Politics & Government

Rick Perry: Don’t question U.S. military

Former Gov. Rick Perry said Texans — including new Gov. Greg Abbott — have any cause for worry about an upcoming military training exercise in Texas.

Abbott last week directed the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15, an eight-week federal training exercise that will bring about 1,200 troops to Texas this summer to simulate special operations, because he’s worried the training could infringe on Texans’ rights.

“I think it’s OK to question your government,” Perry, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said Tuesday before speaking to a World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth luncheon at the Tower Club in Dallas. “I do it on a pretty regular basis.

“Military is something else,” he said. “I think our military is quite trustworthy. The civilian leadership, you can always question that, but not the men and women in uniform.”

Perry talked to more than 150 people gathered in Dallas about his time in office as the state’s longest serving governor — and the country’s future.

Despite rampant pessimism worldwide, Perry he said he believes there is one thing as sure as the fact that the sun will rise in the morning.

“The best years of this country, and this world, are in front of us,” he said.

Perry, 65, hasn’t formally declared that he’s in the 2016 presidential race — and may not make a formal announcement until next month — but he is traveling the country talking to potential voters.

Anurag Jain, managing partner at Perot Jain, introduced Perry to the crowd, adding that Tuesday, Cinco de Mayo, would be a great time to announce “any important messages.”

Perry said he actually did have an important announcement to make.

“This is my wife’s birthday,” he said with a grin, drawing chuckles from the crowd.

If Perry joins the race, he will face a crowded GOP field that includes several candidates with Texas ties, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz; Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, who grew up in Texas; and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who attended the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, brother to former President George W. Bush of Dallas and son of former President George H.W. Bush of Houston, is expected to jump in the race soon.

Jade Helm

Abbott said in a letter last week that he is dispatching the state guard because “it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

The operation will bring top-tier military personnel — from the Navy SEALs to the Green Berets — between July and September to Texas for training exercises. But some Texans worry about a federal occupation, likely because the fictitious battlefield for the exercise labeled this state “hostile” territory.

Having the Guard monitor the exercises will let Texans “be informed of the details of military personnel movements and training exercise schedules and it will give us the ability to quickly and effectively communicate with local communities, law enforcement, public safety personnel and citizens.”

The White House, the Penatagon and others have said that Texans have nothing to worry about.

Texas myth?

Perry on Tuesday touted how he helped build the state’s economic development efforts after taking office.

“It hasn’t been all that easy,” he said, adding that during a presidential debate in 2011, one candidate said it’s easy being governor of Texas.

“That’s the myth that’s often talked about,” he said.

As he travels around, talking to voters and fellow Republicans, Perry said he often feels a sense of deja-vu.

“I feel like 1979 again,” he said. “There’s a bit of ... malaise. ... People are pessimistic about what’s going on.”

He criticized a president he said isn’t taking the actions that need to be taken at a time when there is “an attack ... on western values.”

“This is a troubling time in the world,” he said. “The world is in chaos because America stepped back. ... The president’s failure to act creates a void.”

But that, he said, can change with the right leadership in Washington, D.C.

“We have the opportunity to see the best years the world has ever seen,” he said.

Looking back

Perry, a Paint Creek native who served five years in the Air Force after graduating from Texas A&M University, has been involved in Texas politics for decades.

He served for six years as a state representative — starting as a Democrat and later switching parties to become a Republican.

In 1991, he successfully ran for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, a post he held for eight years, until he was elected lieutenant governor. He served in that job for nearly two years, until he was sworn in as Texas’ 47th governor after George W. Bush resigned to become president.

After finishing Bush’s term, Perry won election on his own in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

His winning streak ground to a halt when he ended a five-month long presidential bid in January 2012.

He had immediately become the front-runner after announcing his candidacy in 2011, but he struggled after lackluster debate performance and missteps, including the infamous “oops” moment.

He dropped out of the race in January 2012 but left the door open for a second bid.

“As someone who has always admired a great, if not the greatest, Texas governor, Sam Houston, I know when it is time to make a strategic retreat,” he said then.

He announced in 2013 that he would not seek another term as Texas governor.

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley