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August 16, 2011 8:00 AM Perry makes quite a first impression

By Steve Benen

Though Rick Perry’s name has been in the political mix for a while, yesterday was the Texas governor’s first weekday as a candidate for national office. The New York Times noted his “confident” swagger had the effect of “injecting a shot of vigor into the contest.”

He certainly injected something into the race, but “vigor” isn’t the first word that comes to mind.

This, for example, might very well be the single craziest thing uttered by a presidential candidate so far this year.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, making his maiden campaign swing in Iowa after jumping into the race for the Republican presidential nomination, suggested Monday night that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would be committing an act of treason by printing more money between now and November 2012.

Responding to a question about the Federal Reserve at a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Perry said: “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, 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.”

ThinkProgress has the video.

As a matter of policy, this is plainly idiotic. As a matter of decency, listening to a governor who raised the specter of secession accuse the Fed chairman of “treason” is just appalling.

Even Tony Fratto, a former spokesperson for George W. Bush, called Perry’s remarks “inappropriate and unpresidential.”

Also yesterday, Perry went after President Obama’s patriotism again. Asked if the governor had suggested Obama doesn’t love the United States, Perry replied, “I dunno, you need to ask him.”

And if that wasn’t quite enough, Perry also told Iowans yesterday, “If this shirt has a few wrinkles in it, it’s not my wife’s fault.”

I argued the other day that so-called “savior candidates,” who jump into the presidential race late, tend to do very poorly, at least in part because they don’t have the luxury of working out the kinks away from the spotlight. Every candidate needs time to get better — on the stump, in interviews, in debates, in engaging with diverse national voters directly — but so-called saviors are forced to be polished and proficient immediately.

And yet, here’s Perry, suggesting a Fed chairman doing his job is acting in a treasonous way, attacking the president’s patriotism, and suggesting that ironing is women’s work — all on his first weekday as a candidate.

It’s certainly possible that Republican voters will swoon and find Perry’s nonsense endearing, but at this point, the Texas governor has only reinforced fears he’s little more than a thuggish buffoon.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on August 16, 2011 8:06 AM:

    Give Governor 'George W.' Perry a break.

    He's been busy 'putting food on his family,' 'and makin' sure that Texasseses's childrens is learning.'


    George W. Bush: "Little Boots."

    Rick Perry: "Little Cowboy Boots."

  • Danp on August 16, 2011 8:08 AM:

    You missed the worst. He also called for a moratorium on all regulations. This guy is seriously dumb.

  • Kris on August 16, 2011 8:08 AM:

    Steve, after the rhetoric of the past two campaign cycles, I'm pretty sure that this is exactly the kind of talk that will make Republican primary voters swoon.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on August 16, 2011 8:12 AM:

    It's a huge structural advantage for the Dems that no candidate can win the GOP primary without adopting lunatic positions that will hurt them if sane people turn out for the general election. Of course changing positions is no problem for any of them, especially Mitt, but flip-flopping actually might matter to some voters.

  • berttheclock on August 16, 2011 8:13 AM:

    Steve, I abhor Perry, but, your point about him coming into the race late, flies in the face of Bill Clinton declaring for the presidency on October 3, 1991.

    However, it did bring Halperin out of the political closet as he was, almost, giddy about Perry, this AM on Mourning Joe. Buchanan, as well, as Pat is smelling blood.

  • FRP on August 16, 2011 8:15 AM:

    Perhaps this is the secret weapon of political Armageddon ?

    Part A) The first Candidate Swoons Constituents

    Part B) Da Second Ambubambulances pick up swooned Constituents

    Part C) Wheeee ! Profit !

  • delNorte on August 16, 2011 8:16 AM:

    Steve made the comment yesterday about Perry doing a George Bush imitation - I think it's more like Perry doing an imitation of Josh Brolin's imitation of George Bush. He's a caricature of a caricature.

  • Brenna on August 16, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Uggghh! This guy is rubbing me the wrong way. I hope I'm not alone. There is nothing charming or likable about him. He's a lout. But I hope the thuggish gaffes keep coming.

    We still may be looking at a Romney vs. Obama matchup, but not until the opening act entertainment is over.

  • rrk1 on August 16, 2011 8:20 AM:

    The reactionary know-nothings will eat it up. He's throwing red meat to the yelping dogs, and nothing, no matter how stupid, idiotic, or just plain crazy it is, will stick to him. And this is just the beginning of the clown circus. The media will have a ball, just as the regrettable NYT says Perry has injected 'vigor' into a process that is corrupt to the core, and mostly an orgy of bribery. Does 'vigor' mean an accelerating downward spiral in our political discourse, or collective intelligence? I think so.

    Doesn't anyone remember 1999 and 2000 when Bush repeatedly demonstrated his stupidity? Nothing stuck to him either, but then he had the Supreme Court in his back pocket. Perry has the Koch brothers, and 'Citizens United'.

  • crackhead noelle bush on August 16, 2011 8:20 AM:

    i'm certainly swooning, and i haven't even had my first hit of the morning.

