Rick Perry Talks Iraq and His ‘Love Affair’ With Guns

(Dave Weaver/AP Photo)

MERRILL, Iowa — Texas Gov. Rick Perry said today he would never announce a date for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, the way President Obama did, but one thing he didn’t care to keep secret was what he called his “long love affair” with guns.

Perry, speaking  before heading off for a pheasant hunt with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, at Loess Hills Hunting Preserve in Merrill, Iowa, implied that Obama may be putting American troops at risk by announcing that there will be a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year.

“Most importantly you don’t tell the enemy what your timetable is going to be,” Perry said. ” This administration has signaled, telegraphed its intentions all too often, and that’s just unacceptable.

“The last thing that you want to do is put those men and women’s lives in peril, and I think that’s what the president’s done by making a political statement to his base that he’s going to be out of Iraq on a date certain,” Perry said. “That’s just bad public policy, but it’s — more importantly, it’s bad tactics from a commander’s standpoint. He needs to be working with the commanders on a timetable to remove those troops but obviously not telling the bad guys when it’s going to happen.”

Wearing a khaki and bright orange hunting vest with a half khaki, half camouflage baseball hat, Perry refused to specify how many troops he would keep in Iraq if he was president but said he would consult with the commanders on the ground to develop a plan he would likely not broadcast to the public.

An avid hunter and strong defender of the second amendment, Perry shared his history with guns and hunting, calling it a “love affair” he developed at a young age.

“It was a long love affair with a boy and his gun that turned into a man and his gun, and it turned into a man and his son and his daughter and their guns,” he said. “It’s, I think, one of the great American traditions is taking your family hunting.

“I wish my son and my daughter were here with us today,” he said. “They would truly enjoy this, but from my perspective that’s part of America is walking across that hillside with one of your children hunting whatever it might be, being able to teach the safety, being able to teach the use of firearms, respect them and obviously the ability to protect yourself and your family if that’s required and to know those skills and that very important part of protecting America and defending the second amendment.”

Perry refused to elaborate on his new economic plan, which will feature a flat tax proposal, that he is scheduled to unveil Tuesday in South Carolina. But he repeated the attack he launched last week at the debate in Las Vegas on Mitt Romney for hiring of a lawn service company that employed illegal immigrants, saying that fueled the problem of illegal immigration in this country.

“The magnet of jobs is what has driven these people to come to the United States and the failure of the federal government to secure that border has then put the burden upon the states to have to deal with these issues,” he said. “And you know, Mitt stands back and makes statements about criticizing Texas for how they’ve had to deal with an issue that the federal government and people like himself are the problem.”

Perry had breakfast with King before the hunt, but the congressman — who is considered something of a king-maker in Iowa politics — said the invitation did not signal any type of endorsement for the Texas governor.

“I’m conflicted in all of this because I have so much respect for all the candidates,” King said. “I agree with all I’ve heard here this morning, and we had a good in-depth conversation a couple of weeks, ago but as I said I want these candidates to come to Iowa, be active and have access to and engage the activists here in Iowa. This country’s going to be better off with a Rick Perry or any other candidates as president of the United States, from my standpoint.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is expected to accompany King on a pheasant hunt Sunday.

This weekend marks Perry’s sixth trip to Iowa since announcing his run for the presidency. While Perry is campaigning in Iowa, his alma mater, Texas A&M, is playing Iowa State in Ames, and the Texas governor and former yell leader did not hide his dedication to the Aggies.

“I’m for the Aggies. I don’t get confused about who I’m for. When my beloved Texas Aggies are playing, I’m on the sidelines rooting for the Aggies. Even standing in Iowa,” Perry said. “I’m not going to be one of those people that roll into Iowa and say, ‘Yeah, I’m for the cyclones because I’m running for office.’ People see through that real quick.”

After the pheasant hunt, Perry is scheduled to travel to Wilton, Iowa for a barbeque at the Kaufmann Family Farm before speaking at a forum sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Des Moines. But even with a full day campaigning ahead, Perry was not shy about showing his excitement for the morning hunting trip, a first for him this campaign season.

“It’s tweet time,” Perry said, tossing his phone to an aide to capture him posing with King in front of the Loess Hills Hunting Preserve sign. The governor then sent out the photo on his personal Twitter account.

As he walked to his silver suburban to drive out to a morning of pheasant hunting, the Texas governor said, “Let’s go to work and have some fun.”