ATLANTA — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday called on fellow conservative presidential candidates to unite against President Obama in the aftermath of a GOP debate that saw the Republican hopefuls more at odds with one another than with their Democratic rivals.
“We running for president have a choice,” Perry said, “to match [Obama] eye for eye with our own inflammatory rhetoric, or turn the other cheek.”
Perry sharply criticized Obama’s presidency before an audience of roughly 700 conservative activists at the RedState Gathering in Buckhead, calling Obama a “divider” who aims to gain political advantage instead of achieving consensus. Perry said he would unite the country if elected.
“The fact is this presidency has become the imperial petulancy,” Perry said. “He has become our nation’s chief cynic, demonizing the opposition at every turn.”
Perry made reference to Obama claiming that Republicans opposed to the Iran nuclear deal are making “common cause” with Iranian hard-liners.
Perry, who did not qualify for the prime-time debate on Fox News on Thursday night, also appeared to take aim at real estate mogul Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner. Trump is seen by many as complicating the primary by driving a wedge between the party’s moderate establishment and its far-right wing.
“I don’t believe the answer to a Democratic divider is to have a Republican divider. It’s time for leadership that repairs the breach,” Perry said.
Perry, who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, also discussed the challenges Republican candidates face in attracting African-Americans, a demographic that typically votes overwhelmingly Democratic. He said that black voters should embrace the conservative ideals President Abraham Lincoln touted when he abolished slavery during the Civil War.
“The African-American community ought to take a look at the last 40 years of liberal policies and really have a legitimate conversation about how that’s turned out for them,” Perry said.
Prompted by a question from the audience, Perry also talked about term limits for Supreme Court justices. Noting that the next president could have the opportunity to appoint at least three justices, Perry said "I kinda like" the idea of setting judicial term limits.
“When you are unelected, and you are appointed, the concept of ‘I’m here and there ain’t really nothing you can do about it’ is not really what America is all about,” Perry said.
The real solution is appointing judges who don’t legislate from the bench but rather adhere strictly to the Constitution, Perry said. He highlighted his 2005 appointment of Don Willett to the Texas Supreme Court, adding that Willett would be a strong addition to the high court under the next president.
“I don’t do squishy on judges,” Perry said.
Perry appeared with other low-polling candidates at an undercard debate in Cleveland on Thursday before the main event.