Texas Gov. Rick Perry continued to court evangelical voters on Friday in an interview with the editorial board of The Des Moines Register, defending the role of religion in his public life and criticizing institutions of government that might try to prevent it.
President Obama “is conducting what I consider to be an attack on traditional religious organizations and/or traditional religious values,” Perry told the newspaper, expanding on comments he’s made about the president in recent days.
Two ads the Republican presidential candidate unveiled in Iowa this week touted the importance of faith and accused Obama of declaring a war on religion. But he has offered little direct evidence that the president is behind such an effort: In a CNN interview on Wednesday, he cited the ruling of a federal judge in San Antonio –- someone Obama did not appoint –- while arguing that those with “substantial left-of-center” beliefs such as Obama’s are opposed to both Christmas parties and school prayer.
For the Texas governor, faith is an essential ingredient in the presidency, an argument he is making to appeal to Iowa’s influential evangelical voters in the remaining 25 days before the caucuses.
“If Americans want to elect a president who says I’m not going to let my faith intervene in anything I do, from my perspective [that] would be a bit scary,” he said. The Register probed Perry on the issue, though, asking whether he was going to alienate people with such an overt focus on his religion.
By way of defense, Perry offered this: “My religious faith hadn’t gotten in the way in Texas from making us the most economically powerful state in the nation.”
His criticism of Obama extended to the courts, particularly to Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, whom he accused of activism. In particular, Perry said he found the high court’s rulings in the past on issues such as school prayer “really a bit offensive to me.” And for Washington to legislate on such issues? That, Perry said, was “offensive to most Americans.”
His attack on the high court lost some of its weight when he fumbled both the number of justices (eight, he said) and Sotomayor’s name (“Montemayor,” he called her, before being corrected by a member of the editorial board).
Perry also defended the health care system in his state as he dismissed questions about the high rate of uninsured people in Texas – roughly one-quarter of the population.
“People have access to health care. The people of the state of Texas have said this is how we want to deliver that health care,” he said, suggesting that insurance was unimportant so long as strong care institutions are in place.
Perry also blamed the federal government in part for the rates of uninsured in Texas, saying that the rate would be lower if “we didn’t have the strings attached” to health care provided by the government. He has suggested delivering programs like Medicaid through a system of block grants to the states.
The meeting also revealed that Perry’s much-touted 20 percent voluntary flat-tax plan still needs some work. He has said that he would institute his tax plan on top of the current structure for a certain period of time, but acknowledged that he didn’t know how long that period of time was.