RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com)  —  Potential Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry brought attendees of a conservative-themed conference in Riverside to their feet by calling for “moral clarity” in national defense, federal deregulation, reformation of the tax code, and increased energy and border security.

“People want real hope and real leadership … after a season of division,” Perry told the crowd of around 1,000 gathered for the second annual Unite Inland Empire conference. “There’s nothing wrong with America today that
can’t be fixed with new leadership.”

The former Texas governor delivered a half-hour keynote address highlighting what sounded like a rough-sketch platform for a presidential run, though he didn’t definitively declare his intent to commit to a 2016 campaign.

“It may come as a surprise to a few of you here that I’ve been thinking a little bit about running,” Perry said to laughter. “The choice we face is whether our country can endure a future that looks like the recent past. We need to get to work to revive the `American Dream.”‘

Perry took aim at the Obama administration for what he characterized as equivocation in overseas crises, pointing to the belated response to the Islamic State rampage through Iraq and Syria, as well as the “toothless” diplomatic reactions to the Russian-backed insurrection in Ukraine and Iran’s reputed nuclear weapons program as examples.

“The only thing that tyrants respect is strength and resolve,” Perry told the crowd. “We need to rebuild our military and re-assert our moral authority (in world affairs). We need moral clarity, not confusion. Societies must be governed by western values and western laws. Extremists must understand that we’re not going to let them destroy our peace with their violent ideas.”

His assertion that America’s “porous” border with Mexico demanded increased security received an almost ecstatic response.

“The situation on our border is not a partisan issue,” the former governor said. “Trans-national gangs are exploiting the border crisis, trafficking in drugs, weapons and people.”

Perry underscored the importance of making America energy independent because “if energy is a weapon, we need to have the largest arsenal there is.”

Perry also said the federal tax code as a whole was overdue for an overhaul, describing it as an “albatross around the necks of people, rewarding a chosen few while burdening the rest of America.”

He lobbed criticism as the IRS for allegedly engaging in “political” investigations, alluding to evidence that the agency had singled out Tea Party organizations for audits. No mention was made of the fact the IRS has also looked into liberal and progressive groups.

The Unite IE Conference was organized by KTIE-AM (590), with sponsorships and support provided by more than a dozen organizations, including the Riverside Tea Party Patriots, the Menifee-based Constitution Association and the Banning-Beaumont-Cherry Valley Tea Party Patriots.

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