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Posted at 04:21 PM ET, 08/16/2011

Rick Perry and the ‘treason’ card


Well. Right-wingers have always loved accusing those they disagree with of “treason,” and it didn’t take Gov. Rick Perry more than a few days to get there.

His target was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and, in truth, the Fed has long been a target of the far right. “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” Perry said. “Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost...treasonous in my opinion.”

Perry’s comments made me pull a very old book off the shelf. It was a right-wing best-seller in 1964 called “None Dare Call it Treason” that became a must-read during Barry Goldwater’s campaign (though the argument it made was to the right of where Goldwater was). Its author, John Stormer, a young Missouri Republican, didn’t see any difference among Communists, Fabian Socialists in Britain, Keynesians and American liberals. He linked them all together, insisting that

[T]he Fabians (gradualists) are socialists; that Keynesian economic policy is the path to socialism; that goals of communism and socialism are essentially the same; that New Deal welfare state proposals whether enacted by Democrats or Republicans are socialistic; that establishment of socialism will result in a curtailment of freedom; that socialism and communism appeal, not to the working class or the poverty stricken masses, but to the “liberal” intellectual, the college professor, and the turncoat businessman.

That kind of rhetoric sounds distressingly close to what some of our tea party friends are saying now. And as for Perry, you wonder if he is determined to make George W. Bush seem like Hubert Humphrey.

Now we could have an entire debate over what exactly constitutes economic “treason.” When unemployment is where it is right now, might it be “treasonous” if Bernanke failed to stimulate the economy for fear that right-wing demagogues might attack him for making President Obama’s re-election a little easier? Should Americans who are out of work have to endure another year or so of unemployment just because stimulating growth might hurt the chances that Perry or some other Republican might become president?

But, no, I won’t play the treason card. It’s a word that should not be used in the normal give-and-take of policy debate; it ought to be reserved for the real thing. And I’m glad to see some Republicans going after Perry for what he said. Tony Fratto, a former George W. Bush aide, called Perry’s comments “inappropriate and unpresidential.” Good for Fratto.

Above all, I hope Bernanke ignores Perry and all those who counsel him to act timidly. Lots of very smart middle-of-the road and even conservative economists think the economy could use another jolt. Bernanke should be thinking about the jobless, not Rick Perry.

By E.J. Dionne  |  04:21 PM ET, 08/16/2011

 
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