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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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CROWLEY: Governor Rick Perry joins me now from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where you're telling me the weather is great, so one thing that's going well for you. I want to talk to you, though, about these social conservatives, the evangelicals, the Christian conservatives meeting in Texas and deciding their consensus candidate is Rick Santorum. What's your reaction to that, Governor?

PERRY: Well, obviously, you'd like to get every endorsement of the groups that are in line with your beliefs, but you're not going to do that. So our focus is on the people of South Carolina.

This morning we're going to be talking to a host of social conservatives. So we'll be reaching out directly to the South Carolina voters and sharing with them our story of being -- when you look at the record, I'm the most consistent, both social and fiscal conservative, in this race. If you're looking at just one part of that scenario, then you may go with somebody else. But if you're looking for the full package of a job-creating social conservative that's had 11 years of executive experience of running the 13th largest economy in the world, then South Carolinians are going to be pretty happy with us.

CROWLEY: You know, Governor, they didn't actually disagree with you at that meeting in Texas. In fact, Tony Perkins, who I know you know, the Family Research Council came out and told reporters on the phone and later, listen, he marks all the boxes in terms of social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, but they just don't think you can win. That seems to me to be quite a blow.

PERRY: Yes. Well, that's the same thing they said about Ronald Reagan in 1980, if you'll recall. They said he couldn't win, and then he came down to South Carolina and won that state because his values were more in line with the South Carolina voters. So Saturday the 21st we'll know. And at that particular point in time, we'll find out who was right.

CROWLEY: What do you think the impact will be? Do you expect it to have -- be a big boost for Rick Santorum's campaign or a big negative for Mitt Romney? How do you think this will affect South Carolina?

PERRY: You know, again, we'll just have to see how it plays out. South Carolina has pretty independent voters, and there's a lot going back and forth. And you can't hardly turn on a TV here without seeing an ad that is attacking Rick Santorum for his fiscal policy.

So, you know, it's going to be interesting with the economy like it is -- and there are a lot of people who are social conservatives who realize they've got some choices in this race. But the economy of South Carolina is suffering. They're almost at 10 percent unemployment.

We were in Georgetown yesterday, where people are still very sensitive to the issue of jobs lost and what's gone on in that town through the years. So I think there is a very deep focus on who is it that can get this country back on track from the standpoint of economics. My record's pretty hard to argue with on that.

CROWLEY: You know, at some level, Governor, this must have hurt, or did you just take it as, oh, it's only business?

PERRY: I've been in this business long enough to understand that you're not going to get everybody to love you, and you're not going to get everybody to support you.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: These are your folks. I guess that's what I'm saying. These are your people.

PERRY: Well, the issue is -- I understand how this process works. It's not organizations that elect, it's the people. And we're going directly to the people and sharing with them our story. So, again, if you're worried about getting your feelings hurt, you might not want to get in the business of politics to start with.

CROWLEY: That's for sure. Let me move you on to some of the campaigning you've been doing down there. In particular, talking about Mitt Romney and his association with Bain Capital and what Bain Capital does. Here's a little bit of what you campaigned on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: I will suggest they're just vultures. They're vultures that are sitting out there on the -- on the tree limb, waiting for the company to get sick, and then they swoop in. They eat the carcass. They leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Governor, lots of things are said during primaries, as you know, that crop up, again, in the fall. Should Mitt Romney become the Republican nominee, are you comfortable with the fact that that quote is going to end up in an Obama commercial?

PERRY: Well, the issue is that which one is best prepared to lead this country from the standpoint of job creation. And over the course of my tenure as governor of Texas, we've helped created a climate where 1 million jobs have been created. We haven't been destructing businesses or destructing jobs.

CROWLEY: Sure. I guess I'm talking more --

(CROSSTALK)

PERRY: What we do is build jobs.

CROWLEY: I'm talking about the rhetoric here. I mean, this is -- you know, you called him a vulture capitalist. It's the kind of thing that you know President Obama, who I know you want defeated, is going to use, should Romney become the nominee.

PERRY: Well, that issue's been out there for some time. It's not -- as a matter of fact, Stewart Stevens, who is Mitt's consultant, used those exact words against Meg Whitman in California. So this is not new terminology. And the fact is, if this is a -- if this is a fatal flaw, we need to be talking about it now, not talking about it in September and October.

CROWLEY: So you don't think that this will -- would hurt Mitt Romney in the fall?

