Remarks at the Opportunity and Freedom PAC Forum in Washington, DC: "Defending Conservatism Against the Cancer of Trump-ism"
Thank you. The next president will face serious issues that demand serious leadership.
Because of the failed foreign policy of the Obama Administration, our 45th president will have to deal with an emboldened Iran that will have renewed access to hundreds of billions of dollars that even the Obama Administration acknowledges can be used to fund terrorism.
This, combined with an agreement that amounts to nuclear appeasement, promises a major realignment in the Middle East at the expense of our Arab allies and Israel. And it will surely lead to the development of a Sunni bomb.
The challenges in the Middle East extend beyond Iran.
Despite White House declarations, ISIS continues to expand its territory. The atrocities continue. They have become so normal they no longer make the front page. It's a sad commentary on the state of the world.
Syria remains a complicated war zone, led by a brutal dictator that our president said must go several years ago. He is still there, after crossing a red line attacking his own people with chemical weapons.
And his nation is also a hotbed for jihadist recruitment.
The mistakes of a few years ago leave few good options for the next president.
Russian aggression has been met with strong words, but again feeble action. Putin has annexed Crimea, and invaded the mainland of Ukraine. And we have yet to even provide lethal weapons to those fighting for Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy.
Mr. Putin has become the greatest threat to peace and order in Europe and parts of Asia as the message has gotten out that the American Administration speaks loudly, but is loath to use a big stick.
China is threatening its neighbors, stealing our secrets, and violating trade agreements.
In the face of all these threats, we are now on course to have the smallest military since June of 1940. The hollowing out of our military forces is an invitation for our enemies to test us.
Gathering threats abroad are matched by storm clouds at home.
The recovery is anemic, leaving millions of workers uncounted in the unemployment rate. One in ten workers are unemployed, under-employed or too discouraged to search for a job. One in seven Americans live in poverty, including more than one quarter of our African-American population that has suffered for decades under Democratic policies that lead to failed schools, few opportunities, and lives lost to poverty or crime.
Our debt is at historic levels. President Obama is on course to racking up as much debt as his 43 predecessors combined.
Our border is under siege, our infrastructure is aging, our entitlement programs are in fiscal jeopardy.
These are, indeed, troubling times.
Yet America has faced worse. And America has been blessed for more than 200 years with magnanimous leadership in the presidency, individuals who were raised beyond their personal limitations to steer the nation through war, depression and disaster to a better future for all Americans.
Each one of these leaders have been repairers of the breach, such as Lincoln who — at the height of the Civil War — insisted on the completion of the Capitol Dome. He meant the world to know our Union endured. And showed it in acts small and large.
Here was a president who ordered hundreds of thousands of men to war, and ultimately, to their deaths.
And yet, once he had won the war and freed the slaves, after so much blood had been spilled, he set out to bind the wounds of the nation, declaring "malice toward none, with charity for all."
Lincoln was a healing force who rose above great differences to preserve our union. He was a repairer of the breach.
When King George the 3rd inquired what George Washington would do upon winning the war, he was told he would return to his Virginia farm.
To which the king responded, "if he were to do so, he would be the greatest man of his age."
Thousands of years of history had informed the world that to the victor go the spoils, that conquering heroes seize power, and reign with impunity. But George Washington reluctantly accepted the presidency, only after the Constitution had been written, guaranteeing power to the people.
And because of his humility — because he never wavered from his revolutionary principles — ours was the first nation to be founded on an idea: that all "are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Even great antagonists, like Adams and Jefferson, in later life were able to put differences aside, exchanging letters until the day they both died.
It was Adams who wrote a prayer about the presidency to his wife Abigail, saying, "May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."
Ulysses S. Grant — the head of the Union Army, our president from 1868 to 1876 who had led a great many into battle — would come to symbolize the healing of our nation campaigning under the banner, "let us have peace."
At his funeral the pallbearers would include two Union generals, and two Confederate generals, Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph Johnston.
In more recent years we were blessed to have in the Oval Office the quiet strength of Harry Truman, the leadership of the Supreme Commander Dwight David Eisenhower, the inspiration of John F Kennedy, the vision and resolve of Ronald Reagan.
During the second World War, FDR sought the power of God to preserve the nation and protect our people.
These were all fallible men. But they were great men. And they all possessed a goodness and decency that allowed them to rise above the petty, the personal and the partisan for the good of the nation.
