Looking to save his faltering campaign after a disastrous gaffe that led Republicans to question whether he has the intellectual timber to occupy the White House, Texas Gov. Rick Perry unveiled Tuesday morning a plan to massively overhaul Washington’s ways.
In Iowa, which is in many ways a do-or-die contest for the Texas governor, Perry sought to put down stakes as the most radical change agent in the race, casting his rivals (mainly Mitt Romney) as small-bore, nibble-around-the-edges, managerial types, and casting himself as a massive wrecking ball that would level the political and economic Beltway culture.
“I do not believe Washington needs a new coat of paint, it needs a complete overhaul. We need to uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C. and our federal institutions,” said Perry, according to prepared remarks. “It is time to tear down the monuments to bureaucratic failure, and in their place build a smaller, more efficient federal government that puts the American People first.”
In his speech Tuesday, Perry called for reforming the federal judiciary by eliminating lifetime appointments, slashing congressional salaries and budgets in half, and for elected officials to spend half their time in their home districts.
In the speech and in a new TV ad, Perry called for jailing any congressman who profits from insider trading, an issue on which a recent 60 Minutes episode focused.
The Republican race has been dominated by a smaller government meme, championed by the tea party, and Perry himself has suggested eliminating at least three agencies — Commerce, Education and Energy (though of course it took him awhile to remember the last one).
His speech today comes as he tries to course correct, become the anti-Romney, and stave off a permanent Newt Gingrich surge. Meanwhile, some Republicans have openly declared that his candidacy is unlikely to recover. Polls in Iowa show Perry running at 7 percent.
With $15 million in the bank. the Texas governor recently launched a $1 million national ad buy on Fox News to introduce himself to the voters who will decide his fate.
He also called for shrinking government spending.
“I will bring spending down to 18 percent of GDP, the average amount of the last 50 years. And I will fight in every corner of this country for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “And two more points on spending: no longer will we prop up failed entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were at the heart of the economic collapse because of mortgage financing policies that gave false confidence to home buyers who have now defaulted or are under water.”
He also called for restructuring and overhauling the Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite Republican whipping post.
“Washington is so broken, Americans will accept nothing less than a complete overhaul of the way business is done in America,” he said. “Americans know there is a season for everything under the sun. And this is the season for tearing down and rebuilding again, for uprooting the broken branches of government in Washington, and building a new government that is smaller and more humble, so America can be stronger and freer again.”