COLUMBIA, S.C. -- After a day packed with TV interviews about an embarrassing mental lapse in Wednesday night’s debate, Rick Perry finally got back to talking about policy issues in a Thursday night interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.
During a day of damage control, the Texas governor tried to refocus the discussion on his flat tax plan. Wednesday night, he also talked about the European debt crisis and immigration.
“It is not America’s responsibility to bail them out,” Perry said. “America does not need to be worried with bailing out an European country that has made irresponsible expenditures.”
Perry also apologized once again for comments he made during a debate in September when he termed critics of a Texas law that provides in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants “heartless.” Not only did Perry call his own comments “arrogant,” he also said his wife, Anita, called them “insulting.”
“I want to tell the people of America that I do respect their opinions on the subject of illegal immigrants and the college tuition,” Perry said. The subject of immigration plagued him in the first months of his presidential campaign, but has been less of an issue since his standing plummeted in in the polls.
Perry pledged to secure the border within 12 months of his inauguration. He still won’t discuss any plans for immigration reform, saying it would be “nothing more than an intellectual discussion,” before the border is secured.
Repeating his mea culpa of the day, Perry acknowledged that he had “stepped in it” during Wednesday’s debate when he blanked on the name of one of the three Cabinet departments he wants to cut (Perry remembered Commerce and Education, forgot Energy). Afterwards, his wife offered a reassuring “I love you,” he told Van Susteren. He added that a newly-created website inviting Americans to say which agency they would cut has received more than 2,000 hits.
Underscoring the priority the Perry campaign put on its damage control: the candidate skipped a planned fundraiser in Nashville to do the interview with Van Susteren. He also appeared on all five morning news shows, gave a radio interview to conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, and flew to New York City to read a “Top 10 List of Rick Perry Excuses” for CBS’ Late Night with David Letterman.