CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Texas Gov. Rick Perry turned his rhetorical fire on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke here Monday night, saying that the chairman would be committing a “treasonous” act if he tried to boost the economy with a decision to “print more money.”
Perry was responding to a question about “quantitative easing,” a monetary policy by which the government purchases Treasury bonds to inject more money into the economy, which he said would amount to a political attempt to help President Obama win reelection in 2012.
“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 of the possibility of another round of so-called quantitative easing in the money supply.
Perry, on his first swing through Iowa after announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, also had strong words of criticism for the president. He said Obama’s management of the economy has been an experiment that has “gone tragically wrong” and said the American people needed to send a signal of disgust in 2012 by voting him out of office.
Perry resumed his criticism of the president on Tuesday morning during an appearance at a roofing company in Cedar Rapids. “What America needs is jobs,” he said. “We don’t need symbolism.”
Meanwhile, spokesman Ray Sullivan declined to walk back the governor’s harsh remarks about Bernanke, though he did not repeat the charge of treason Perry leveled on Monday night. “The governor was passionate and energized by a full day” of campaigning, he said. “It was his way to talk about his views” on the budget and the country’s fiscal problems.
Asked if he thought the language had been too harsh, he said, “You’ll just have to listen to what the governor says every day. The message is going to evolve to be responsive to the news of the day.”
On Tuesday, Perry and Obama will appear fewer than 15 miles from each other, with the president holding an economic town hall meeting in rural Peosta, Iowa. Perry will hold an economic roundtable with business leaders in Dubuque.
With that in mind, Perry turned his attention away from Republican rival Mitt Romney, who was his target during a morning appearance at the Iowa State Fair, to focus on the president, his policies and his character.
The Republican candidate — who served in the Air Force from 1972-1977 — said he believed that the men and women in the armed forces would have more respect for a president who had served in the military than one who had not.
“That’s just a fact of life,” he said.
He then pointedly noted Obama’s lack of military service. “The president had the opportunity to serve his country I’m sure, at some time, and he made the decision that that wasn’t what he wanted to do,” he said.
At another point during a brief news conference here Monday night, Perry was asked about a comment earlier in the day, when he said people want a president who is passionate about the country and “is in love with America.” Asked whether he thought Obama did not love the country, he replied, “You need to ask him. I’m saying you’re a good reporter, go ask him.”
Perry began his day with a four-hour tour of the state fair in Des Moines. There he blew an air kiss to Romney for the cameras and said, “Give him my love.” Tweaking the former Massachusetts governor, who has not campaigned hard in Iowa and has so far signaled that he will not compete to win the caucuses next winter, Perry said, “If you’re not in Iowa, you ain’t happening.”
As the sun was setting in eastern Iowa, he offered a group of Republicans their first close-up look at the GOP’s newest presidential candidate. Using a prepared text that took repeated shots at the president, he talked and took questions for half an hour.
At the end of the session, he was asked about the Federal Reserve. At first, he demurred. But then he issued a warning to the chairman about the Fed’s monetary policy, though he did not identify Bernanke by name.
“Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion,” he added. “We already tried this. All it’s going to be doing is devaluing the dollar in your pocket, and we cannot afford that. We have to learn the lessons of the past three years. They’ve been devastating.”
The central bank has tried to use quantitative easing, a monetary policy by which the government purchases Treasury bonds to inject more money into the economy, to try to revive the struggling U.S. economy. Testifying last week before the House Financial Services Committee, Bernanke said he expects the economy to strengthen over the remainder of the year, but he indicated that if it does not, he would consider another round of quantitative easing.
Perry, when he met with reporters, was asked explicitly whether he was suggesting that such an action by the Fed would be strictly an attempt to help reelect the president. “If they print more money between now and this election I would suggest that’s exactly what’s going on,” he replied.
Perry’s comments drew a sharp rebuke by some commentators online Monday night. Tony Fratto, a former spokesman for President George W. Bush, tweeted: “Gov. Perry’s comments about Chmn. Bernanke are inappropriate and unpresidential.”
Perry’s remarks about the military’s respect for presidents grew out of a statement he made at a Republican dinner Sunday night in Waterloo. “One of the powerful reasons that I’m running for the presidency of the United States is to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of this country respects highly the president of the United States,” he said.
Pressed Monday to explain whether he was suggesting that the military does not respect Obama, he replied: “No.”
“I think people who have had the same experiences, connect with individual of like experiences. That’s human nature.”
He said that if a poll were taken of the military asking whether they would rather have a president who never served in the military or someone who is a veteran, “They’re going to say, I would venture, that they would like to have a veteran. Someone who has been in their shoes, someone who has faced some of the same things that they’ve faced.”
Perry also drew a series of sharp contrasts with Obama on economic, energy and education policy. “I think the greatest threat to our country right now is this president who is trying to spend our way out of this disaster,” he said. He urged Iowans to ask the president “where are the jobs you promised?” and “what is his plan to stop the record deficit spending and restore our good credit?”
Emphasizing his pro-business, free-market philosophy, he called on Obama to put a six-month freeze on all new federal regulations. “Mr. President, let our job creators off the mat,” he said. “Get your foot off the neck of those who are trying to create jobs in this country.”
He said he favored phasing out federal subsides to the ethanol producers, once a touchy subject for presidential candidates campaigning in a state that is a heavy producer of ethanol. Perry said ethanol is now a “mature industry” and should be able to rise or fall on its own.
But when asked whether he thought oil and gas producers should see their tax incentives eliminated, he turned the question around and said he would be open to a conversation about offering incentives to ethanol producers.
He also accused the Obama administration of trying to “strangle the energy industry in America.”
On education, he critiqued not only Obama but also the last Republican president, George W. Bush, who espoused a stronger federal role in education than many Republicans supported at the time. Bush successfully pushed for enactment of the No Child Left Behind act, which set federal standards for accountability.
“I don’t think the federal government has a role in your children’s education,” Perry said, adding, “The federal government has no business telling you how to educate your children. They have intruded into so many different areas in our lives and that’s one of the things that I hope to be able to do, working with Congress, trying to make Washington, as I said, as inconsequential in your lives as we can.”
In Cedar Rapids, Perry was introduced by his wife, Anita. She said a woman at the state fair asked her whether her husband would be as good a president as Bush.
“I said, ‘Well, Ma’am, he would be better,” Anita Perry said. “He’s my husband.”
Staff writer Philip Rucker contributed to this report.
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