Gov. Rick Perry discusses capital punishment, the economy, and 2016

Texas Governor Rick Perry appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” for an interview with David Gregory over the weekend.  They began with a discussion of capital punishment, in which the recent botched execution in Oklahoma somehow became Perry’s problem because Texas has a lot of people sitting on Death Row:

Death-penalty opponents have complained Gregory wasn’t tough enough on Perry over the death-penalty issue – evidently he was supposed to badger the Governor about a ten-year-old Texas case, whereas the same people think White House dudes shouldn’t have to answer questions about the 20-month-old Benghazi attacks because they’re ancient history.  The people who quickly change the subject when reminded of the staggering number of abortions in America, or horrifying spectacles like Kermit Gosnell’s abortion dungeon, think it’s some kind of grim monument to national shame when Texas reaches 500 executions.

This is a good example of manufactured controversy, in which capital punishment – supported nationally by over 60 percent of Americans, and even stronger in Texas, including strong majority support from both black and Hispanic citizens.  But the issue is “controversial” because the media-supported minority says it is, and the Governor of Texas is supposed to act like the obviously guilty defendant at a trial every time executions make the news in other states.

As it stands, Gregory’s question seemed reasonable enough, as was Perry’s response about the different methods used in Texas versus Oklahoma, and the importance of keeping executions swift and humane.  “I think we have an appropriate process in place,” said Perry, “from the standpoint of the appeals process – to make sure due process is addressed – and the process of the actual execution, I will suggest to you, is very different from Oklahoma.  We only use one drug.  I’m confident that the way the executions are taken care of in the state of Texas are appropriate and humane.”

Responding to President Obama’s call for a national halt to executions after the protracted death of brutal murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, Perry put his answer in the context of his theme about devolving power to the states, which he also mentioned during a discussion of the U.S. economy later in the same interview.  If he makes another bid for the White House in 2016, this will clearly be one of the stoutest planks in his campaign platform.

“It may be appropriate for a pause in Oklahoma, but here’s where the President and I disagree,” said Perry.  “He all too often – whether it’s on health care, whether it’s on education, or whether it’s on this issue of how states deal with the death penalty – he looks for a ‘one size fits all’ solution, centric to Washington D.C.  And I will suggest to you that’s one of the problems we have in this country.  We’re a very diverse country.  Allow the states on these issues, that aren’t addressed directly by the Constitution, to come up with the solutions.  I think the country would be happier, for one thing.  I know the country would be more economically viable.”

Gregory asked Perry about the most recent unemployment report, which contained both good news (288,000 jobs created, which is substantial growth beyond what is needed to keep pace with the expanding population) and bad news (another 806,000 people dropping out of the workforce entirely.)  I’m old enough to remember when the Obama Administration loudly insisted, after every month of awful job news, that we shouldn’t “read too much into any single report,” but they suddenly want us to read everything into the job-creation half of the April print, while forgetting about that pesky workforce contraction.

Perry made the obvious point that “job creation is good,” but maintained Washington could do more to inspire sustained growth and stave off another economic contraction.  “It’s the people who are under-employed in this economy we need to be focused on,” he said.  “The policies that allow for job creation are really pretty simple: it’s tax policy, it’s regulatory policy, it’s a legal system that doesn’t allow for over-suing, and it is putting policies into place – in the public schools in particular – that make them more accountable, so you have a skilled workforce.”

He also emphasized the importance of bolstering the “confidence” of the private sector that “they know they’ll be allowed to keep more of what they work for.”  He portrayed this lack of confidence as one of the biggest dilemmas facing business managers and investors at the moment, citing the uncertainty caused by ObamaCare’s ever-shifting regulations and heavy cost burden.  Perry also stressed the importance of creating higher-wage career positions, rather than fumbling around with the minimum wage.  Politically, he felt this was a message Republicans could successfully bring to the American people, who generally understand the importance of encouraging entrepreneurial risk to create entry-level jobs that can be built into more satisfying positions with time and effort… instead of lazy promises that mandated minimum wages will let everyone begin their employment with “corner office” compensation, but in practice choke off entry-level work and cause the labor force to grow ever smaller.

Perry was candid about conceding that his 2012 presidential run was a “botched effort,” but he said “America is a place that believes in second chances.”  He said he wants to focus on being Governor of Texas for the next nine months, but also expressed his eagerness to participate in “a good, thoughtful, winsome conversation about ‘how do we make America more competitive?’ not only domestically, but internationally as well.”  Clearly he means to draw strong contrasts between “red state” success and “blue state” problems during that conversation, which is just the sort of thing a winsome 2016 presidential contender from the state currently serving as America’s primary job-creation engine would want to talk about.