Gov. Perry comes under fire after Bernanke-treason remark

The White House and Bush administration officials are both ripping Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his remarks about Ben Bernanke. 

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday said presidential candidates need to think about what they say, while GOP strategist Karl Rove called Perry's choice of words "unfortunate."

Perry is under fire for saying Bernanke would have been treated "pretty ugly" in Texas if the Federal Reserve chief were to print more money.

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“If this guy prints more money between now and the election,” Perry said Monday at a campaign function in Iowa, “I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but 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," he added.

On Tuesday, Perry showed no signs of backing away from the comments, despite the attention they were winning for his fledgling presidential campaign.

"I am passionate about the issue but I stand by what I said," Perry told reporters Tuesday in Iowa. 



The harshest criticism of Perry's remarks seemed to be coming from former officials of the George W. Bush administration. Bernanke was nominated as Fed chairman by former President Bush, a self-identified conservative whose political team has had friction with Perry. Bernanke was renominated by President Obama.


"You don't accuse the chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country and being guilty of treason and suggesting that we treat him 'pretty ugly' in Texas — that's not, again, a presidential statement," Rove, one of Bush's closest advisers, said on Fox. "It's not smart politics, either. Governor Perry is going to have to fight the impression that he's a cowboy from Texas. This simply added to it."

Former Bush spokesman Tony Fratto took to Twitter to call Perry's comments "inappropriate and unpresidential."

The White House criticism, by comparison, was more measured.

"When you’re running for president you have to think about what you’re saying because your words have greater impact,” Carney told reporters aboard the president's bus in Iowa. "We take the independence of the Federal Reserve quite seriously.”

Perry's comments come as the Fed is struggling to cope with an economy that seems to be losing steam. In an effort to boost confidence, the Fed announced on Aug. 9 that it would be keeping interest rates near zero for at least two more years. It also announced it was weighing a "range of policy tools" to promote the economic recovery, driving fresh speculation that a third round of quantitative easing might be in the works.

After the Fed lowered rates as much as it could, it embarked on two rounds of the unconventional easing in further attempts to spur lending and boost the economy. Under the easing, the Fed agrees to buy securities from banks using newly printed money — an attempt to further lower borrowing rates in the private sector.

While Perry is now in the spotlight, blasting the Fed has grown to be a popular practice among a slew of prominent Republicans, especially once the central bank embarked on "QE2." 

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is competing with Perry for the GOP nomination, has made a cottage industry out of blasting the Fed, authoring books calling for its dissolution and criticizing it at every opportunity.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee Chairman, has similarly blasted recent decisions by Bernanke & Co., accusing them of sowing the seeds of inflation with loose monetary policy.

"There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its citizens than debase its currency," he said in December.

Ryan and other congressional Republicans have even gone so far as to push legislation that would reduce the Fed's mandate. Rather than having it focus on maximizing employment while controlling inflation, the GOP bills would direct the Fed to solely focus on keeping prices under control.


—This story was posted at 2:44 p.m. and updated at 3 p.m.