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CNN "American Morning" - Transcript

Interview

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Texas Governor Rick Perry hoping to energize his campaign with a major policy speech today on energy. He's seen his poll numbers fall in the past few weeks. His wife Anita even reflecting on how rough a month it's been. But we've seen how fast things can turn. Just ask Herman Cain.

Governor Perry joins me now live from Pittsburgh. Governor, good to see you. Thank you for being with us here on CNN.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ali, it's good to be with you this morning. Thank you, sir.

VELSHI: Let's talk about your - your very, very interesting campaign. There's a new "Wall Street Journal" poll this week shows a reversal of fortune since August, where you were on top, there you were at 38 percent, dropping down to 16 percent. Herman Cain going from five to 27.

A CNN poll of polls an average of four national surveys show you slipping into third place. How did you blow that lead?

PERRY: Well, these polls are going to go up and down. I've run for office for a decade as the governor of State of Texas. Down 25 points in the last election in Texas and that one turned out all right.

So I don't get confused that this early in a campaign that polls are going to be all over the place.

VELSHI: All right.

PERRY: But Americans are interested in is not the best debater, not the slickest politician. They're interested in a leader that looks them in the eye and says, listen, here's how to get this country working again. In about two hours, I'm going to be standing up in front of America and showing clearly how the president of the United States can get this country back working again.

VELSHI: And you're going to talk about energy, and you and I are going to talk about that in just a minute.

But, let's stick to the campaign for a second. Your wife, Anita, whom you always, every time you're given a chance, you speak so highly of, she - she was brutally honest yesterday in the Carolinas. Listen to a bit of what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANITA PERRY, WIFE OF RICK PERRY: It's been a rough month, I have to tell you. We have been brutalized and eaten up and chewed up in the press. We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: You as down on this as Anita seemed?

PERRY: You know, family members always take these campaigns substantially more personally than the candidate. I've been doing this for a long time. I understand slings and arrows and that's a diversion, frankly.

This is a - this is the big leagues. Everybody understands that. It's about the presidency of the United States and we're committed to this campaign. We're committed to this country. And that's the reason here in jut a couple of hours I'm going to be laying out that energy plan.

People are interested in getting back to work. People are - are begging for somebody to focus on job creation in this country, and how we're going to get this country back working.

So I'm doing two things here in Pittsburgh today. Not only laying out an energy plan, but showing how to be energy secure from countries that don't particular have our best interests in mind. That's what Americans are interested in.

VELSHI: And you are, as you pointed out, are a very successful politician. You did say Americans are looking for somebody to put them back to work, not - not just a great debater.

Are you satisfied with your debate performance? You've got another one coming up. We're going to be hosting that on Tuesday in Las Vegas, the Western GOP Debate.

Some have said that's not really your - your thing. Your wife even said in Iowa that you'd be better prepared next time. Is this not your thing or are you satisfied with how you're holding your own in your debates?

PERRY: You know, I hope I made progress every day in my life as well as my debate performances. But, again, Americans aren't looking for the best debater. We've got a slick talker in the presidency right now that's lost 2.5 million jobs. At the same time, we created a million jobs in the State of Texas. They're looking for someone who's got that chief executive governing experience that truly knows how to get America back working.

In 100 days we'll lay out a plan that opens up the federal lands for exploration that pulls back these regulations that are killing jobs that this administration has put forward and rebuild the EPA where it's not a job-killing agency. That's what Americans are interested in and I'm the president that's going to implement that.

VELSHI: I'm going to get a jump on you on this one, or you're going to say it in your speech. But you've mentioned some of the things, so let's talk about them.

You're going to open federal lands to energy and exploration. You're going to prove new pipelines including this Keystone Pipeline coming in from Canada from the oil sands. You're going to suspend and reconsider all EPA regulations that stand in the way of that and you're going to phase out industry specific tax incentives.

Now, you have said about the EPA in the past, and this is a quote from you, "They wouldn't know what hit them."

What about the criticism that you're going to gut Americans - America's environmental regulations in favor of the oil and gas business? PERRY: I totally disagree that you can't have environmental quality and take care of the land and the air and have energy independence at the same time. Our state environmental protection agencies, I suggest to you, will do a better job than this one-sized fits all agency that we have in Washington, D.C. It's just killing jobs.

