CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa--Rick Perry is no legal scholar, and he’ll be the first one to admit that.
“I wish I could tell you I knew every Supreme Court case. I don’t. I’m not a lawyer,” Perry said on Thursday in response to an audience question about Lawrence v. Texas, a landmark 2003 Supreme Court case cheered by gay-rights advocates because it struck down sodomy laws in Texas and invalidated them in other states across the country. The case began shortly before Perry became Texas’s lieutenant governor and was heard and decided by the Supreme Court after he had become governor.
He clarified to a reporter after the event that he didn’t know what the case was. “I’m not taking the bar exam,” he said.
Despite Perry’s memory lapse about the decision on Thursday, he does cite the case in his 2010 book Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.
“Since I have been governor, a significant number of cases involving Texas or Texans have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he wrote. “From posting the Ten Commandments in the public square to our right to execute a murdering rapist who happens to be a foreign national, we have had to kiss the ring of the Court and have done so, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Texans have long been involved in significant decisions before the Court, and often we have been told we can’t do something.” He then mentioned Lawrence v. Texas.
After being asked about the case, Perry pivoted to talking about government spending. “We can sit here and, you know, play `I gotcha’ questions on what about this Supreme Court case or whatever, but let me tell you, you know and I know the problem in this country is spending in Washington, D.C.--it’s not some court case.”
He called for the people to elect a president who would appoint strict constructionist judges to the court.
“That’s what we need,” he said, “the simplicity of a president who’s going to go in there and knows what they believe in and will stand up for the people that are out here busting their chops every day to live the American Dream.” He called President Obama and Congress “out of touch with the American people.”
Perry was well received by the more than 200 people crammed into the Blue Strawberry coffee shop here. After he pledged not to be found playing golf on Sundays or “on a 10-day holiday”-–a clear knock on Obama’s vacation-–the crowd erupted.
But Perry also found himself in the odd position of defending his rival, Mitt Romney, at one point when a man asked about whether it was dangerous to have another political dynasty. Romney’s father, George, is the former governor of Michigan.
“I don’t have a problem with someone whose father was in the political arena as well. I think there’s great honor; I think we need to always hold them accountable,” he said.
But he didn’t pass up the opportunity to draw some contrasts. “I am a consistent conservative. I have always been pro-life, I have always been pro-traditional marriage. I have always been a fiscal conservative. I have never been for global warming,” Perry said. “Yeah, me and Mitt are different.”