The White House has been occupied by giants. But from time to time it is sought by the small-minded — divisive figures propelled by anger, and appealing to the worst instincts in the human condition.
In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders: repairers of the breach and sowers of discord.
The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises. He is without substance when one scratches below the surface.
He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.
Let no one be mistaken — Donald Trump's candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.
It cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world — the cause of conservatism.
I feel so strongly about this because I believe conservatism is the only way forward for this country.
We have tried the policies of the progressive left for the last six and a half years. The Democratic candidates for president could offer them for the next eight.
Their failures are self-evident. We have never spent more money on welfare in the history of our nation, with few results to show for it.
One in five children now live in families on food stamps. This is not a success of the Obama recovery, but the evidence of its failure. Millions have stopped looking for work, and are uncounted in the unemployment rate. Over-regulation has frozen access to credit from community banks,harming small businesses. ObamaCare has decreased healthcare choices, and premiums have skyrocketed.
And for all the liberals' talk about income inequality, the fact is their own policies of over-regulation make the cost of living exorbitant for single moms and small business owners in blue states like California and New York.
They have mastered the politics of grievance, when in reality Americans are the victim of their policies that caused the housing crash, that have produced the slowest recovery since the Great Depression, that have caused a precipitous increase in the cost of college tuition.
The Democrats see the problems of their own party's making and offer to double down on them.
Now Senator Sanders says college tuition should be "free." But as we know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Forcing taxpayers to hand more of their money over to colleges will only incentivize those colleges to raise their prices even further.
Secretary Clinton is now talking about profit-sharing. I believe in profit-sharing.
Many of America's best companies, like Whole Foods and Apple to name just two, use profit sharing and stock options to reward their workers.
But history shows that when government gets involved, there are fewer profits to be shared.
Indeed, Mrs. Clinton would pay for her unwieldy, bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all plan by raising taxes on businesses, directly reducing their profits, leaving them with less ability to raise workers' salaries and invest in the future.
American workers aren't looking to get something for nothing. They want to make an honest wage. They want a shot at a good job. And big government won't give it to them.
That fair shot can only come from free people, and free markets, and the free market incentive known as the profit motive.
Conservatism can lead us out of the Valley of Economic Ruin.
It places faith in individuals, not government.
It restores personal freedom instead of restricting it.
It lets business owners and families keep more of what they make, so they can invest it in the economy and create jobs.
I believe in a conservatism that empowers people to make the most of their lives rather than government that makes a mess of their lives.
We have the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. Lower it. This will bring jobs and investment back home from overseas.
Democrats want to punish businesses for making the rational choice to locate their offices and factories in countries with lower taxes. Instead, we should reform our tax code to attract those companies—and many others—to our shores.
We have had six and a half years of government growth. We need a policy of economic growth.
We need to realize the best welfare program is a job. That welfare benefits are a means to an end, not an end. That the best welfare programs give people the tools of self-sufficiency.
We need to stop pretending that we can throw money at our inner cities and hope it solves their problems.
Rather than providing people incentives to stay on welfare, we need to expand on ideas like the Earned Income Tax Credit to build a bridge to the high-paying jobs of the future.
We need to end regulations that lead to high-cost housing, that keep single moms living hand-to-mouth with no hope of getting ahead.
We need to bring regulatory relief to small businesses that are being punished by Dodd-Frank. Financial regulations are killing Main Street rather than cleaning up Wall Street.
We need to expand energy production to create jobs, and end the ban on foreign exports. Thanks to President Obama, Iran will soon have the ability to export its oil, while America is barred from doing the same.
Carter era policies didn't work when he was president, they certainly won't work now!
If we bring jobs and investment back home and invest in American energy, we will realize a manufacturing renaissance.
Common sense, conservative economics can lead to removing barriers to trade, job creation and opportunity. They can be implemented without harming our environment.
It is time we get about the business of unleashing growth in America again.
Under all this lies a main premise: I trust American workers, American entrepreneurs, to do what's best for their lives and for the public interest more than I trust government.
I am an optimist. I have faith in our people.
They profess faith in government because they look down upon the individual. But you can't raise people up by talking down to them.
And if someone is not equipped to govern their own affairs, surely a colossal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., is no better positioned to do so.
We need to replace over-regulation with smart regulation. We need to overhaul the welfare state to create greater independence. We need to create incentives in the tax code for productivity and job creation, rather than for corruption and favoritism and the outsourcing of millions of jobs overseas.
