WILTON, Iowa -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Saturday accused President Obama of endangering U.S. troops by announcing plans to end the nation's military role in Iraq this year.
"The last thing you want to do is put those men and women's lives in peril and I think that's what the president's done by making a political statement to his base that he's going to be out of Iraq by a date certain," Perry said.
The Texas governor, who had joined a number of his Republican rivals in criticizing the president's planned troop withdrawal on Friday, got more pointed as he spoke to reporters in Iowa, where Perry was joining one of the state's Republican members of Congress, Steve King, on a pheasant hunt.
Perry, an Air Force veteran who noted that he was "commander in chief of a fairly substantial group of individuals in the National Guard of Texas," called Obama's decision "bad public policy" and "bad tactics."
"He needs to be working with the commanders on a timetable to remove those troops but obviously not telling the bad guys when it's going to happen," he added.
Continuing the fight he started at the presidential debate Tuesday with GOP rival Mitt Romney over immigration, Perry accused the former Massachusetts governor of being "part of the problem" by adding to "the magnet of jobs" that attracts foreigners to move to the United States illegally. The reference was to Romney's hire of a lawn care company that later was found to be employing illegal immigrants.
That prompted a sharp retort from a spokeswoman for Romney, who has said he severed his relationship with the company after he requested it not employ illegal immigrants and found it was still doing so. "Rick Perry is a desperate candidate resorting to negative personal attacks because his campaign is collapsing," said Andrea Saul of the Romney campaign.
Perry also minced no words on another politically sensitive issue: The outcome of Saturday's football game between the Iowa State University Cyclones and his alma mater, Texas A&M University.
"When my beloved Texas Aggies are playing, I'm on the sidelines rooting for the Aggies," said Perry, who as a student served as a "yell" leader at A&M games but who is actually scheduled to be meeting voters when the two teams kick off. "Even standing in Iowa. I'm not going to be one of those people that roll into Iowa and say, 'Yeah, I'm for the Cyclones because I'm running for office.' People see through that real quick."
Perry is the first of two Republican presidential hopefuls that King, an outspoken conservative, is escorting to the weekend pheasant hunt. On Sunday, ex-Sen. Rick Santorum will join the congressman. King said he's not ready to endorse any of the candidates. "I respect them all and I just want to encourage them all to engage in this race," he said.
As he was leaving for the pheasant hunt, Perry handed an aide his cellphone to take a photo of himself and King. "It's tweet time," said the governor, who posted the picture himself from his phone.
Later the governor was coy about how much game he bagged. "We fed some people some pheasant today," was all he would say at a Wilton, Iowa barbecue, adding: "I wanted to see if I lost my touch and I haven't."