In Texas, Governor Rick Perry could comment about secession from the United States and letting college students pack concealed weapons without attracting much attention beyond the state’s borders.
As his campaign for the White House gets under way, Perry’s talk in Iowa earlier this week of wanting a chief executive who loves America and his warning to Ben S. Bernanke that things could get “ugly” for the Federal Reserve chairman in Texas if he tries additional, “almost treasonous,” monetary stimulus gained an instant national audience. Today, campaigning in New Hampshire, Perry dismissed humankind’s effect on climate change as an unproven theory.
Perry’s comments, especially his attack on Bernanke, have raised questions about whether his rhetoric will undercut his political aspirations.
“You just can’t run around shooting your mouth off and talking about the Federal Reserve and talking about treason and getting ugly,” said Cornelius Hurley, a law professor at Boston University and a former assistant general counsel to the Fed’s Board of Governors. “That’s just not appropriate.”
Hurley, a self-described “disenchanted” supporter of President Barack Obama, says while tension has long existed between politicians and the Fed, Perry took it to new heights.
‘Ramped Up’ Rhetoric
“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.”
Perry’s comment about Bernanke and his remark about the U.S. needing a president “that’s in love with America” -- implying to some that he was saying Obama isn’t -- and his stand on global warming may play well with Tea Party activists and social conservatives central to his bid for the 2012 Republican nomination. In the general election, though, such comments may pose a problem for him in swing states like Ohio and Florida, analysts said.
“Texas is a big state with rough-and-tumble politics, but when you get to that national stage, everyone is going to be looking closely,” said Tim Hagle, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa. “Sometimes you get into a bit of a culture clash with these sort of things.”
Perry, during a backyard appearance two days ago in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cautioned against Bernanke making any move 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. “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.”
This morning, campaigning in Bedford, New Hampshire, Perry acknowledged that his comment sparked a political firestorm.
“I got in trouble talking about the Federal Reserve yesterday,” he told a group of state business and political leaders. “I got lectured.”
Still, he said, until greater transparency measures are put in place, concerns such as his will be raised about the Fed.
“Until they do that, there will continue to be questions about their activity and what their true goal is for the United States,” Perry said.
He fired back at the White House, which criticized his comments yesterday.
“The president said I needed to watch what I say,” Perry said this morning. “I just want to respond back, if I may. Mr. President, actions speak louder than words. And my actions as governor are helping create jobs in this country. The president’s actions are killing jobs in this country.”
He took another jab at Obama later, questioning the president’s immigration policy while visiting Resonetics LLC, a micro-manufacturing company in Nashua, New Hampshire.
“‘Six weeks ago the president went to El Paso and said the border is safer than it’s ever been,” he told a group of business leaders. “Maybe he was talking about the Canadian border.”
Though Perry, 61, has been known as a disciplined candidate and has never lost an election during almost three decades in politics, his readiness for heightened scrutiny of a presidential campaign is one of the major tests he now faces.
“You never really know how people are going to perform until you see them out there,” David Axelrod, Obama’s senior strategist, said in an interview last week. “This is a guy who has never done this before. It’s harder than it looks.”
Republicans were among those viewing the Bernanke remark as a stumble. Karl Rove, a Texan who was former President George W. Bush’s longtime political adviser, chided Perry for “a very unfortunate comment.”
In an interview on Fox News yesterday, Rove said Perry “is going to have to fight the impression that he’s a cowboy from Texas. This simply added to it.”
Before his Bernanke comment, Perry had raised questions with remarks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines drawing an apparent comparison between himself and Obama.
‘Passionate About America’
“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.”
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. “You’re a good reporter, go ask him.”
In Bedford today, Perry said he doesn’t believe human activity contributes to climate change. Climate scientists haven’t been totally truthful about their research, he said.
“There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects,” Perry said. “I think we’re seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists that are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”
He said that, while some want billions of taxpayer dollars spent to address the matter, he doesn’t want to be engaged in spending money on a scientific theory that has not been proven.
The Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) over the past 100 years, with about one degree occurring over the past three decades, according to a May report from the National Research Council of the National Academies.
A “preponderance” of scientific evidence shows that the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases is the “most likely” cause of most warming during the past 50 years, the report found.
Previous Perry statements include his 2009 suggestion that Texas might consider secession from the U.S.
The governor was appearing at an April 15 anti-tax rally in Austin, the Texas capital, where people in the crowd were yelling, “Secede!” In response, Perry said: “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”
Earlier this year, Perry supported legislation to permit Texas college students to carry concealed weapons on campus, a bill that failed to pass.
White House press secretary Jay Carney criticized Perry’s Fed remarks yesterday, calling “threatening” Bernanke “not a good idea.” Carney told reporters traveling with Obama on a three-day Midwestern bus tour 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.”
Sandy Leeds, a senior lecturer in finance at the University of Texas in Austin, called Perry’s remark “completely inappropriate” and argued that the Fed’s recent policy has helped Texas.
“If anything, quantitative easing pushed money into risky assets such as oil and this has helped Texas,” he said. “The idea that the Fed shouldn’t do something when we are 14 or 15 months away from a general election has no standing.”
Perry’s entrance into the race last weekend has reshaped the Republican field, forcing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who won the Aug. 13 Iowa Straw Poll of Republican activists, to compete against a brash new rival.