Politics & Policy

On Military Service and on Border Security, Trump Offers Only Hot Air

(Scott Olson/Getty)

Being president of the United States is serious business, not a reality TV show.

This is especially true for the next president, who will have a big job ahead after the failures of the Obama administration. Our challenges are too complex — and the future of our country too important — to let egos, inflated rhetoric, and emotion take the place of thoughtful discussion.

I made the case recently for why GOP policies are the best to create opportunity across the country for families of all backgrounds. I’ve held up my home state’s reforms in economic, education, and sentencing policies as examples of conservative governance that have made life better for minorities in Texas compared with other places around the country. And I’ve been honest about our party’s shortcomings — including my own — in engaging all Americans in our conversations about the future of this nation.

But we can’t do that if we’re pitting black against white against brown; rich against poor; women against men. Playing identity politics takes a page right out of the Democrats’ playbook, and we Republicans are better than that.  

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That’s why rhetoric such as the kind employed by Donald Trump is damaging — it’s damaging to our party, and most important, damaging to the United States of America. I believe strongly that Mr. Trump’s philosophy is not conservatism, but rather a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense.

Mr. Trump’s absurdity reached a new low over the weekend, when he spit in the eye of every American prisoner of war, particularly Senator John McCain. But frankly, we should expect no better from a man who couldn’t be bothered to answer the call to serve his nation when it needed him most.

Mr. Trump’s absurdity reached a new low over the weekend, when he spit in the eye of every American prisoner of war, particularly Senator John McCain.

As a veteran and the son of a veteran, I find Mr. Trump’s brand of vitriol particularly offensive, and I have no confidence that he could adeptly lead our nation’s armed forces. His comments over the weekend should completely and immediately disqualify him from seeking our nation’s highest office.

Our nation’s warriors have been let down and left behind by the bureaucratic bungling of the Veterans Administration. They deserve a leader who will stand up for them, not one who ridicules the deadly circumstances they willingly put themselves in when they volunteer to protect our nation.

Then there is the issue of border security — a challenge Mr. Trump claims to have single-handedly identified and suddenly become expert in. But Mr. Trump’s ridiculous and irresponsible assertion that Texas has not done enough to secure the border betrays his fundamental misunderstanding of this issue.

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And even though Mr. Trump may spend a lot of time talking about border security today, his interest doesn’t predate his entrance in the presidential field. We heard no outcry from Mr. Trump when Jocelyn Johnson’s husband, Rodney, was gunned down in 2006 in a sanctuary city by an individual who had previously been deported. Mr. Trump was similarly silent last summer, when we saw an unprecedented flood of unaccompanied children crossing the border because of President Obama’s dangerous amnesty policies. Likewise last year, not a word from Mr. Trump when Border Patrol agent Javier Vega Jr. was shot and killed in front of his wife, two children, and parents by — again — individuals who had been arrested and deported multiple times.

If Mr. Trump plans to “tell it like it is,” then he should tell the facts. Border security is a federal responsibility. Period. But when it became clear that Washington, D.C., wouldn’t act, I told President Obama that if he didn’t secure the border, Texas would.

As the former governor of Texas, a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico, I had to live and govern under the shadow of the federal government’s decades-long failure to secure our borders. And rather than sit idly by while Washington, D.C., left our communities vulnerable to a porous border, I acted.

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During my time in office, I oversaw the dedication of nearly $1 billion to border-security efforts. I’ve overseen surge operations with our state law enforcement, the creation of Texas Ranger Recon teams, and I even deployed the Texas National Guard to the border region last summer. I signed a bill strengthening penalties for those who engage in human trafficking — a bipartisan effort to put an end to the scourge of a modern-day slave trade that is enabled by our unsecured border.

I also signed an executive order mandating the use of E-Verify for all state employees and contractors. By doing this, we ensured that people like Mr. Trump — who has a history of using illegal-immigrant labor for his construction projects (including his new hotel currently under construction in Washington, D.C.) — do not use taxpayer resources on illegal-immigrant labor.

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That is real, tangible action. Make no mistake: Contrary to what Mr. Trump seems to believe, Texas never should have had to do any of this, but we stepped in when the federal government failed.

When it comes down to it, Mr. Trump and President Obama have similar records on border security. Neither seems to understand that it’s the federal government’s responsibility to secure our borders. Neither has taken the time to visit the border. Neither has paid any attention to the issue until it’s become politically convenient. And most significantly, neither has put forward any thoughtful solutions to secure the border.

#related#Rather than thanking Texas for stepping into a gap it shouldn’t have to fill, Mr. Trump has made clear that he believes the states should fend for themselves on border security. Rather than praising the men and women of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas National Guard, and Texas game wardens, Mr. Trump ridicules their tireless work to protect our communities. Not only is this wrong, but it perpetuates the same failed policies that have left our southern border porous and vulnerable.

As I’ve said before, this will be a “show me, don’t tell me” election. Our nation needs a thoughtful, experienced leader with the character, resolve, and will to rebuild what this nation has lost over the past six years.

Mr. Trump has done nothing to prove that he is the man for the job.

— Rick Perry is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He served as governor of Texas from December 2000 to January 2015. He is currently running for president.


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