I asked Rick Perry’s spokesman if the campaign is offering clarification of his widely discussed suggestion yesterday that Texas would offer some “real ugly” frontier justice to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke if he were to print money between now and election day.
The spokesman, Mark Miner, emailed me this:
The Governor was expressing his frustration with the current economic situation and the out of control spending that persists in Washington. Most Americans would agree that spending more money is not the answer to the economic issues facing the country.
The important thing here is that this is the Perry camp’s official considered response — and he is not disavowing the implied threat in his original remarks. Instead, the campaign’s position seems to be that this was a legitimate expression of “frustration” with runaway Washington spending — one that other Americans surely share.
This statement is similiar to another one given to the New York Times this morning, which described Perry as “passionate” about controling federal finances, but that statement was given to the paper in an interview, whereas this latest one from Miner looks like the campaign’s official elaborated response.
As a substantive matter, the Fed isn’t responsible for the “out of control spending that persists in Washington.” But such nuance has no place in the context of GOP primary politics. Spending and debt have merely become catch-alls that can be invoked by GOP candidates in order to make all manner of political and policy points. Thus Michele Bachmann can campaign against raising the debt ceiling and point to it as proof of her commitment to reining in federal spending. And Perry can conflate the Fed printing more money with generic out of control Big Government Liberalism.
I don’t believe that Perry was threatening actual violence towards Bernanke. But as even conservative writers like Philip Klein note, this kind of shoot-from-the-hip cowboy campaigning risks raising real questions about Perry’s fitness for the campaign and for the presidency itself. You’d think it would be incumbent on the campaign to disavow the threat of violence, even if it’s only an implied one. With GOP establishment figures like Karl Rove now claiming that the Perry moment was “not presidential,” you’d think the Perry camp would disavow the implied threat, if only to quiet concerns about his viability as a candidate.
But the campaign isn’t disavowing it. Which raises the ugly question of whether Perry and his advisers think an implied threat directed towards pointy-headed Washington monetary bureaucrats — and the liberal and media backlash it has provoked — could actually help him among GOP primary voters. And who knows — it very well may.
UPDATE: In a follow up question, I asked Perry spokesman Miner directly what Perry meant when he talked about Texas getting “ugly” with Bernanke. He replied:
“That the country is frustrated and the policies coming out of Washington appear to be making things worse.”