I believe in America.
I believe in our people.
I believe we can out-compete, out-produce the workers of any nation.
I believe each of you can make better decisions for yourselves and your families than government.
I believe in personal freedom over bureaucratic fiat.
The era of the liberal nanny state must end.
But it cannot be replaced by reactionary politics founded on division.
We will be no better off with a Republican divider in the White House than the current Democrat divider in the White House.
Donald Trump the reality television star is a great generator of ratings. But Donald Trump the candidate is a sower of division, wrongly demonizing Mexican-Americans for political sport.
It is wrong to paint with a broad brush Hispanic men and women in this country who have fought and died for freedom from the Alamo to Afghanistan. He scapegoats Hispanics to appeal to our worst instincts, when we need a president who appeals to our best.
This is not new in America.
In the 1840's the "Know Nothings" emerged as a political movement, scapegoating Irish and German immigrants for the problems of the nation.
They were obsessively anti-Catholic, so much so that when the Pope sent marble for the building of the Washington Monument, they smashed it to pieces and helped delay its construction for 35 years.
These people built nothing, created nothing. They existed to cast blame and tear down certain institutions. To give outlet to anger.
Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the know-nothing movement.
He espouses nativism, not conservatism. He is negative when conservatism is inherently optimistic.
He would divide us along bloodlines, when conservatives believe our policies will work for people of all backgrounds.
He has piqued the interest of some Republican voters who have legitimate concerns about a porous border and broken immigration system. But instead of offering those voters leadership or solutions, he has offered fear and soundbites. This cannot stand.
Conservatism doesn't foment agitation through identity politics. That's what Democrats do. But as a supporter of socialized medicine, the stimulus package and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump is quite suited to follow the Democrats' example.
I, for one, will not be silent when a candidate for the high office of president runs under the Republican banner by targeting millions of Hispanics, and our veterans, with mean-spirited vitriol.
I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard.
As a veteran, I took offense to his attack on Senator McCain, and I found lacking his defense that he spent a lot of money on veterans' parades.
Donald Trump was born into privilege. He received deferments to avoid service in Vietnam. He breathes the free air thousands of heroes died protecting. And he couldn't have endured for five minutes what John McCain endured for five and a half years.
Think what you want about Senator McCain's politics, but let no one question his service to our country.
Here was a man offered the chance to go home. He refused, knowing it could cost him his life. There was no way he would leave before any man captured before him. This is the embodiment of duty, honor, country. Mr. Trump does not know the meaning of those words.
But most telling to me is not Mr. Trump's bombast, his refusal to show any remorse for his comments about Senator McCain, but his admission that there is not a single time in his life that he sought the forgiveness of God.
A man too arrogant, too self-absorbed, to seek God's forgiveness is precisely the type of leader John Adams prayed would never occupy the White House.
Adams, Lincoln, FDR — they all went before God on bended knee. They all held this office of great power with humility.
When a candidate under the Republican banner would abandon the tradition of magnanimous leadership of the presidency, when he would seek to demonize millions of citizens, when he would stoop to attack POWs for being captured, I can only ask as Senator Welch did of Senator McCarthy, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"
My fellow Republicans, beware of false prophets. Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment.
Resentment is the poison we swallow that we hope harms another. My fellow Republicans, don't take the poison.
Scripture tells us "a house divided against itself cannot stand."
The candidate who wins the Republican nomination for president will articulate the best vision of "a house united."
It will be based on a conservatism that works, that appeals to our better angels, that believes in the power of individuals, through hard work and thrift, to improve our lives.
We need a president who rises above personal grievances, petty differences, raw partisan politics. Who puts the nation first, who inspires Americans to believe again and produce again and dream again.
We must move past the empty calories of Trumpism, and return to conservatism.
Ronald Reagan put it best when discussing the stakes of the election in 1964. He said, "This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves."
We shall not abandon the Revolution.
We shall not give up on the animating idea of our Republic — a nation founded on the principle of "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
There is nothing wrong in America that cannot be fixed with the right leadership.
We need leadership that repairs the breach in America, that brings the country together, that sets our sights on greatness after a long period of pettiness.
Let's get on with the business of building that America. Thank you.
Note: As prepared for delivery.
Rick Perry, Remarks at the Opportunity and Freedom PAC Forum in Washington, DC: "Defending Conservatism Against the Cancer of Trump-ism" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/310905