Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison criticized Governor Rick Perry in a speech to the local Republican Jewish Coalition this afternoon, claiming Texas has the country's highest property taxes, an education system with the worst dropout rate in the nation and a government growing faster than the federal government with more than 600 agencies. She said as governor she'd reform the Texas Department of Transportation.
"We have the most arrogant Texas Department of Transportation of any state agency in the history of America," she told the crowd of approximately 80 folks at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas. "Anyone who's dealt with them will tell you that."
Hutchison acknowledged that Texas is in "pretty good shape" compared to other areas of the country, but stressed that it's because Texas has no state income tax and is a right-to-work state -- two things Perry can't take credit for. She also cited cronyism within the state government, claimed Perry doubled the state's debt with payments extending beyond the useful life of what the money is spent on and said the reputations of universities have been damaged because Perry has been pressuring her supporters to resign from boards.
"I do think Texas is better off treading water than every other state, but I don't think treading water is good enough," she said.
Speaking on the anniversary of 9/11, Hutchison referred to the terrorist attacks as "horrific" and "really the awakening of a sleeping giant." She also touched on several national issues, including the Middle East and health care. Hutchison said President Barack Obama's recent health care speech to Congress was "much ado about nothing."
"He wasted a lot of capital by just coming out with nothing new," she said, claiming 85 percent of the country is happy with the current system, and Obama should instead focus on addressing the 15 percent who aren't. "He's going to tear down our system."
Hutchison said the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is the "strongest bond between two countries in world," and she criticized Obama for focusing too much on creating settlements in the country as opposed to the threat from Iran.
"Iran is on the road to a nuclear weapon if not already there," she said.
U.S. allies in Europe are unwilling to use leverage against Iran, she claimed, and said countries like Germany and France must put teeth into plans to prevent a conflict. While Hutchison said she isn't prepared to say what should be done unilaterally to solve the conflict, she did say, "Military is always an option, but I think it should always be such a last resort."
Hutchison also said she's starting to agree with columnist George Will about the U.S. involvement in Iraq. "Iraq is about ready to stand on its own. They are so ungrateful for anything that we have done in that country. [Nouri] al-Malki is almost arrogant about not needing the United States, and I think it's about time for us to take him up on our leaving and put our resources into Afghanistan, and obviously if we need to prepare for other fronts because our troops are worn out."
She urged everyone to help her build the Republican Party to include everyone who wants limited government and has conservative values, stressing the importance of the upcoming gubernatorial election next year.
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"If Texas goes Democrat, we will never elect a Republican president again -- not ever," she said. "We cannot do it."
Hutchison acknowledged Dallas County Republican Party chair Jonathan Neerman, who was in attendance along with city council member Ann Margolin and Laura Leppert, for doing "a super job building the Republican Party," at one point giving the impression that he may have thrown his endorsement her way. Neerman told Unfair Park that no such endorsement has been given, noting that she was likely referring to their commonality regarding broadening the party.
"We need to rebuild the Republican Party, and we need to do it by letting people in," Hutchison said. "I'm not going to change my philosophy. I just want all the people who agree with us to be with us."
We asked for the opportunity to ask Hutchison one question afterward, with her people requiring us to disclose the question beforehand, which referred to whether she in fact would be resigning from her senate seat considering Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (a potential candidate for the vacated seat) just announced that he's running for reelection. Hutchison's camp declined our request.