Fact checking Perry as "commander-in-chief"
Mon November 14, 2011 7:47 am

Perry had a reasonably good performance at the CBS/National Journal debate, but he has a propensity to exaggerate his record and his accomplishments. Not that every other politician in the history of the world hasn't done the same. One question moderator Scott Pelley directed to Perry involved his recent gaffe when he couldn't recall that the third agency he wanted to eliminate was the Department of Energy:

Scott Pelley: If you eliminate the Department of Energy, what do you do with the nuclear weapons?

Rick Perry: Well, there are plenty of places in our government that can have oversight on our-- our nuclear energy.

This is not an answer, and it leaves open the question of whether Perry knows where those "places in our government are." Pelley could have followed up by asking Perry to name "a place in our government" that could provide oversight, but he didn't, allowing Perry to finesse the question:

Perry then made a quick transition into his "experience" as commander-in-chief.

Rick Perry: Let me back over to-- the question that you've asked before this, about what is the most important thing from a strategic standpoint, commander in chief. For ten years, I have been the commander in chief of over 20,000-plus individuals in the State of Texas as we've dealt with a host of either natural disasters or having deployments-- into the combat zone. So, if there's someone on this stage who has had that hands-on commander in chief experience, it is me, as the governor of the State of Texas.

In a post-debate fact check, the debate's cosponsor, the National Journal, had this to say about Perry's "experience" as commander-in-chief, a title that is bestowed upon him by the Texas Constit4ution:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to bolster his credibility on military issues by describing himself as a “commander in chief” of sorts – specifically, the commander-in-chief of the Texas National Guard, one of the largest such forces in the nation.

Perry is correct in saying that he, as governor, made key decisions about when to call out the Guard in the case of natural disasters in his home state. But Perry’s suggestion that he had some say in where the  troops were deployed overseas is false. Over the past 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has had complete control over the National Guard units of every state in the country, including Texas. The decisions about where to send those troops, what types of missions they should undertake, and how long they should remain overseas remained entirely with the president. The view of governors like Perry were irrelevant to those decisions.

* * * *

Perry went on to say, "I've ha-- dealt with generals. I have individuals at the Department of Defense who have been at the highest levels both on the civilian side and on the military side that will help me make decisions about those issues that we face as a country. So, I feel very comfortable from day one of surrounding myself with individuals who have extraordinary backgrounds in national defense and will be able to put this country on a track that Americans will feel we know that we're gonna be secure."

Unfortunately, the "individuals with extraordinary backgrounds" to whom Perry turned for advice were discredited neocons Douglas Feith and William Luti from the Bush administration. It's too bad Scott Pelley didn't ask Perry who his advisers were. It's mind-boggling  that Perry would reach out to men who botched the Iraq War. Click HERE for a link to a story about these disgraced disciples of Donald Rumsfeld.

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