Perry's secession rhetoric no joke for top U.S. trade official

WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Tuesday night primary win in his bid for re-election prompted chuckles in the nation's capital over his past remarks favoring the Lone Star State's secession from the United States. One person not laughing, however, is Ron Kirk.

The former Dallas mayor and current U.S. Trade Representative was asked jokingly about Perry's win, at the end of an hourlong lunch with Washington journalists. He didn't pull punches, suggesting he found no humor in the question.

"I just wish those of you in the press would then ask, even if it's tongue-in-cheek, so what does this (secession) mean then?

"For a state that unfortunately ranks in the bottom in investment in education and health care for our kids, leads the nation in the number of people that are unemployed, and you want to pull out of the country? And tell me, where you going to find the money to pay for Medicare with one of the highest growing senior populations in the country," Kirk replied, growing more angry.

"In a state that's probably $2 billion underfunded in maintaining its own highways, and now you want to pull out of the United States and take away the billions of dollars you get from the federal government? How are you going to fix your infrastructure?" Then, Kirk added, there's the historical context of secession.

"But the thing that frustrates me most in this sense with you all is, you know, all of this "You want to go back.' To what? I grew up in the Jim Crow South. All this states rights, secession stuff, I know what it means for people of my parents' generation and me. And we fought too hard to get me to this point for me to be amused even a little bit by any of this states rights secession stuff," said Kirk, who's African-American.

"That's not an America that I want to go back to. I think America is a vastly richer country because of our diversity, because of our inclusion, because of our commitment to educating every child and giving everyone the opportunity to advance based on their abilities than the world some of these people want to go back to."

On a lighter note, Kirk said he didn't read too much nationally into Perry's victory over Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Perry, like newly seated Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, campaigned on an anti-Washington platform.

"I don't know that we learned a lot more from the primary. I thought it was fairly inventive of our governor to try to compare, what some people would perceive at least, the reasonably red state of Texas to an election result in Massachusetts in delivering some greater message," Kirk told reporters at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor newspaper.