As Gov. Rick Perry begins criss-crossing the nation in pursuit of the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, one of his most controversial utterances as governor — his flirtation with secession at an April 2009 rally on the steps of Austin's City Hall — is sure to get renewed scrutiny from the national press.
Turns out, it wasn't the first time Perry entertained the idea of Texas leaving the United States of America.
An obscure interview with Perry, posted on the internet more than two years ago, has resurfaced as part of a harsh video put together by a group of Texas Democrats who don’t want the Republican governor to be elected president. The Democrats found the interview on YouTube, originally posted in March 2009, and included it in a four-minute attack on Perry emailed to supporters last weekend.
In a discussion with tech bloggers in his Capitol office, Perry did not advocate secession but did say Texans are “thinking about that again." Perry didn’t go quite that far when he was talking to reporters after the now-famous Tea Party rally in Austin a few weeks later. At that event he said that if Washington “continues to thumb their nose at the American people … who knows what might come out of that.”
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Tuesday that the newly circulated interview changes nothing: Perry has never advocated secession and never will, he said.
“He has said many times that we have a great union, and he believes it should stay that way,” Miner said. Miner reviewed the YouTube clip and said it was clear Perry was speaking to people in his office but that he could not “verify the audio or the video that was put together.”
However, well-known tech blogger Robert Scoble told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday that he remembers the meeting with Perry in the governor’s office in 2009. It's clear from interviews, blogs and Twitter postings that the remarks were recorded nearly a month before the April Tea Party gathering, which helped launch Perry’s successful 2010 re-election effort.
In the meeting, Perry can be heard speaking to the group of tech bloggers about the founding of Texas in 1836. A slideshow shows Perry pointing to a painting of the dramatic fall of the Alamo, artifacts in his office and the “Come and Take It” logo on his own boots.
Texans have a “different feeling about independence,” Perry told the group.
“When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation,” the governor can be heard saying. “And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.”
The bloggers erupted in laughter after the remarks, and the slideshow was posted under the headline “Texas Governor Rick Perry jokes about Texas leaving the United States.”
After questions were raised about his remarks at the April rally, Perry repeated his contention that Texas had the right to secede, but historians say Texas has the right to break itself into five separate states — not to form an independent country.
Scoble, the blogger who met with the governor, said he thought Perry was joking but was then surprised to see the secession idea re-emerge about a month later when the governor was speaking to the news media after the Tea Party rally.
“I thought he was sort of half joking, sort of the way politicians do,” Scoble said. “I didn’t think he was being totally serious about it. It came up in the context that nobody should mess with Texas.”