The irony that Americans For Prosperity's Defending the American Dream summit is being held in a hotel paid for with taxpayer funds can be a little overwhelming. Everyone you talk to opposes regulation and taxes with a religious fervor while at the same time praising the setting and the glory of Governor Rick Perry's free market paradise.
Tim Phillips, American's for Prosperity's president, had the honor of providing the introductory hagiography for Perry and promised that everyone in the room stood with the indicted governor in his fight against an "overzealous prosecutor."
Then it was time. Little Texas' "God Blessed Texas" blasted over the public address system and Perry entered like a wrestler thoroughly prepped for scripted battle, full of bravado and wearing his ever-present grin.
After his entrance, the rest of Perry's time on stage was underwhelming. He ignored the elephant in the room, his pending felony indictment for abuse of power and stuck to the tropes.
Everything he said dripped with sarcasm or simple bile for the president.
"The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from his government," Perry said, trotting out a favorite Thomas Paine ditty while comparing London in 1776 to Washington D.C. in 2014.
Part of that implied revolution, it seems, is Perry doing what he says the federal government will not, sealing of the border. He received a full standing ovation, the only one of his speech, when he referenced his sending the National Guard to the border.
"He was positioning himself on foreign policy," said Robbie Edwardes, a self-proclaimed dope-smoking conservative from Colorado attending the summit. Perry focused on the border, as well as the president's struggle to find a coherent strategy to battle ISIS extremists in Iraq and Syria, to ready himself for a 2016 run at the White House.
Jack Edgar, a DFW resident who was sitting on an Omni balcony smoking cigarettes with Edwardes thought Perry did as well as could be expected with his speech, but expressed doubts about his future.
"I don't think he's prepared to be president," Edgar said. "I think he's just an establishment politician. He doesn't have a chance."
Nevertheless, Edgar made it clear he thought Perry would do a better job than President Obama. Any of the 3,000 people in that room would, he said, even the "grannies" and kids.
Perry's not mentioning the indictment didn't matter to either Edwardes or Edgar. The T-shirts Perry made commemorating the indictment were smart, Edgar said, but enough is enough.
"I think he's overdone it," he said. "He made a good choice not mentioning it."
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