Texas Gov. Rick Perry stumbled and eventually fell along the wayside among Republican presidential candidates two years ago.
Since then, he’s been considering another run for the White House, weighing in on important issues, as he did this week in meeting with President Obama about those thousands of Central Americans – many of them children – streaming into the United States, crowding into detention facilities, and raising more questions about this country’s failed immigration policy.
Also this week, Gov. Perry laid out some of his ideas about US foreign and national security policy while taking on Rand Paul, the leader among 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls and an outlier among Republicans in how the US deals with the rest of the world.
Writing in The Washington Post, Perry said, “I can understand the emotions behind isolationism.”
“Many people are tired of war, and the urge to pull back is a natural, human reaction,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, we live in a world where isolationist policies would only endanger our national security even further.”
“That’s why it’s disheartening to hear fellow Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), suggest that our nation should ignore what’s happening in Iraq,” Perry continued. “The main problem with this argument is that it means ignoring the profound threat that the group now calling itself the Islamic State poses to the United States and the world.”
Paul “advocates inaction,” Perry charged, “going so far as to claim … that President Ronald Reagan’s own doctrines would lead him to same conclusion. But his analysis is wrong. Paul conveniently omitted Reagan’s long internationalist record of leading the world with moral and strategic clarity.”
Paul knows he has a problem here – at least among Republicans choosing their presidential candidate in a grueling series of primary elections and caucuses, a group that is markedly more conservative than the general electorate or even many other Republicans.
Back in January, he hit donor groups and major Washington think tanks to emphasize that he is not an isolationist – the charge against his Republican/Libertarian father former Rep. Ron Paul, who rankled many establishment and tea party Republicans with his own strong presidential runs.
As Monitor foreign affairs correspondent Howard LaFranchi reported at the time, Paul in one of his January speeches said, “Our foreign policy and national security policy are too belligerent.” A better way, he said, was to have a policy that is grounded in “the idea that negotiation can improve our world” – and he cited how he believes that intensified relations with China can lead to progress on North Korea, and how stronger engagement with Russia can yield results on Syria.
On the other hand, he wrote a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed column in which he took on former vice president Dick Cheney and other neoconservatives clamoring for direct US action to counter Islamist extremists in Iraq.
He was merely standing with GOP icon Ronald Reagan, he wrote, and former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger. The “Weinberger Doctrine,” Paul explained, boils down to this:
“The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the U.S. or its allies are involved and only ‘with the clear intention of winning.’ U.S. combat troops should be committed only with ‘clearly defined political and military objectives’ and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives and with a ‘reasonable assurance’ of the support of U.S. public opinion and Congress and only ‘as a last resort.’”
“We need a new approach, one that emulates Reagan's policies, puts America first, seeks peace, faces war reluctantly, and when necessary acts fully and decisively,” Paul wrote.
If Paul has a problem with GOP orthodoxy on foreign affairs and national security, Perry has a problem of his own.
Yes, there are miles and months to go before the 2016 presidential election. But if Perry is to try another presidential run – after his lackluster and sometimes embarrassing effort in 2012 – he’ll need to climb his way out of a position of relative weakness among potential GOP hopefuls.
The latest Real Clear Politics polling average for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has Perry at just 4.4 percent – barely more than Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal.
Leading the pack is Rand Paul (13.2 percent), followed by Jeb Bush (12.2 percent), Mike Huckabee (12.0 percent), Chris Christie (10.8 percent), Paul Ryan (10.2 percent), Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (7.0 percent each), and Scott Walker (5.6 percent).
Like Rand Paul, Rick Perry has his work cut out for him. He’ll get another chance Sunday when he appears on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday.”