BEDFORD, N.H. — In one of his first visits to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday attacked President Obama on job creation and hit back at critics who had blasted him for questioning the integrity of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben. S. Bernanke.
“I got in trouble about talking about the Federal Reserve. ... I got lectured about that yesterday,” the Republican said during the storied Politics and Eggs breakfast at Saint Anselm College here.
He was referring to remarks he made Monday night in Iowa that Bernanke would be committing a “treasonous” act if he adopted another round of so-called quantitative easing — the buying of Treasury bonds to pump more cash into the economy. He said that such action would be an obvious political attempt to help President Obama win reelection.
Perry was quickly excoriated by Democrats and Republicans — including former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove — for the attack on Bernanke.
On Wednesday, he sought to explain his views and shifted his focus from the Fed chief to the agency itself, which he said should open its books.
“There have been a number of politicians who have stood up and really questioned the transparency of the Federal Reserve,” Perry said. “They should open their books up. They should be transparent so that the people of the United States know what they are doing and how they are doing. If they would simply open up and be transparent ... until they do that, there will continue to be questions about their activity and what their true goal is for the United States.”
Perry also went after the president, who had dismissed as a rookie’s mistake comments from Perry that as a veteran he would get greater respect from those who serve in the military than would the sitting president.
“Yesterday the president said I needed to watch what I say,” Perry said. “I just want to respond back to say: Mr. President, actions speak louder than words. My actions helped create jobs in Texas. The president’s actions are killing jobs in America.”
At an afternoon event touring a manufacturing facility in Nashua, Perry took more questions and repeated what is becoming the core of his stump speech. “We need to get America working again,” he said. “People will hear me say this over and over.”
In a roundtable with business leaders after the factory tour, Perry argued for a program that would create a zero tax rate for corporations that have money in offshore accounts to return that money to the U.S. without penalty as long as it is used for job creation.
George Katis, an executive of Nashua wallpaper company and independent voter, attended the roundtable and said he liked Perry’s ideas about taxes but his appeal to independents is still being tested.
“He didn’t sound like a far-right winger like the media has been making him out,” Katis said. “I feel that someone from the far right-wing of the party is going to have a hard time getting elected.”
Katis, who favors overhauling immigration law, asked the candidate how he would handle the issue of immigration, looking for a moderate response that included a path to legalization for illegal immigrants.
“Six weeks ago the president went to El Paso and said the border had never been more secure,” Perry responded. “I don’t know what border he was talking about. Maybe the Canadian border.”
Perry said he would be willing to have a “an adult, grown up conversation” about the fate of the nation’s undocumented immigrants after the border is secured.
The governor drew one of the larger crowds in recent memory to the stately Bedford Village Inn for the breakfast, which has become a rite of passage for politicking in this first-in-the-nation primary state. Here politicians both eat eggs and sign boiled eggs. Perry kept his turn in the bright spotlight that has followed him since he entered the race Saturday by continuing to position himself as a say-what-he-wants candidate who could appeal to both fiscal and social conservatives.
The crowd, made up of local business and political leaders, responded lightly. There were few moments of applause.
“He’s different than what we see in New Hampshire,” Leann Moccia, chairman of a council that trains Republican women for political service, said of Perry, who arrived wearing a purple pinstripe shirt and tie. “He’s clearly pro-business, and that’s exactly what we need. I’m really looking for somebody who can beat the president.”
Moccia was said she was taken aback by Perry’s assertions about Bernanke but counted it as a beginner’s error.
The questions that came at Perry from the New Hampshire voters gathered here bounced among topics. He was asked about a passage in a book he authored that is skeptical of the science on global warming, about whether he could justify the expense of capital punishment to the criminal justice system and about the low rate of corporate taxes paid by General Electric.
Perry called global warming “still a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective has more and more been put into question.”
“I do think global warming has been politicized,” he added. “We are seeing almost weekly or even daily scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that manmade global warming is what is causing our climate to change. Yes our climate has changed. It has been changing ever since the Earth was formed. But I do not buy into a group of scientists who have in some cases have been found to be manipulating data.”
Perry said that he “can’t explain” the corporate tax rate enjoyed by GE. “The fact of the matter is the idea that just because you have a good relationship with the political world in Washington, D.C. ... is not a good enough reason that you are not paying your fair share,” he said.
On capital punishment, the Texas governor said it was a state issue that Texans support by overwhelming majorities.
Perry’s late entry into the race is still creating buzz as early-state voters get their first looks at him. Both Perry and fellow GOP candidate Romney — who so far has not campaigned hard in Iowa — plan to compete vigorously in New Hampshire. While Perry stumped at the breakfast, the former Massachusetts governor toured a steel company in the northern part of this small state. Perry did not mention Romney in his remarks.
One of the key questions for Perry in New Hampshire is whether voters are ready for another politician wearing fat belt buckles and cowboy boots. Perry is the longest-serving governor of Texas, and a Texan has occupied the White House in 17 of the past 48 years.
Moccia, who said she is undecided, said she had supported President George W. Bush and doesn’t mind the swagger.
“I can tell from how he presents himself is he is different,” she said. “He’s Texas, but his presentation is different from Bush, who went to Yale.”
Perry is trying hard to strike a kinship. This is his second trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate. On Sunday, he attended a house party in Greenland, where he made his appeal to libertarian Republicans.
“I feel right at home amongst people whose motto is ‘Live Free or Die,’” he said.
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