By Marjorie Korn
Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused the federal government Saturday of promoting an irresponsible, immoral agenda and suggested Washington look to the Lone Star State for policy guidance.
Perry greeted the hundreds gathered at the two-day Value Voters Summit, an annual convention of religious-minded conservatives, with a hearty "howdy" before launching into an attack on liberal Washington.
Being in Washington is like entering "the belly of the beast," Perry said, returning to a familiar theme from his Republican primary race for the governor's seat against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
"It's unfortunate that many of the people who serve in this town ran for office as conservatives, then got to Washington and started spending and legislating like liberals," Perry said, though after the speech he added he wasn't talking about his foe, whom he has frequently accused of not being conservative enough.
Perry chided the "ruling party" for wasting tax dollars, intruding in citizens' lives and pushing immoral policy, referencing a prohibition on foreign aid from going to clinics abroad that performed abortions, which President Barack Obama overturned upon entering office.
Perry wasn't the headliner of the conference that drew the likes of former presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney and House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. Boehner drew some attention when he said Democrats are "bankrupting" the country and that "we're in the midst of a political rebellion in America."
However, Perry's pro-states' rights and pro-religion message also resonated with the attendees, many of whom frequently cried out "yes" and interrupted him with standing ovations.
Driving home his disdain for Washington, Perry said lawmakers should emulate Texas policy. He touted the last Texas Legislature for producing a balanced budget, providing tax cuts for small business and socking away almost $9 billion in a rainy day fund.
"As a Texan, I'm understandably biased, but I think our whole country could use a dose of Texas-style fiscal discipline," Perry said before criticizing the $1.6 trillion federal deficit.
Perry also lauded Texas' "traditional values," including abortion-related legislation such as the Prenatal Protection Act and the Woman's Right to Know Act, and a defense-of-marriage amendment that was added into the state constitution in 2005.
Certainly Perry was talking to the right crowd for this message. After his speech, the Family Research Council released a straw poll revealing that abortion is the top concern of participants, followed by protection of religious liberty and same-sex marriage.
The poll, which had about 600 respondents, also floated Republican presidential possibilities for 2012, with Huckabee garnering a commanding 29 percent of the vote, followed by Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, each of whom received about 12 percent.
Perry had been on the poll, but asked to be removed, saying he has no White House aspirations.