Rick Perry heads for Israel

Further evidence that Texas governor Rick Perry is seriously considering another White House run in 2016: he just told the Washington Times he plans to visit Israel in October.

???We will be going to Israel to bring together Arabs, Christian and Jews in an educational forum,??? Mr. Perry told The Washington Times in an interview just three days after he announced he would not seek an unprecedented fourth term as Texas governor.

Many analysts interpreted that decision as evidence that he is setting the table for a White House campaign. Asked what would induce him to announce a run, he told The Times that he has ???plenty of time to make that decision.???

Trips to Israel are common among Republican presidential aspirants.  Many of the other people floated as 2016 contenders – including Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz – have already made the trip.  Post-mortems of the Perry campaign always dwell on his Third Department of Doom gaffe, when he couldn’t remember the name of the third department he wanted to eliminate, or his early stumbles on immigration policy, particularly his defense of the Texas “DREAM Act” granting in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal aliens, in which he accused detractors of heartlessness.  But he was generally pretty sharp on foreign policy, and if he’s the 2016 nominee facing the disastrous foreign policy resume of Hillary Clinton, he’ll want to press that advantage hard.  Getting plugged into the current state of affairs in the Middle East is a good place to start.

His thoughts on the matter in the Washington Times interview were consistent with a “more libertarian-flavored brand of Republicanism,” as the editors put it:

Noting that America???s founders, including George Washington and Thomas Paine, warned against military intervention abroad unless the U.S. is directly attacked, Mr. Perry said, ???How we intervene is crucial.???

???Investing our treasure in educational operations will go more toward creating peace than any military foray,??? Mr. Perry said.

He offered pointed criticisms of President Obama and former President George W. Bush, a fellow Republican and Texan.

???Having a president who has not served in the military and does not understand the burden of sending our treasure ??? our young men and women ??? into battle is wrong,??? he said. ???Afghanistan is a good example of how we can learn from history but have not. From Alexander the Great to the British Empire to the Soviets, the people of Afghanistan remained the same. Why we thought we would have a different outcome using our treasure and resources, I will never understand.???

Perry himself served in the Air Force, flying C-130 transport planes.  It’s always tough to predict how much emphasis the public will put on military service, but perhaps a general sense of the world spinning out of control under Obama will make voters receptive to the argument Perry advances here.

And then there’s the question of that strong Texas economy, which has done so much to keep America out of recession during the Obama years.  Perry’s remarks on the subject were perfectly tailored for the ears of the 2016 electorate.  He’s exceptionally good at persuading business leaders to invest in his state, but he said there’s more to the Texas success story than that:

Texas has no personal income tax or limits on legal claims on corporations, and Mr. Perry has earned credit for making Texas the premier raider of other states??? and countries??? top businesses.

His personal ability to attract corporate CEOs may be Mr. Perry???s biggest asset in arguing that he is ready to take the helm of the U.S. economy as president.

???It???s not just low taxes and business-friendly regulations,??? he said, noting that ???30 percent of all jobs created in the last decade, in all of America, were created in Texas, which has less than 10 percent of the population.???

Mr. Perry said attracting business and jobs is ???not just about the entrepreneur-friendly regs, but also quality of life.???

There are many ways to judge quality of life, he said.

???There is no question that 10 to 15 years ago folks might have had a point in saying we were culturally and intellectually a backwater ??? Al Gore once said the air is brown here,??? he said. ???Well, today, we have won that battle, both in perception and substance. The cultural arts here have exploded. From zoos, to music, to museums, to theater. In Houston, we have more theater seats than any other city in America except New York.???

That’s a very smart take.  If there’s one big lesson to draw from the 2012 race, it’s the importance of relating to voters.  They tend to support the candidate who seems to understand or sympathize with them most.  That’s why President Obama’s general approval rating never quite tumbles into the 30-percent abysss, even though his ratings on the issues have cratered.  His empathy numbers remain high.  After eight years of Obama malaise, the public will be hungry for the kind of managerial expertise Perry can provide… but they don’t want to get it from a stiff, remote boardroom type with a starched tie, who talks about big-picture economic strategy, but not about the daily lives of working people.  The winning approach covers the entire spectrum, from entrepreneurial opportunity to the “quality of life” issues Perry referred to.

And of course, Perry’s social conservative credibility is looking great after his showdown with the shrieking “Hail Satan!” abortion fanatics.  He talked about social issues a bit, emphasizing the importance of resolving them at the state and local level, which sounds like it might be the position he stakes out on something like the gay marriage debate.  Actually, he threw in one of those lovable little Perry-isms while saying something profoundly wise about the importance of cultivating the economic strength to deal with all other issues:

???Americans have to decide what is the most important to them ??? social issues, foreign policy, national security and other issues, but all those issues ??? many of them should be the purview of states, not the federal government. You can???t have any of these if you do not take appropriate care of taxes, regulation, legal policies, so that there can be the revenues for those desires.”

Well, two of the three things he mentioned – foreign policy and national security – can’t be the purview of states, by definition.  But it’s easy to see what he’s driving at, and voters of every political persuasion can appreciate the common sense of growth to provide the revenue for all other social desires.  They’ll be coming off eight years of someone who responds to a dying full-time job market and collapsing workforce by announcing a crusade against global warming.  They can see the mountain of debt and economic paralysis produced by that kind of thinking.  If Perry can present the alternative in a way that builds the vitally necessary sense of connection, empathy, and good humor, voters might not care if he keeps the list of departments he plans to eliminate on a laminated card in his breast pocket.