If Rick Perry has been trying to douse gasoline on Donald Trump's presidential candidacy lately, he lit a match on Wednesday.
Delivering what is arguably the fiercest and most extended denunciation of Trump from within the Republican presidential field, the former Texas governor torched the real estate mogul at a Washington hotel just a few blocks from the White House, picking a venue and a topic guaranteed to draw attention to a campaign that has had difficulty gaining traction.
"My fellow Republicans, beware of false prophets. Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment," Perry told a small crowd of journalists and reporters. "I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard."
Among other things, Perry described Trump as a "sower of discord," and "a barking carnival act" who has been "wrongly demonizing Mexican-Americans for political sport" and engaging in a "toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued."
Perry, who is polling in the bottom half of his party's presidential pack, described Trump, who is leading it, according to recent polls, as an existential threat. "Let no one be mistaken," Perry said. "Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded. It cannot be pacified or ignored."
And he wasn't done there. Perry went on to attack Trump as "the modern day incarnation of the know-nothing movement," a reference to a mid-19th century political party that campaigned against immigrants. Perry described Trump, the son of a New York City real estate developer, as a man who was "was born into privilege" and avoided military service in Vietnam. Trump has said he received student deferments from the draft and a medical deferment for a bone spur in his foot.
Perry, an Air Force veteran, elaborated on his earlier criticism of Trump's weekend attack on Arizona Senator John McCain's war record. "He couldn't endure for five minutes what John McCain endured for five-and-a-half years," Perry said in the only applause line of his speech.
The salvo was the latest in the public feud Trump and Perry have been engaging in lately, as Trump has attacked Perry's record as governor of Texas, and Perry has positioned himself as the real estate mogul's chief critic in the Republican presidential field.