Rick Perry faces new flak from the right for suggesting Bernanke is ‘treasonous’

Rachel Rose Hartman
August 16, 2011

Republicans across the country are cheering Rick Perry's entry into the 2012 presidential race, regarding him as a candidate with innate star power. But Perry's comments today about Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke have highlighted long-standing anxieties among leaders and opinion-makers on the right over the Texas governor's candidacy.

"If this guy prints more money between now and the election," Perry told an Iowa audience of Bernanke. "I dunno 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... err.. treasonous in my opinion."

It was hardly surprising that Perry detractors on the left piled on Perry's aside. However, Perry also faced major protests from the right.

"You don't accuse the chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country, of being guilty of treason," former George W. Bush senior adviser Karl Rove told Fox News Tuesday. "And, suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in Texas. You know, that is not, again a presidential statement."

Rove worked with Perry early on in Perry's career but he split from the governor when Perry offended the Bush camp.

Peter Wehner, another former Bush White House aide, wrote in Commentary that Perry should issue a "retraction and apology." Wehner described Perry's comments as "the kind of blustering, unthinking comment that Perry's critics expect of him."

"Why he would play to stereotype is hard to fathom," Wehner continued. "Or, perhaps he's simply being himself. We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime Perry ought to offer a retraction and apology—and then offer a serious intellectual critique of why he believes Ben Bernanke is pursuing injurious policies."

Tony Fratto, former Bush deputy press secretary tweeted Tuesday "Gov. Perry's comments about Chmn. Bernanke are inappropriate and unpresidential."

But Perry's over-the-top statements--as Rove characterized them--are just one source of dissension from Perry's critics on the right.

Many conservative strategists question whether Perry has the ability to pull of a general election win, since his ideological outlook could prove a hard sell to independent voters.

"Imagine if the Democratic Party nominated a combination of Al Franken and Nancy Pelosi for the presidency, and you have a sense of the kind of gamble Republicans would be taking with Perry," New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote Sunday in a column advocating a presidential campaign by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who has long stated he will not be running.)

"And even if that gamble worked," Douthat continued, "little in his record suggests that he's prepared to preside over a polarized country, or negotiate his way through a divided Washington."

Perry also faces criticism on the right for past positions and policy decisions, including his reversals on immigration, his talk of Texas secession and his past as a Democrat.

[Read more about how Republicans will attack Perry here.]

Columnist David Frum recently expressed concern about Perry's record on jobs in Texas ("Many of the jobs created since 2009 pay only minimum wage, and Texas, along with Mississippi, has the highest percentage of minimum wage workers in the U.S." Frum wrote) as well as Perry's dubious record of support for free-market insurance plans.