL, Perry said: "They need to be eliminated. They need to be eliminated now."

Republicans generally are united in criticizing President Obama's foreign policy as too weak and unfocused, and in calling his withdrawal from Iraq a matter of political expedience. But most GOP lawmakers, aware of the nation's war-weariness, have stopped short of opening the door to putting combat troops back in Iraq.

Perry shows no such qualms.

"As the terrorists see it, they've had a triumphant summer," he said, reminding his audience that the group just this week posted a video of its killing of American journalist James Foley. "We better get on top of this crisis, by every means necessary, because events are moving fast, and the price is only going to go up from here," he said.

The topic of Perry's speech was billed as "The Border Crisis and the New Politics of Immigration," but he spent most of his half-hour attacking Obama's Middle East policy. He did warn that Islamic State terrorists already could have crossed into the United States from Mexico, but says any discussion of a comprehensive immigration overhaul is inappropriate until the border has been secured.

In his 2012 run for the presidency, Perry was the outlier among Republicans on immigration, opposing a fence along the entire Texas-Mexico border. During a September 2011 GOP debate, he famously said that those who opposed in-state college tuition for the so-called "DREAMers" who were brought to the U.S. as minor children had "no heart."

Perry is in his final year as governor following 3 1/2 terms, and is open about his interest in running for president a second time. He has made numerous trips to Iowa already, plans a visit to New Hampshire this weekend, and is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for the South Carolina Republican Party next week.

His Heritage Foundation visit came on the heels of his formal booking on charges that he misused his office. Perry vetoed $7.5 million for the Travis County District Attorney's public integrity unit because of the top prosecutor's refusal to step down after a drunken-driving conviction.

Perry shrugs off the indictment and says he'd do it the same way if he had it to do over. The political committee backing his potential presidential run posted a two-minute video response to the charges, and Republicans have rallied to his side, labeling the case as politically motivated.

"I just think it's outrageous, from everything I can tell, and I think it will help him in the long run," said Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party's 2008 presidential nominee.

Perry's 2012 campaign began promisingly, with big fundraising numbers and a quick rise to the top of the polls, but he fell out of favor just as quickly following a series of weak debate performances. In one, Perry started listing the three federal agencies he would eliminate if elected, but could only remember the names of two. He finished with a now-infamous "oops."

S.V. Dáte edits congressional and campaign finance coverage for NPR's Washington Desk.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.