I mean, you look at the number of jobs that have been killed because of the Gulf and the EPA's decision and the Department of Interior's decision to not go forward. They're killing jobs across this country, and we're sitting on a treasure-trove of energy in this country. All across this - 300 years' worth of energy, and yet we're sending hundreds of billions of dollars out of this country every year to foreign sources of energy.

Americans are ready to make what Americans buy. Buy what Americans make. And sell the rest of it to the world.

VELSHI: You know, let me ask you this, then. Because one of the things the EPA is trying to deal with are climate change and carbon emissions.

Now, do you believe that human beings play a role in climate change? And if so, who is supposed to regulate carbon emissions, CO2 emissions, if not the EPA?

PERRY: Well, I assure you one thing, the EPA is not in the - should not be in the CO2 emission business.

VELSHI: Fair enough. Who should?

PERRY: That is not what they should be doing. From the standpoint, I look at the carbon emissions and man-made climate change is one of those issues that science is not settled on yet. So the idea that we ought to bet America's economy on some regulations, cap and trade will kill this country from the standpoint of economy, and wouldn't make a bit of difference in the world, because of what China and India's doing building coal plants every day, that have no technology.

We need to have a president who understands that we're in a global economy, and that we have to get our country focused back on creating jobs, and not allowing an agency in the federal government to put regulations in place that kill jobs and don't have any thought about what the economic impact is relative to what the benefit is.

These are minor, minor benefits. I mean, minuscule benefits to the environment at best, and huge impact on the job creators out there. There's a reason we've lost 2.5 million job, and it's because we've got at Washington, D.C. a one size fits all mentality that's killing jobs, and a president needs to be in place that respects that government's job is to create an environment where those men and women who risk their capital know they can have a chance to have a return on investment, and we don't have that today.

VELSHI: All right. We're looking forward to getting your full statement on - on your energy plan and hopefully it will be as successful as Herman Cain's "999" and they will get talked about a lot.

But, you know, a lot of people are looking for your full economic plan. And, you know, Herman Cain on one side has a one sentence economic plan that's become very catchy and Mitt Romney on the other side has a very long, multi-paged plan, 140 - a lot of pages. He's accused you of having 114 blank pages.

When are we going to hear your full economic plan for the nation?

PERRY: Well, I've been in this race for about eight weeks, so the idea that we're supposed to lay out full plans is a little bit - I mean, he's been running for office for five years. I expect him to be a little ahead of us from that perspective.

But today is phase one, where we lay out the first 100 days of our activities and 1.2 million jobs can be created, where Americans know they've got an opportunity to get back to work and have the dignity of the job.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll lay out phase two where we talk about tax policy and how to deal with entitlements, et cetera. So I hope that both Herman and Mitt will, you know, be patient. It's coming, and then we can have a real debate about who has the vision to get this country working again.

VELSHI: I want to ask you about Pastor Jeffress. He was known to make anti-Mormon remarks before he called Mormonism a cult when Mitt Romney was running in 2007. Your campaign knew that he's got a history of this.

So why did he clear that introduction of you the other day and can you clear the air now? Can you disagree with and disavow Pastor Jeffress and say that Mormonism is not a cult?

PERRY: Well, we clearly said that as soon as it was uttered and we were asked about it, and we're - we're very clear on that issue.

But here's a bigger issue. If we're all going to spend time defending what one of our supporters has said, then President Obama's not going to get to talk about much. He's going to spend a lot of time defending statements that people who support him are going to be making.

And, again, I think this is a huge distraction. Americans want to talk about how we're getting this country's economy back. How do we really create jobs that will sustain -

VELSHI: I hear you. I hear you, Governor, but are you prepared to disavow the pastor's comments? Are you prepared to disavow the pastor's comments?

(CROSSTALK)

PERRY: Look, we live in a great country. Our Founding Fathers gave us freedom of religion, and we certainly have that in America and I respect that. We have religions of all backgrounds, but we also have freedom of speech, and I'm not going to spend my time defending everything that is said by someone who endorses me. It doesn't mean I endorse what they say, and that is the case here.

VELSHI: All right. Governor Rick Perry, thanks for joining us. We look forward to hearing your comments on energy later on today.

Governor Rick Perry, Texas Governor -

PERRY: Thank you, Ali.

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