Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is taking the gloves off in his assault on Donald Trump, calling the man leading the GOP presidential polls “a cancer on conservatism” and “a barking carnival act.”
Perry, who sees a pathway to political resurrection after a disastrous 2012 campaign in his vocal criticism of the real estate magnate, used the striking language to criticize Trump at a forum organized by his super PAC, the Opportunity and Freedom PAC.
“The White House has been occupied by giants,” Perry said. “But from time to time it is sought by the small-minded – divisive figures propelled by anger, and appealing to the worst instincts in the human condition.”
“He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued,” Perry said. “Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”
Perry and Trump have been locked in a public feud marked by schoolyard taunts for weeks after the former Texas governor criticized Trump for suggesting that many people who have immigrated to the U.S. illegally from Mexico are “rapists.” Trump fired back by calling Perry weak on border security, while mocking his choice in glasses and questioning his intelligence.
Lagging in the polls and on the cusp of not qualifying for next month’s GOP debate, Perry encouraged his party to “beware of false prophets” like Trump. “Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment,” he said. “Resentment is the poison we swallow that we hope harms another. My fellow Republicans, don’t take the poison.”
Perry said Trump is the modern-day successor to the 1840’s “Know-Nothings” who blamed immigrants for the country’s ills.
“He espouses nativism, not conservatism,” Perry said. “He is negative when conservatism is inherently optimistic. He would divide us along bloodlines, when conservatives believe our policies will work for people of all backgrounds.”
Perry also laid into Trump for suggesting that Sen. John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured and imprisoned in Vietnam.
“Donald Trump was born into privilege,” Perry said. “He received deferments to avoid service in Vietnam. He breathes the free air thousands of heroes died protecting. And he couldn’t have endured for five minutes what John McCain endured for five and a half years.”
He also criticized Trump’s response to a question at a candidate forum on Saturday in which he said he could not recall ever asking God for forgiveness.
“A man too arrogant, too self-absorbed, to seek God’s forgiveness is precisely the type of leader John Adams prayed would never occupy the White House,” Perry added.