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Rick Perry visits Washington, downplays national ambitions

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) visited one of his favorite punching bags today, appearing in Washington, D.C., as part of a national tour for his new book, “Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington.” Perry spoke at the conservative Heritage Foundation and avowed yet again that he is not planning to make a presidential run in 2012.

With the quick publication and subsequent tour for his book following his re-election to a fourth term as Texas governor, many have speculated that Perry is in the early stages of a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Even though the book and its title seem tailored to to conservative primary voters, Perry has insisted that he has no plans at mounting a presidential campaign. Today, he pointed to the book as evidence that he does not have grand national ambitions.

Perry focused his speech on national entitlement programs as the central issue facing the nation, and one where his frank views would exclude him from running for higher office.

“There have been a lot of political figures totally and absolutely afraid to talk about that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme,” Perry said. “My eldest child is 27, my baby is 24, and they know that Social Security is not going to be there for them. So let’s talk about it, what are some of the options that are out there.”

Perry also highlighted other social support programs that he would like to see addressed by state governments rather than through federal initiatives. He spoke positively of recent suggestions by Texas Republicans to remove the state from federal Medicaid and administer the program at the state level instead.

“The fact is many of us [state governors] would like to be in charge of those pension programs,” Perry said. “Medicaid is a good example of just last week, right after the election, our Texas House had a study group on how to better deliver those health care costs.”

But Social Security received the brunt of Perry’s criticism.

“We have to address these issues and not be afraid and tell the truth, and push back on those who would do nothing more than be fear mongers for the standpoint of ‘Oh, they’re going to take your Social Security away,’” Perry said. “They don’t have to tell that to my children, they already know that, there will be no Social Security for them if we don’t stand up as a people and address this issue.”

Perry railed against federal government intervention broadly, going back in history to criticize the 16th Amendment’s introduction of the federal income tax, with his heaviest scorn reserved for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.

“The fact of the matter is it is a legacy of glut, glut of federal programs, including a Social Security program that is not only bankrupt, but also had very little to do with America’s emergence from the Great Depression,” Perry said. Instead, Perry held up the Tenth Amendment as the ideal of how the government should operate. National defense was the only federal spending cast in a favorable light during the appearance.

As the book tour and appearances at prominent organizations like the Heritage Foundation indicate, Perry is positioning himself as one of the prominent voices of the party. Entering his fourth term in the governor’s office, Perry risks the establishment label that Republican grassroots have revolted against recently, but thanks to his primary campaign against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and his consistent anti-Washington rhetoric, Perry has been able to take up the mantle of the Tea Party while maintaining his credibility as an experienced politician.

As Republicans return to power in the next session of Congress, Perry has taken the lead in pushing the national party to stay true to its message of minimal federal intervention, with the majority of government power invested in the states. Rather than calling for the complete dissolution of entitlements like Social Security, Perry has said he prefers to see the power over the programs in the hands of state governments, a sentiment he has already relayed to the new congressional leaders.

“Saturday night, presumptive-elect Speaker Boehner and I had a meeting. We spent a couple hours together talking about how the governors can be more engaged with this process,” Perry said. “The message from John Boehner is very clear, that he was listening Tuesday night, and that finding the solutions to the challenges that face us as a country emanate from the states, and not from Washington, D.C.”

Patrick Caldwell is a reporter for The American Independent.

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