Rick Perry's Pitch: I'm the Highly Seasoned Airplane Pilot America Needs

In a post-presidential announcement interview with Sean Hannity, the former Texas governor emphasized the importance of candidates' records over rhetoric.

As Rick Perry sees it, it's the 1980 election cycle all over again, and he's here to turn the country around—Reagan-style.

In an interview with Sean Hannity broadcast Thursday night, Perry fashioned himself, as he has in recent months, as the only presidential contender with enough executive experience to fix what needs mending in America. "We've been down before," Perry said, ticking off a list of events from the late 1970s and early 1980s to support his metaphor: the grain embargo, the Iran hostage crisis, low participation in the workforce, and the Olympic boycott.

"Ten years later, we saw the Berlin Wall fall and Soviet communism defeated because we elected a president that believed and knew that when America is strong, the world is safer," said the former two-term Texas governor. "It's time to do that again."

Perry's appearance on Hannity's Fox News show was taped just after he announced his intention to run for president on Thursday. Backed by a throng of supporters at the interview—one of whom carried a homemade sign featuring Perry's now-signature glasses—he said the 2016 Republican field is a talented one. But he emphasized that the focus should be "not who gives the most explosive speech and maybe has you on the edge of your chair," but who has the most impressive record of leadership.

Asked about his opinion of the GOP senators in the race, Perry offered praise—to a point.

"They all have a very, very important role to play," he said. "But government is kind of one of the only places where somehow or another experience gets downgraded. Again, I go back to that analogy I use that if you're going to fly from Dallas to London, do you want to get on an airplane that's got a very high-timed seasoned pilot sitting in the front-left seat, or do you want somebody that gives a heck of a speech and can tell you about all the aerodynamics and "¦ meteorology, but only has 150 hours of flying that particular airplane? You're going to have your family in the most experienced position they can be."

Perry called himself a fan of Lindsey Graham—"the only other person that's worn the uniform of the country" in the race—and said fellow Texan Ted Cruz is "an incredibly bright, capable patriot" who's "one of the great debaters of all time."

"I think he's doing a fabulous job in the United States Senate," Perry said. But "I'm biased here. That's where I think his highest and best use is at this particular point in time."

Perry repeatedly cited his governance of the "12th-largest economy in the world" and said when he was in Austin, business people knew "they weren't going to be overtaxed, overregulated." Certain measures he supported made the state a better return on investment, he said, for the "men and women who risked their capital" by establishing their companies in Texas: tort reform, improved high school graduation rates, and a more skilled workforce.

"That's the kind of leadership we need in this country," Perry said, "to be able to lower that corporate tax rate, to be able to use the energy policies, to be able to reduce those regulations that give disincentives for people to work. And a president has the ability to do that, working with Congress. I mean, I'll find those economic ways to reach across the aisle and work with the Democrats and the Republicans."

But as Perry asks voters to look at his record, there's one item he no doubt hopes will be examined with a sympathetic eye: his indictment.

The governor was indicted in August 2014 on charges that he "misused government property" by vetoing funding for a state ethics department and attempted to coerce a state employee.

He defended his actions in the interview with Hannity and said, "I would do what I did again," calling the 2016 election the "more important issue" at stake.

"I have full confidence that the courts are going to deal with this," Perry said. "We're talking about the future of America."