Thursday, August 18, 2011

Perry's hot rhetoric on Ben Bernanke: worse than a crime, it was a mistake

Rich Lowry is right on target as he describes how Rick Perry is the perfect combination of everything that "self-appoint cultural sophisticates" despise.
You could be mistaken for thinking that Perry set out from his infancy to trample on certain eastern sensibilities. Born in nowheresville Texas to a family of cotton farmers. An Eagle Scout. Attendance at Texas A&M, where he was a “yell leader” — basically a male cheerleader — and in ROTC. After earning a degree in animal science and serving in the Air Force, he entered politics and eventually ascended to the governorship in the wake of another hated Texan — George W. Bush....It’d be almost impossible to come up with a background and cluster of affiliations so provocative. Texas has all the negative charge for liberals that Massachusetts does for conservatives. Perry will be branded as a backward, dimwitted, heartless neo-Confederate. A walking, talking threat to the separation of church and state who doesn’t realize people like him were supposed to slink away after the Scopes trial nearly 90 years ago.
And that's just the part of why he'll leave liberal elites sputtering with contempt. Read the rest.

While it's entertaining to think of how much this guy will push all their buttons, the bottom line is Republicans need someone who can win. And what appeals to conservatives chuckling at those elitist snobs may very well also turn off those crucial voters in the middle. And his self-inflicted error of calling Bernanke's actions "almost treasonous" is not encouraging. I'm with John Podhoretz on this one.
Yesterday, in refusing to apologize for what he said, Perry didn’t even suggest he’d been speaking lightly. He said instead that this -- Fed policy, presumably -- was something about which he’s passionate.

That compounded the mistake. It stands to reason that if you’re looking to be the next president and you’re passionate about an issue, you take it with deadly seriousness, you don’t cheapen it. You address it as soberly as you can.

Suggesting that Bernanke’s easy-money policy was tantamount to treason is the opposite of handling an issue soberly. It’s hyperbolic blatherskite -- pleasing to the kinds of people who love to scream at their TV sets, but not to the mass of voters who will choose the winner in November 2012.

Some conservatives, dismayed by what Perry said yesterday, complained he wasn’t showing the qualities of a “grown-up” (Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post) or not being “presidential” (Karl Rove).

There’s a much simpler problem here: Perry looked kind of like a jerk.

He’s just now getting introduced to the American people. Tens of millions of them are inclined to think favorably of him right off the bat, and they might convince others over time.
A politician more experienced on the national stage would have recognized that such language just distracts from the positive news that he was hoping to generate in his opening week. Now, instead of all the talk being about his appealing appearances in South Carolina and Iowa and his message of how to create jobs, all the stories will include these stupid comments.

People just tuning in to find out who this guy is will have this story be one of the first things they learn about him. Perry may well have very reasoned arguments against Fed policy. Many economists do. The WSJ speaks positively today of the underlying argument of Perry's comments.
Merely by raising the Fed as a subject, Mr. Perry has sent a political signal to the folks at the Eccles Building to tread carefully as they conduct monetary policy in the coming months. This alone is a public service. Mr. Perry and the other GOP candidates should be more careful in their language, and more precise about the Fed's mistakes. But they shouldn't shrink from debating the subject of sound money that is so crucial to restoring American prosperity.
Perry should make those arguments and leave the posturing back in Texas. If one of the worries his advisers have is that the country is not ready for another politician full of Texas swagger, this was not the way to convince people otherwise.

I'm not going to hyperventilate with some people who are all worried that Perry was threatening Bernanke with violence. He didn't commit that crime. He just stepped all over his campaign roll out.

So I'm reminded of Talleyrand's words on Napoleon's execution of the Duc d'Enghien on this one: "Worse than a crime, it was a mistake."