Perry Views Snowden as Criminal, Not Whistle Blower (Transcript)

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that he views Edward Snowden as “more a criminal” than a whistle blower for leaking classified documents on the U.S. National Security Agency’s spying program.

(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)

AL HUNT: We start the program with Governor Rick Perry of Texas. We’re at the CPAC convention. Governor, thank you for joining us.

GOV. RICK PERRY: Good to be with you, Al.

HUNT: You’ve had a tumultuous reception at CPAC and you’ve said you’re going to hold off any announcement for either running for the president until the end of 2014. The conventional wisdom has been that another Texan, Ted Cruz, has stolen your thunder.

PERRY: I hope they’re all working towards the same goal, which is to make Washington less consequential in people’s lives and devolve that power back to the state. I do believe with all my heart that the states are the laboratories of innovation. They’re the place that – that we should be focusing on.

HUNT: Would being a governor put you in a better position then Senator Cruz?

PERRY: I think that’s a question for other folks to answer. I know that being a governor, particularly the governor of Texas, you have to deal with issues. You don’t have the opportunity to push them off or to have a CR or what have you. We have a balanced budget amendment that’s requiring you to deal with it, and I think that’s a good thing. I wish the United States had that same type of restriction.

HUNT: And he has not had that opportunity.

PERRY: Well, listen. He’s chosen to go his route. He is serving a great role in the United States Senate. And I hope that he will continue to be a very powerful voice for devolving power out of Washington back to the states, to salute that 10th amendment every morning when you get up, and to allow the states to compete against each other.

HUNT: Let me ask you about Texas. Because you’ve just had a primary this past week and it appears on the surface at least that the Tea Party, the more right-wing challengers, didn’t do very well. Does that tell us something?

PERRY: I’m not sure that I’ve analyzed that election well enough. I know that the people of Texas have a lot of really good choices in the Republican primary. And there were lots of good conservative individuals that didn’t make it to – to the top heat. But the fact is there are some great candidates that are going to be serving Texas. Greg Abbott.

HUNT: This is not a turn towards –- away from the right?

PERRY: Well, Greg Abbott is going to be a fabulous governor. He’s a person who’s proven himself day in and day out as a committed conservative. I think Texas is steady as you go is what I see, Al. I see a group of men and women who have all served in some form or fashion in the Texas Senate, as a lieutenant governor, as a statewide elected official over the last decade. And it’s been all of us together taking Texas down this path. And so there aren’t a lot of new faces in that crowd. Now there are people in new positions, but the same philosophy, same people are going to continue Texas on a path …

HUNT: Governor, one or two political questions. Chris Christie also got a pretty good reception here at CPAC. Do you believe the New Jersey governor is acceptable to most movement conservatives?

PERRY: I think the New Jersey governor is doing a hell of a job governing his state. And again, that’s the beauty of -– of these 50 laboratories of innovation. Chris is –- gives a great speech. He fires people up. He’s leading the RGA right now.

HUNT: Would he fly in Texas?

PERRY: You know what? I’m not sure that that matters at present. He came to Texas and raised money for RGA and he flew pretty well. So the –- the fact is trying to pit any of us against each other at this particular point in time is not -– is not healthy for the Republican Governors Association. We’ve got 36 competitions out there and Chris and I and Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal, we’re all going to be working together – pulling the same way.

HUNT: Let me try one that’s not a governor. Rand Paul has said that Edward Snowden is more of a whistle blower than a criminal. Do you agree?

PERRY: I think we’ve got some rules and regulations and laws in this country that Mr. Snowden broke. Now the idea -– if Washington D.C. or if NSA are breaking some of those laws, then we need to go after them. But the fact is from my perspective, and again, I don’t know all the details, but we have rules and regulations and we just can’t have people passing out information that could do damage to our military, that could do damage to our intelligence gathering.

There are people in this world that want to do really bad harm to the United States. And making all that information available the way Snowden apparently did is against the law. And I would suggest to you that he’s more a criminal than he is a whistle blower.

