UPDATE: A former Ronald Reagan aide on Friday became the latest member of the Republican establishment to blast Rick Perry for his comments about Ben Bernanke and the Fed.
"Rick Perry's an idiot, and I don't think anyone would disagree with that," said Bruce Bartlett, who served as a domestic policy adviser to Reagan and in George H.W. Bush's Treasury Department, in an interview with CNN's American Morning.
Despite his work history, Bartlett is no stranger to Republican criticism, CNN notes. In 2006 he penned the book Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, which, as you can probably guess, didn't exactly sing the praises of George W. Bush.
UPDATE Wednesday at 10:06 a.m.: Rick Perry may have been noticeably subdued on the stump Tuesday, but that doesn't mean that he is walking away from Monday's "treason" comments that caused a bit of a media frenzy back in Washington.
"I am just passionate about the issue, and we stand by what we said," he told reporters in Iowa late Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann looked to thrust herself back into the spotlight, which Perry has mostly stolen this week by reminding reporters that she, too, is no fan of the Fed and its so-called quantitative easing.
"I've been fighting on that issue since I came into Congress," Bachmann told reporters after a campaign speech in South Carolina, Reuters reports.
"I wrote letters to Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner and to Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke and called on them not to release that money," she said. "The president has reduced the soundness of the dollar and the dollar has lost 12 percent of its value, according to experts, since President Obama came into his position."
Slate's David Weigel has more on why GOP candidates feel comfortable bashing the Fed.
UPDATE Tuesday at 1:17 p.m. Rick Perry's "treason" comments are drawing sharp criticism from a wide range of political observers and talking heads, among them Karl Rove.
"You don't accuse the chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country. Of being guilty of treason," Rove, who has clashed with Perry before, told Fox News (via TPM). "And, suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in Texas — You know, that is not, again a presidential statement."
Rove continued: "If Rick Perry were to be elected president he'd be saddled with Ben Bernanke who has a term. He's an independent chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, appointed by president and confirmed by Congress and serves for a term and the president couldn't even ask him to resign. So, this is — I hope this is not the first of sort of over the top statements."
Politico has a roundup of reactions from some other prominent George W. Bush allies, none of whom had nice things to say about Perry's comments. The Beltway outlet notes that: "Attacking the Fed chairman probably won’t do Perry much harm with the GOP primary-voting man on the street, but it won’t do him any favors, either, with a national conservative elite that’s deeply skeptical of him as a potential president."
As one would expect, the Obama administration was also asked about the comments. White House spokesman Jay Carney had this to say (via ABC News): "When you're president or you're running for president you have to think about what you're saying because your words have greater impact. President Obama and we take the independence of the Federal Reserve very seriously and certainly think threatening the Fed chairman is probably not a good idea."
POST at 10:25 a.m.: Rick Perry was in Iowa on Monday for his first full day of campaigning since he officially entered the race for the White House. While the Texas governor was quick to criticize the two men who appear to be standing directly in the way of his potential 2012 victory—GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and President Obama—his strongest words were, somewhat surprisingly, directed at Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke.
“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. “Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous—or treasonous in my opinion.”
Perry was referring to what is called quantitative easing (or QE in Beltway wonk speak), in which a central bank creates new electronic money to buy corporate and government debt in an effort to lower borrowing costs. The U.S. has already conducted two rounds of QE and several top investors and analysts have predicted that the Fed will embark on a third round later this year, the Guardian notes.
“We’ve already tried this,” Perry added at the backyard campaign event. “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 that they’ve been devastating. The president of the United States has conducted an experiment on the American economy for almost the last three years, and it has gone tragically wrong and we need to send him a clear message in November of 2012 that new leadership is coming.”
ABC News followed up with the GOP hopeful after the event to clarify if he thought that the Fed was playing politics to try to help Obama. Perry responded: “If they print more money between now and this election, I would suggest that’s exactly what’s going on.”
Here’s David Weigel’s take in Slate:
All the focus seems to be on the implied threat here, but that's not really surprising. We live in a time of heated political rhetoric. Ask Joe Biden about it.
No, the strange part of this is the implied agreement that it would be good for the economy to let the Fed print more money. After all, if it was being done "to play politics," we assume that there would be a political benefit to the Fed's action. The Fed's action may be good for the economy, may be good for employment. So Perry is classifying as "treason" something that would boost the economy, but sounds bad. There's a strong case to be made that he's completely wrong about this.
And Ezra Klein’s:
If you ignore the implied threat of violence against the head of America's central bank, Perry's position is unremarkable in today's Republican Party. But that is perhaps what is so remarkable about it. The GOP's turn against monetary policy is one of the most consequential and underdiscussed trends in economic policy.
It was the conservative icon Milton Friedman, after all, who pioneered the argument that the Great Depression was largely the fault of poor monetary policy. His analysis had the dual advantages of being both true and useful to skeptics of government spending. It implied that there were more ways to prevent and respond to recessions than to simply have Congress take out the credit card.
Liberal bloggers at Think Progress caught Perry’s remarks on camera. If you watch the video you’ll see that after being asked a question from the audience, Perry initially said he’d “take a pass on the Federal Reserve right at the moment to be real honest with you,” before launching into his longer answer.