Friday, September 16, 2011

Rick Perry Exclusive: The GOP’s Fiery Front-Runner on His Rise, Record and Rhetoric - TIME Magazine


September 15, 2011

The hard-charging governor commands a Texas-sized lead in the polls. In an interview with TIME’s Richard Stengel and Mark Halperin, Perry defends his controversial résumé and explains why Americans aren't looking for "political correctness" in 2012.

What does your rise in the polls say about the Republican party?

I think Republican primary voters are not really a lot different than Americans in general. They are very concerned about where this country finds itself economically. They know that we are off-track, that for two-plus years we’ve had an Administration that has been doing an experiment with the American economy and it’s failed miserably, and I think people are fearful. And they’re looking for someone whom they can be excited about.

Now that you’ve been in the race for while, do you feel pressure to temper some of your rhetoric, like calling the Obama administration socialist?

No, I still believe they are socialist. Their policies prove that almost daily. Look, when all the answers emanate from Washington D.C., one size fits all, whether it’s education policy or whether it’s healthcare policy, that is, on its face, socialism.

But you know there’s concern that you use controversial rhetoric, like calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”

There may be someone who is an established Republican who circulates in the cocktail circuit that would find some of my rhetoric to be inflammatory or what have you, but I’m really talking to the American citizen out there. I think American citizens are just tired of this political correctness and politicians who are tiptoeing around important issues. They want a decisive leader. I’m comfortable that the rhetoric I have used was both descriptive and spot on. Calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme has been used for years. I don’t think people should be surprised that terminology would be used.

No one gets confused about the point I was making, that we have a system that is now broken. We need to make sure that those on Social Security today — and those approaching it — know without a doubt it will be in place. It will not go away. We’ll have a transitional period for those in mid-career as they’re planning for their retirement. And our young people should be given some options. I don’t know what all of those options need to be yet, but they know instinctively that the program that is there today is not going to be there for them unless there are changes made.

I don’t get particularly concerned that I need to back off from my factual statement that Social Security, as it is structured today, is broken. If you want to call it a Ponzi scheme, if you want to say it’s a criminal enterprise, if you just want to say it’s broken –they all get to the same point. We need, as a country, to have an adult conversation. Don’t try to scare the senior citizens and those who are on Social Security that it’s somehow going to go away with the mean, old heartless Republican.

How would you change Social Security? Would you consider private accounts or raising the retirement age?

We are having a national discussion now about a lot of different options: raising the [retirement] age, doing it in a structured way for the younger worker, some options from the standpoint of private accounts — all of those ought to be on the table. The idea that we’re going to write a Social Security reform plan today is a bit of a stretch from my perspective. I have accomplished one of the things that I wanted to do by talking about it. Americans are paying attention.

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