HUNT: Do you worry that Rand Paul’s libertarianism may be too much for the Republican Party?

PERRY: I hope the libertarians as they pick and choose between the Democrat and the Republican Party, decide that, as Ronald Reagan did, I’d rather have people around me that support me that I believe in 80 percent of the time rather than those that I believe in 20 percent of the time. So the libertarians are going to be substantially more comfortable with the Republican theory and Republican concepts than they are the Democrats.

HUNT: A couple issues. One is immigration. You’ve said with the energy boom in Mexico, it may be that the immigration issue really subsides. You were attacked pretty harshly by Governor Romney last time when you ran for President. Has that changed your view?

PERRY: Well, it hasn’t changed my view that I think Governor Romney made some statements that were harmful to him. They were harmful to the Republican Party. They were harmful to -- to Americans who -– who have come here. They’ve gone through the process. They’ve become American citizens, but they still relate to the individuals who –- who have come here who may not be legally in this country.

HUNT: He paid a price for that.

PERRY: He did pay a price.

HUNT: Do you think Republicans are, how do I say, getting back, getting in more with Latinos?

PERRY: I think Republicans are going to wisely address the issue of immigration.

HUNT: Don’t they have to pass that reform bill?

PERRY: No. The first thing that has to happen is you have to secure the border. And this administration has sent signal after signal they’re not interested in securing the border. So until that border is secure --

HUNT: Yet they have spent more on border security then the Bush’s.

PERRY: No, no, but listen. I’m a border governor. I understand. The president of the United States is not interested in securing the border. If he were, troops would be on the border. The technology would be in place. The focus would be there. It is not there.

HUNT: And after you did that would you then consider a pathway to citizenship, after the border is secure?

PERRY: There is a pathway to citizenship now.

HUNT: You wouldn’t change that?

PERRY: Not at all, and I don’t think you have to. Again, I get back to reality is going to be this. You’re going to see, I’m going to suggest to you, substantial numbers of people who have come here because they’re lured here in search of -– of a job. And our government has basically said –- and this isn’t just Democrats and Republicans –- but for 30 years they’ve basically said, come on over here. Wink and nod. Don’t worry about it. Work. We need you. Then all the sudden it was like, nope. We’re going to round everybody up and send them home.

HUNT: But you don’t think the message is that the House killed an immigration bill that the Senate’s passed with bipartisan support, including support of your predecessor George W. Bush, John McCain. You don’t think that if the House Republicans killed it that it’s going to hurt the party with Latino voters?

PERRY: I don’t think the American people are really paying attention to anything other than you need to secure that border first. That’s the most important thing to them. Because passing an immigration bill with a border that can basically be a revolving door, people understand that. Secure the border first. Then we can have a conversation about whether or not –- again, I go back to, Al, and I think I’ve got a fairly good handle on this.

When the Mexican energy industry starts substantially booming, Mexicans who are here illegally are going to go back home to better jobs, to their hometowns. And at that particular point in time I think Washington needs to be having a real discussion about how do we address our immigration issue to get the workers that we’re going to need in this country to address the job shortage that’s going to be in a lot of these industries of agriculture and hospitality and construction. That’s going to be the bigger issue for my perspective.

HUNT: Let me ask you a final question. Ted Nugent recently called President Obama a mongrel. You disassociate yourself from that remark?

PERRY: I’ve said he should apologize, which he did.

HUNT: Do you think it was racist?

PERRY: No, not at all.

HUNT: You don’t think that was a racist comment?

PERRY: I don’t think that was a racist –- I don’t think it was –- matter of fact, I don’t think it was as racist as what President Clinton said to Ted Kennedy trying to get him to help his wife in the ‘08 election when he said, “You know what, Ted? A few years back this guy was carrying our bags.” Did you ask if that was racist?

HUNT: I did.

PERRY: Good on you.

HUNT: But you don’t think some of the criticism of Barack Obama is not only ideological, but racist?

PERRY: I don’t. I don’t. I don’t.

HUNT: Governor Perry, thank you so much.

PERRY: Good to be with you.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***

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