Texas Governor Rick Perry, the latest entrant in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, said it would be “almost treacherous — or treasonous” for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to increase stimulus spending before the 2012 election.
“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what you would do with him,” Perry said yesterday at a backyard appearance in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“We would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous — or treasonous — in my opinion.”
Perry, traveling across Iowa, was asked at the fundraiser, what he would do about the central bank.
“We have to learn the lessons of the past three years that they’ve been devastating,” he said. “The president of the United States has conducted an experiment on the American economy for almost the last three years, and it has gone tragically wrong.”
When first questioned about the central bank’s policies, Perry said he would “take a pass on the Federal Reserve.” Asked in a follow-up interview whether he thought the Fed was playing politics to help President Barack Obama win re-election, ABCnews.com reported, he said: “If they print more money between now and this election, I would suggest that’s exactly what’s going on.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney criticized Perry’s remarks today, saying the governor’s statement “threatening” Bernanke was “not a good idea.”
Carney told reporters traveling with Obama, who is also in Iowa, that any candidate for president should consider the impact of statements about an independent entity such as the Fed. “The Fed’s independence is important,” he said.
Mark Miner, a Perry spokesman, didn’t directly respond to a query for comment on whether his boss was threatening the Fed chairman.
“The governor was expressing his frustration with the current economic situation and the out-of-control spending that persists in Washington,” Miner said in a statement. “Most Americans would agree that spending more money is not the answer to the economic issues facing the country.”
Democrats quickly pounced on Perry’s statement.
“On just day three of his campaign, Rick Perry said he would have allowed the U.S. to default on its debts, and unleashed inflammatory schoolboy taunts at the chairman of the Federal Reserve,” Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said in an statement. “Suddenly, the rest of the Republican field is looking positively thoughtful.”
Cornelius Hurley, a law professor at Boston University who was once an assistant general counsel to the Fed’s Board of Governors, said he was “chilled” by Perry’s remarks.
“You just can’t run around shooting your mouth off and talking about the Federal Reserve and talking about treason and getting ugly,” said Hurley, who called himself a“disenchanted” Obama supporter. “That’s just not appropriate.”
Hurley said there is a long history of tension between politicians and the Fed, although he said Perry has reached new heights.
“I have never heard the rhetoric ramped up the way Governor Perry did,” he said. “That’s a very troubling development. We expect more of our president and should expect more of our presidential candidates.”
Brian Gardner, senior vice president for Washington research at Keefe Bruyette & Woods Inc., said Perry’s comments were aimed at Tea Party activists who are skeptical of the Fed and would have little impact on investors.
“Investors are focused on things other than the presidential race,” he said. “If it becomes clear that he’s going to be the nominee or if it looks like he could win the general election, then investors will start to pay attention.”
Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has opposed additional quantitative easing and with two other Fed presidents dissented from a pledge by the Federal Open Market Committee to hold interest rates near zero until at least mid-2013. “We’ve exhausted our ammunition, in my view,” Fisher said on July 13.
James Hoard, a spokesman for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said the bank declined to comment on Perry’s remarks.
On the Soapbox
Perry, 61, started yesterday at the Iowa State Fair, touting his economic record and fielding reporters’ questions as he sought to distinguish himself from his two leading rivals for the Republican presidential nomination: Representative Michele Bachmann and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
In remarks made at the Des Moines Register’s “soapbox” fair stage, Perry also drew an apparent comparison between himself and the president, as he praised military service.
“A guy like me can stand up on a soapbox at the Iowa State Fair and talk freely about freedom and liberty and America and that we are an exceptional country and we’re going to stay an exceptional country,” Perry said. “We don’t need anybody apologizing anywhere in this world about America. I get a little bit passionate about that. That’s OK. I think you want a president that is passionate about America, that’s in love with America.”
Question for Obama
At the event in Cedar Rapids later, a reporter asked Perry whether he was suggesting that Obama doesn’t love America.
“You need to ask him,” Perry responded, according to ABCNews.com. “I’m saying, you’re a good reporter, go ask him.”
Pat Buchanan, a Republican who has sought his party’s nomination for president and is now a commentator on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, said today: “I think Perry has probably made some statements he’s going to have to walk back a bit.”
Buchanan, who ran in Republican primaries in 1992 and 1996, said: “In presidential politics I think you ought not to ask or imply that someone doesn’t love his country, especially the president of the United States.”
Perry, asked at the fair why he would be a stronger opponent for Obama than Bachmann, said: “Our records are pretty easy to find and 10 years of being an executive, running a state the size of Texas, matters. It’s pretty hard to argue that we haven’t created a job-creating machine in the state of Texas and I think that’s what people are looking for.”
‘Apples to Apples’
Questioned on how he is different from Romney, who promotes his private-industry experience that includes helping found the Boston-based venture capital firm Bain Capital LLC, Perry responded: “Check his record in Massachusetts when he was governor, and I think you’ve got some apples to apples.”
Discussing Romney’s private-sector background, Perry said he had some, too, from his time as a rancher before entering full-time elected office. He kept much of his focus on Obama, saying the president had to “get rid of the regulations that are stifling jobs in America.”
Obama was in Iowa yesterday as part of a three-day campaign-style tour through the Midwest, concentrating on his policies for job creation. The president is making another appearance today at a rural economic forum in Peosta, Iowa.
Perry was praising the economic gains of Texas as he sought support in the state that will host the first caucuses for the Republican presidential nomination early next year.
“We can take those same low-tax, low-regulation, low- lawsuit theories and you implement it at the national level,” he said.
Texas added more than 900,000 jobs from December 2000 -- when he became governor -- to December 2010, according to the U.S. Labor Department. It ranked 45th in the country for state and local tax burden on income in fiscal 2009, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research program in Washington.
Democrats challenged Perry’s claims, saying many of the jobs have been low wage.
“Governor Perry fits a little bit of the stereotype that some people have of Texas,” Texas Representative Lloyd Doggett told reporters on a conference call. “He’s a little big for his boots, there’s a little swagger and he’s really big on miracles, especially miracles that he thinks that he’s performed.”
Perry and Bachmann, 55, are the two candidates best- positioned as alternatives to Romney, 64, who leads in national polls and fundraising among Republicans. Bachmann boosted her prospects by winning the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 13, a contest in which Romney didn’t actively compete and Perry’s name wasn’t listed on the ballot.
Perry, the longest-serving U.S. governor and an early Tea Party supporter, formally declared his candidacy Aug. 13 in South Carolina.
He was elected lieutenant governor in 1998 and took over the top job shortly after then-Governor George W. Bush won the presidency in November 2000.
Perry was asked whether another Texan will face difficulties running for president after Bush’s two terms.
“Our records are quite different,” he said. “I went to Texas A&M. He went to Yale.”