Perry On Bernanke And Obama
Not everything is bigger in Texas. The national media spotlight on a top tier presidential candidate is unlike what any governor has to deal with at the state level. Today Team Perry is going to have their first chance to deal with a mini-blowup over a couple of things Perry said yesterday.
First, Perry on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
“If this guy prints more money between now and the election,” Perry said, “I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we — 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, “We’ve already tried this. 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.”
The second part of that answer is really good but thanks to the incendiary nature of the first part, no one will pay any attention to it.
Just because you disagree with the Fed’s monetary policy doesn’t mean it’s “near treasonous”. It’s ruinous but treasonous? That’s just silly. Yeah it’s a bit of political hyperbole but there are some lines you can’t cross, not just because they are ultimately self defeating (which this is) but because they are beyond the pale. Charges of treason (or near treason) shouldn’t be thrown around lightly by serious candidates for President like they are on blogs.
The bigger issue is Perry’s implicit threat that Bernanke might be harmed if he went to Texas if her pursued another round of Quantitative Easing. There’s simply no place in American politics for the threat or even hinting at the threat of violence. Perry and he supporters may say he was simply talking about protests or verbal disagreements but let’s be honest, that’s not the image of Texas Perry was playing off, nor is “strongly worded letter to follow” exactly how Perry is portraying his leadership style.
The “near treasonous” stuff is a rhetorical gaffe of an over exuberant candidate new to the trail. The “treat him pretty ugly” line is something Perry needs to walk back (Update: But he won’t). Most importantly, he needs to be sure not to go there again.
Perry’s other remark that is causing a stir is his response or really non-response to a question about whether or not Obama loves America.
“I think you want a president who is passionate about America — that’s in love with America,” Perry said during a visit to the Iowa State Fair on Monday.
At a Republican Party event Monday night, a reporter asked Perry whether he was suggesting that President Obama does not love America.
“You need to ask him,” Perry responded. “I’m saying, you’re a good reporter, go ask him”
This of course has the Obama Defense Committee (aka the mainstream media) in a tizzy.
I don’t buy into this media created notion that every Republican must vouch for Obama on things like his religion and love of country. That’s Obama’s responsibility. The fact that they are so often under question says more about Obama, his life story and most importantly, how he communicates with the American people than with voters and Republican politicians. If after 3 years he hasn’t closed the deal on that, well, that’s on Obama, not the GOP.
I’m also not that interested in being lecture to on this stuff by people who just spent a month calling congressional Republicans and their supporters “terrorists”.
Still, this is simply a tactical mistake on Perry’s part. What he basically did was make himself the issue and not Obama’s failed presidency. I think a better answer would have been, “Of course the President loves America or more precisely his vision of America. I just happen to think most Americans don’t share his vision of America where we pile crippling debt on future generations, violate the Constitution to force people to buy health insurance and side with repeatedly side with our adversaries over our friends.”
A campaign is like a sales pitch and what do we know about sales? “Always be closing. always be closing“. Yes, we’re still in the primary and yes Perry has to introduce himself but any question about Obama is a chance to knock Obama…always be closing.
This idea that Obama doesn’t love America is popular within conservative circles so it’s not bad primary material but I don’t think there’s any reason to believe it plays well beyond that. Most Americans want to think their President is a loyal American and will have a hard time swallowing the insinuation that he’s not. This is especially true of voters in swing states who voted for Obama but are now disillusioned with him.
The time to make case that Obama didn’t really love America was in the ’08 campaign when voters didn’t know him and he could be defined. Now, it’s simply too late to try. The trappings of the presidency alone swaddles a President in so much iconic American imagery it’s beyond the imagination of all but the true believers that Obama is not pro-America.
Running against an incumbent President is always an uphill fight. The key is to make sure the focus is on his dismal record as President. The challenger only has to be seen as a credible alternative, a safe vehicle for them to express their displeasure with Obama. Perople are disposed to suffer the Devil they know than the one they don’t, especially if the alternative unknown is fairly radical for a major party candidate. Given some of his policy positions on what are still pretty settled issues (Social Security isn’t know as the Third Rail for nothing), his base pleasing but odd sounding passing reference to secession, and constant talk about the Tenth Amendment, Perry isn’t a clear cut, safe option for most Americans. At least not yet.
No GOP candidate is ever going to win over the media, nor should they try. If it wasn’t these quotes, they’d find something else about Perry to harp on. But surely there’s a way to be a genuine conservative without veering off into territory that only annoys and even repels potential voters or converts to the cause. A candidate who is the walking, talking embodiment of every conservative blog comment bait post is exciting for the choir but un-moderated, potentially a long term danger.
I like Perry and he’s my leading choice for the nomination at the moment but I hope he realizes that not everyone is culturally in synch with him. He might consider that toning down some of his instincts a bit would go a lot further than daring those people to support him. Bottom line, I don’t think either of these things are anywhere near fatal on their own but Perry needs to tighten up his rhetorical range going forward.