PERRY: Well, we'll see here in South Carolina. I think it'll be a -- it's -- the test is going to be in South Carolina. Georgetown, where we were yesterday, it is still a very sensitive issue that Bain Capital came in, and they basically shut down that steel mill and left with a substantial amount of money, making management fees, and there were a lot of people out of work.

So the issue is not going to go away. And it's not like we cracked an egg open here for the first time. This was something that the Obama team certainly knew about. And now's the time to talk about it, not September and October.

CROWLEY: Governor Perry, I'm going to ask you to stick with me. And when we come back, we'll ask Governor Perry about his campaign plans after South Carolina. Is this recently released Web ad a clue?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I never quit a day in my life. I never quit in the face of adversity, and I'm not just about to quit on the future of America. I'm going to stay in this race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We're back with Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.

I want to pick up on that web ad. First of all, was that a concession that your decision after what was a less than perfect showing in Iowa, to go back to Texas and, kind of, think about whether you should stay in the race -- is that web ad saying, "I'm not going to quit; I'm not a quitter" -- is that a recognition that that was probably a mistake on your part, to, kind of, signal that you were thinking about maybe you would get out of the race?

PERRY: Well, there are a lot of folks in South Carolina that certainly took the -- the message that night that we were going to go back to Texas and reassess, and the phone -- the phones lit up, and our -- it was an easy call for me. I went out the next morning, had a run, and cleared my head.

And it's, kind of, like, you know what, there are way too many people in South Carolina -- Medal of Honor recipient General Jim Livingston and former Navy SEAL Mike Thornton, who is also a medal of honor recipient, said, "Hey, listen, you know, the -- the folks of South Carolina, they want to you come; they want to have that former Air Force pilot and veteran and chief of your Air Forces and Armies in Texas to be in South Carolina so we have a real option.

CROWLEY: Does that mean...

PERRY: It made it pretty easy for me to say we're back in.

CROWLEY: OK. Does that mean that, no matter what, rain or shine, in South Carolina, no matter how you do, you are in it for Florida as well?

PERRY: That's our intention.

CROWLEY: So you're definitely -- you would definitely go to Florida even if you placed last?

PERRY: That's our intention.

CROWLEY: OK, let me -- you brought up your military background, which makes me want to just veer a little bit from politics and ask you a question about something that's in the news, the picture of these four Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban members. If you were President Perry, what would you do about that?

PERRY: Well, obviously, 18, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often, and that's what's occurred here. But, you know, when you're -- when you're in war -- and history, kind of, backs up there's a picture of General Patton doing basically the same thing in the Rhine river. And although there's not a picture, Churchill did the same thing on the Siegfried line.

So I'll tell you what's been...

CROWLEY: That was -- you know, I have to tell you...

PERRY: ... really disturbing to me...

CROWLEY: OK. All right. Go ahead. Finish that thought.

PERRY: But what I'm saying is what is really disturbing to me is just, kind of, the over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military, it appears, whether it's the secretary of state or whether it's the secretary of defense.

I mean, these kids made a mistake. There's not any doubt about it. They shouldn't have done it. It's bad. But the -- the -- to call it a criminal act, I think, is over the top.

CROWLEY: Well, here's the problem, I think. All the things that you mentioned as part of history was before YouTube; it was before the Taliban; it was before this feeling that the U.S. somehow does not respect, you know, religions.

This is -- this is something that's not just a picture. It's not just a message to Americans. It's a message that could hurt us in the larger world. So I'm not sure the exact age of them, but no matter what age they are, is this the kind of behavior that you think you can tolerate in the day and age when that picture is everywhere? PERRY: Well, here's the issue. I will suggest to you that these are 18, 19, 20-year-old kids. They make mistakes. There is video out there of all types of things, I will suggest to you. But the idea that this administration would go after these young people for a criminal act is -- again, I think it is over the top and -- and did they make a mistake? Absolutely. Should they be reprimanded and appropriately punished? Yes. But going after them as a criminal act, I think -- really bad message.

CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much Governor Rick Perry. Thank you for joining us this morning.

PERRY: So long, Candy.

CROWLEY: We'll see you in person in South Carolina later this week.

PERRY: Indeed. So long.

CROWLEY: After the break, the White House says they're not in campaign mode, but they've already honed in on one Republican target. We'll tell you more after the break.

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