At a time of bitter partisanship and often fierce political combat, Republican Gov. Rick Perry and his Democratic counterpart from Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper, found rare common ground Friday at a meeting about economic development strategies.
Speaking to Denver business leaders at the W Hotel in downtown Austin, the two men both said it was important to create pro-business policies and find out what works best in their respective states.
“We’re not afraid to snitch a good idea that you have in Colorado and transport it to the state of Texas and put it into place,” Perry said. “That’s one of the things we need to do is spend time with each other, query each other about what works and why does it work in your state.”
Perry’s main message — not much different from the one he promotes on the campaign trail — was that Colorado and every other state ought to be more like low-taxin', little-regulatin' Texas.
Realizing he was sounding a bit like a broken record, Perry said, “Look, you didn’t think you were gonna come here and not hear me brag about Texas.”
Though the Texas governor has come under fire from Tea Party activists for giving taxpayer-supported subsidies to private companies that bring money and jobs to Texas, the governor said programs like the deal-closing Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund are crucial economic development tools.
“If the argument is they would have come anyway, well, I disagree,” Perry said after the meeting.
For his part, Hickenlooper said he wanted to make Colorado “relentlessly pro-business,” echoing many of Perry's talking points. He said states should offer businesses “less red tape” and a predictable regulatory climate that fosters a “culture of innovation.”
Hickenlooper seemed to enjoy yucking it up with a former presidential candidate known for unapologetic partisanship and conservative swagger. When the two took their places next to each other on a sofa to take questions from the audience, Hickenlooper quipped, “I didn’t know you were going to be so far to my right.”
The Democratic governor, representing one of the most hotly contested swing states in the presidential election, also praised Perry as a “remarkable leader” for Texas and noted that the former White House aspirant has shown an endearing ability to “make fun of himself.”
Perry, who famously forgot the third federal department he wanted to shut down during a nationally televised debate last November, deadpanned: “I’ve got a lot of material to work with.”
After the meeting, Hickenlooper lamented the toxic political environment and “sinister ads” that get in the way of bipartisan solutions.
“Gov. Perry and I, I think we have a level of mutual respect that allows us to have some fun, but also, trying to make a stronger business environment isn’t Republican or Democrat,” he said. “Trying to make sure out schools educate our kids, that’s not Republican or Democrat, these are core values we all share.”
After the meeting, Perry demonstrated how fleeting bipartisanship tends to be. Speaking to reporters at the Capitol about an hour after his appearance with Hickenlooper, Perry broke up the lovefest and criticized President Obama for a foreign policy that has left the U.S. vulnerable to the kind of attacks hitting U.S. embassies in the Middle East.
“The policies and the position that the Obama administration has taken in the Middle East have been to not be engaged from a forward position. It’s been from a position of weakness,” Perry said. “This administration has either taken a hands-off approach or they’re so inexperienced that they don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t know which it is, but the result is not good for America.”