During Thursday night’s debate, Rick Perry was asked the toughest and most substantive foreign policy question of the evening. Moderator Bret Baier wanted to know what Perry would do first, as president, if he received a 3 a.m. phone call “telling [him] that Pakistan had lost control of its nuclear weapons at the hands of the Taliban.”
Here was Perry’s response in full:
Well, obviously before you ever get to that point, you have to build a relationship in that region. That’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Just yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with, and that’s a terrorist group, directly associated with the Pakistani country. To have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States. For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16s, we chose not to do that. We did the same thing with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them. Today, we don’t have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.
“I didn’t frankly understand what Governor Perry meant or said in response to that,” Rick Santorum said after the debate. During the debate, Santorum responded just after Perry’s question by saying “we should be establishing relationships in Pakistan with allies of ours” within the country, like Pervez Musharraf.
Eric Fehrnstrom, an adviser for Mitt Romney, called Perry’s answer “completely unintelligible,” “rambling,” and “incoherent.”
Kansas governor Sam Brownback, a Perry supporter, spoke to THE WEEKLY STANDARD after the debate about the question and Perry’s response. “I thought the initial response was accurate,” Brownback said. “You gotta have a relationship to know what’s going on. I’ve worked with the Pakistanis, and particularly in Pakistan you need a relationship, because the country’s a pretty unstable place, and it’s run by the army. You gotta know the guy that’s the head of the place."