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Rick Perry candidate profile


Reason has profiled the major Republican presidential hopefuls and devised a scientific* survey to help readers find true love among the 10 top contenders (Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Gary Johnson, Sarah Palin, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul). 

Click here to take an eight-question quiz and find the candidate of your dreams.

* We're using "scientific" in the Republican sense of the word. So we really mean "made up."

Name: Rick Perry (b. James Richard Perry)

DOB: March 4, 1950 (Shares a birthday with Chaz Bono, Antonio Vivaldi, and, most ominously, Knute Rockne)

Aliases: The Governor, Distinguished Eagle Scout, The Executioner

Experience: Served in the U.S. Air Force from 1972-1977, where he flew C-130 tactical aircrafts and was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain. Served three terms in the Texas House as a Democrat beginning in 1984 before changing his party affiliation to Republican in 1989. Served as a key Texas organizer for Al Gore's 1988 presidential campaign. "I came to my senses," Perry now says. Elected lieutenant governor of Texas in 1998, Perry became governor in 2000 when George W. Bush was elected president. Currently the longest-serving governor in Texas history. Once sat in on drums with Texas legends ZZ Top.

Hangups: Coastal elites, people who mess with Texas, coyotes. 

Spending/Size of government/entitlement reform: His most recent book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, makes an aggressive case for reducing the size of the federal government while handing more power over to the states. "I want this book to help foster a nationwide conversation about the proper role of government in our lives," Perry wrote. But those reductions in federal power don't apply to defense spending, which Perry says is "off the table" in any discussion about spending cuts. And while Fed Up! questions both the viability and constitutionality of Social Security, which he likened to "an illegal Ponzi scheme," Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan recently told The Wall Street Journal that Fed Up! was "not [written] in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto." As candidate, Perry "wants to see the benefits for existing retirees and those close to Social Security be strongly protected," Sullivan said.

Economic Policy: Perry favors low taxes and "a predictable regulatory climate." He claims to oppose government bailouts and federal stimulus spending, but his record tells a more complicated story. "The calls to take the (stimulus) money and sort out the consequences later are quite troubling to me," he told The Houston Chronicle. Later, in a letter to President Obama, he highlighted his "vocal opposition" to the stimulus, saying it "will burden future generations with unprecedented levels of debt." In the same letter, however, Perry also agreed to take the stimulus funds, noting his promise to state residents that if a stimulus passed, he "would work to ensure that our citizens receive their fair share." Compared the fight against over-regulation and over-taxation to the Civil Rights movement. 

Foreign policy: Perry considers Israel to be "one of our strongest partners in the war on terror" and believes President Obama's Middle East policies are "misguided." He called on the Justice Department to prosecute any American that participated in the Gaza flotilla. A source who attended a meeting between Perry and former Bush administration Defense Department official Daniel Blumenthal told National Review that Perry "fully understands the unique and exceptional role that the U.S. plays in the world" and does not have "the neo-isolationism that you might expect from certain people [close to] the Tea Party." In Fed Up! Perry cites the "rise of new economic and military powerhouses in China and India, as well as a Russia that is increasingly aggressive and troublesome" as evidence that the U.S. must increase its military spending.

Drug war: A committed drug warrior, Perry told MSNBC last year that the president should consider sending U.S. troops to Mexico to combat the drug cartels. "I think we have to use every aspect of law enforcement that we have, including the military," Perry said. "Any means that we can [use] to run these people off our border and to save Americans' lives, we need to be engaged in." In 2001, signed the Western Governors' Association resolution on drug policy, which holds that "states, not the federal government, are in the best position to understand the myriad of drug related issues facing their citizens and to initiate and implement drug policy strategies that will combat the substance abuse problems facing their communities." 

Personal Freedom: "Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said that marriage can be between two people of the same sex and you know what that is New York and that is their business and that is fine with me, that is their call," Perry said on July 22, 2011. "If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business." But six days later Perry told Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, "I probably needed to add a few words after that 'it's fine with me.'… Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me." Perry then told Perkins he supported amending the Constitution to read, "marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman." Perry supports a similar amendment outlawing abortion in all 50 states, even those where voters would prefer to keep the practice legal.

Immigration: "The federal government fails us in every facet of its immigration policy," Perry writes in Fed Up!, though he doesn't think state governments are doing much better. "I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona," he said in response to the passage of SB 1070. "For example, some aspects of the law turn law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien, taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe." Perry also signed legislation allowing the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities, declaring, "To punish these young Texans for their parents' actions is not what America has always been about."

Education: Opposes federal involvement in education. "Perfectly laudable policy choices at the local level are not appropriate (much less constitutional) at the federal level," he writes in Fed Up! As governor, Perry oversaw a 43 percent increase in public education spending in the Lone Star state. Believes both evolution and creationism should be taught in public schools because students are "smart enough to figure out which one is right." Evolution, he says, "is a theory that's out there," but it's "got some gaps in it."

Energy: "Our strength in petrochemical production and refining makes us a big target on the radar of an increasingly activist EPA, whose one-size-fits-all approaches could severely harm our energy sector," Perry declared in his 2009 State of the State Address. In 2010 he signed the No Climate Tax Pledge, which declared, "I pledge to the taxpayers of my state, and to the American people, that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue." In 2009 he supported a $5,000 state incentive towards the purchase of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by Texas residents.

Religious? And then some. A lifelong Methodist and self-described "man of faith," Perry was the driving force behind "The Response," a controversial Christian rally and "day of prayer" held at Reliant Stadium, the home of the NFL's Houston Texans on August 6, 2011. "Father, our heart breaks for America," Perry declared before the 30,000 people in attendance. "We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government. And as a nation we have forgotten Who made us, Who protects us, Who blesses us, and for that we cry out for Your forgiveness." As governor, Perry embraced the cause of putting religion back into the public square, including ordering the display of the Ten Commandments outside the Texas State Capitol Building in Austin. "Is there anything more fundamental to the founding of our nation than the right to the 'free exercise of religion' as guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution?" he wrote in Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.

Appeal for libertarians? A fair-weather federalist (ain't they all?), he's nonetheless capable of saying, "You can't believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then [for] something that doesn't suit you say, 'We'd rather not have states decide that.'"

Horoscope for 2011: "You view the world in a unique way, and you thrive on learning," writes "Your everyday life should be a stimulating one. 2011 could be one of your happiest years—though the world situation could sadden you."

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