He has been in the presidential race for barely more than a long weekend, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry is shooting from the hip and aiming squarely at Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.
Speaking at a small gathering of supporters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, Perry was asked about his feelings about the central bank and another round of quantitative easing, the policy of having the Fed buy Treasury securities as a way to stimulate the economy.
Perry smiled and said: “I’ll take a pass on the Federal Reserve right at the moment,” according to video posted by the liberal group Think Progress.
But Perry has never been known for his campaign subtlety and said more such easing would be a form of politics designed to help President Obama in 2012. He then donned his rhetorical 10-gallon hat and political spurs to lash into Bernanke.
“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what you all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” Perry said, presenting the kind of tough guy image that goes with being a straight shooter the Lone Star state.
Berating the central bank has a long and cherished political history in the United States going back the early days of the republic when Alexander Hamilton and his opponents battled over monetary policy and debt. Banks have been the heartless villains (are there any other kind?) that populists love to hate and easy political targets in every economic downturn since even before the Fed was established in 1913.
Now, however, the Fed’s role has taken on new urgency in the wake of the most recent economic meltdown, and Bernanke’s policies have come under fire from both the left and the right.
Interestingly, Perry’s comments denigrating the Fed follow in the footsteps of Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian from Texas, who is one of Perry’s rivals for the presidential nomination. Paul on Monday released a video ad branding Perry — along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann — as “smooth-talking politicians” akin to Obama.
Perry showed that “smooth-talking” might be a trifle overstated on Monday. He also said he would be a president who is “passionate about America — that's in love with America.”
Asked whether he was suggesting that Obama didn't love his country, Perry replied: “You need to ask him,” prompting complaints from Democrats that Perry had gone too far by impugning the president's patriotism.