Gorham, New Hampshire (CNN)Rick Perry argued Thursday night that the controversy involving Hillary Clinton and her emails "was just a lot of drama" and reflects a broader problem with the former secretary of state and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Rick Perry is tired of Clinton drama
"Seeing two days of this being played out on our TVs and newspapers and radios, I'm reminded of the drama of the Clintons, whether it's Watergate or Travelgate or this issue or that issue," the former Texas governor told CNN in an interview in New Hampshire.
"Travelgate" is the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton's decision in the early '90s as first lady to fire members of the White House travel office. Regarding Watergate, Perry's spokesman said he misspoke and was referring to Whitewater, a scandal involving real estate investments by the Clintons, rather than Watergate, the controversy that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.
Republicans of course have not been shy in their attacks against Clinton, who's considered the all-but-certain Democratic nominee should she pursue a likely presidential bid in 2016.
But Perry is one of the first prospective presidential contenders to blast Clinton following her blustery press conference on Tuesday, when she admitted it was a mistake to only use her personal email account for government business during her time at the State Department.
"I think Americans are looking for somebody to come into Washington D.C. and to get away from all of this drama that we've seen from Secretary Clinton over the course of the last few days," Perry said. "I think they're ready for someone who is not a Washington creation."
The former governor, who's on a two-day swing through the first-in-the-nation primary state, also weighed in on the recent shootings of police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, calling the incident an "awful tragedy."
Asked about the state of race relations in the United States, Perry hit the Obama administration for failing to use what he called constructive rhetoric.
"We need to be working together and bringing people together to heal these wounds and not to scratch the scabs open," he said. "Dealing with this issue, it's important for the president of the United States, or for that matter for the governors of the states, to have words that heal, not words that divide."
Pressed later for specifics on when the president has "scratched the scabs open" on racial issues, his spokesperson said the former governor was making a wider point about what he sees as the president's "divisiveness."
"The Governor was referencing President Obama's willingness to pit man against woman, old against young, and rich against poor which results in divisiveness," said Travis Considine in an email. "Gov. Perry believes Americans need to unite and overcome the great challenges facing our country on the economy and foreign policy."
The shootings in Ferguson came not long after a Justice Department report revealed accounts of racism among the city's police department and court officials, resulting in the resignation of the police chief less than a year after the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Obama said last week he doesn't consider the problem in Ferguson "typical" but argued it's "not an isolated incident."
"I think there are circumstances in which trust between communities and law enforcement have broken down, and individuals or entire departments may not have the training or the accountability to make sure they are protecting serving all people, and not just some," he said in an interview that aired on SiriusXM's "Urban View" channel.
While holding four events in New Hampshire on Thursday, Perry largely focused on making his 14-year tenure as Texas governor a key selling point as he prepares for a likely presidential run, this time with a revamped and more disciplined style than his gaffe-prone campaign for the presidential nomination in 2012.
Like many of the other governors angling towards a bid at the White House, Perry is focusing on the need for a president with executive skills and drawing a sharp contrast with Obama, using his own handling of the Ebola cases in Texas last year as an example to illustrate executive prowess.
Perry also hit the Obama administration repeatedly on the economy, and, like he did in the 2012 cycle, pointed to job growth in Texas, which was largely immune to the most recent recession.
He has also been studying up on foreign policy and forcefully stood by the controversial letter Senate Republicans wrote to Iran warning that any nuclear agreement must be approved by Congress.
"I feel comfortable that we'll be able to sit or stand on the stage with the competition and have a really good back and forth," Perry told CNN, talking about his efforts to sharpen his knowledge of domestic and foreign policy. The former governor underwent an embarrassing moment in a 2011 debate--in which he forgot the third of three federal agencies he'd like to cut--that was widely viewed as the kiss of death of his unsuccessful campaign.
The governor continues with another busy day on Friday that will take him on five stops across New Hampshire. Perry, whose time as governor ended in January, said he plans on making his 2016 decision by late May or early June and dismissed his low single-digit standing in the polls.
"A year out from the New Hampshire primaries I'm not sure it means anything," he said.