  • FRP on August 16, 2011 8:21 AM:

    I do not remember there being the sort of commensurate media swell and noise over the former President that resembles the Gov Perry romper room activities in both infantile enthusiasm for infantile thingies , and of course sound and fury signifying idiocy .
    After a little thought it is difficult separating infantile thingies signifying idiocy from "grownups" being of a furiously thoughtless and violent bend . Make it enthusiasm for a relentless pointlessness .
    Thank you

  • Kathie on August 16, 2011 8:22 AM:

    Please keep up your intense scrutiny of the newest GOP douche du jour. As Danp commented, Perry also said Monday that all regulations should be lifted (as that is apparently the reason banks aren't lending and companies flush with cash aren't hiring). Note to Tea Party: if you hate government this much, please move to Somalia.

  • FRP on August 16, 2011 8:26 AM:

    Oh like Somalia can absorb more thoughtless violent smack talking haters .

  • bleh on August 16, 2011 8:27 AM:

    Yes, but he has injected a hot blast of manly vigor from his strapped-on six-shooter blah blah forceful virile chin swagger blah blah blah.

    Look the Villagers are a bunch of grade-school-wimps-turned-high-school-nerds with a pathological need to be seen as manly chest-beating football jocks. They express this by jumping on every war bandwagon that comes along and by turning into little puddles of mush over any candidate who displays evidence of testosterone activity -- real or (eg, George W. Bush) completely fake.

    Perry is credible because of his manly six-shooter and his virile hair, and because he talks casually about killing people and seceding from the union and trying people for treason and other obviously manly things that manly men do.

    Expect the swoon to last for weeks, and expect many snide comments about Obama's "reserved" and "intellectual" character, and his willingness to "compromise," in contrast to the way in which Perry would sweep all problems aside with his burly manly arm and lead America into a new day of glory, amen.

  • DAY on August 16, 2011 8:33 AM:

    This is mere vaudeville, from the Days of Yore. Warm-up acts, with pig bladders and a bit of titty-lation, for the marque name.

    A nation turns it's lonely eyes to you, Chris Christie.

    The bumper sticker: "Sane by Comparison".

  • victory on August 16, 2011 8:33 AM:

    Fred Thompson 2: Electric Boogaloo

  • hell's littlest angel on August 16, 2011 8:35 AM:

    Calling Perry a "thuggish buffoon" is just outrageous!

    Everyone knows the man is a simple-minded jerk-off.

  • TT on August 16, 2011 8:36 AM:

    Perry is a genuinely sinister character.

  • Josef K on August 16, 2011 8:40 AM:

    From the Doonesbury comic strip this morning:

    Say What?

    "It takes balls to execute an innocent man."

    � a Texas voter from a focus group commenting on a questionable execution approved by Gov. Rick Perry

  • FRP on August 16, 2011 8:43 AM:

    Day provides the impetus to exchange physical comedy for deeply troubling difficulty with truth . Interesting , I wonder which will prove more destructively violent the self projecting hilarity from the dangerously simple Perry , or the quid pro quo Lies from Christy . Christies take of , "Give me the world and I will Lie about what I see and do , then blame Liberals for making me lie , snif" .

  • berttheclock on August 16, 2011 8:49 AM:

    "simple minded jerk-off"

    Unfortunately, so are many voters.

    Remember the many threads at liberal sites prior to the elections of 2010, where, antics of many RepuGs were the main topics? Even Shortstop called out Benen for writing so many of them. Why they were all ever so silly and no one in their right mind would vote for them, would they? I still recall many comments from the left following the election of President Obama, placing the GOP under a large tombstone. Why, who in their right mind would ever vote for them, again?

  • del on August 16, 2011 8:50 AM:

    First, I do not know why his religious affiliations are not being blasted all over the media like Rev. Wright was. After all, they envision taking over the world and instituting their brand of religion. Second, his record in TX is not what the media is trying to have you believe. They have the most poor, homeless, and low paying jobs in the nation. Do you want to work for minimum wage, then go to TX. Third, his idea is to tax the poor to make them even poorer while given more to the rich. He will escalate the flow of wealth to the top. And lastly, before Rove recruited him, he used to be a Dem, can you talk about the ultimate flip flop and sell out to become elected?

  • Unstable Isotope on August 16, 2011 9:01 AM:

    I'm pretty sure the media has told me that talking about secession is just a fringe-y as passing health care reform. So I'll assume threatening Ben Bernanke is the same amount of crazy as raising taxes on the rich.

  • Kathryn on August 16, 2011 9:04 AM:

    What scares me stupid is the swooning of the press, if they give this right wing zealot a pass on his insane pronouncements, we got trouble, the press's shallow view on him so far is not encouraging. The media can make or break you and so far they've got their collective panties in a twist for manly tough talking Rick. To a mature woman like myself, he's a sleazy smooth talking phoney, run the other way. Press reaction reminds me of the early days of Palin.

  • Unstable Isotope on August 16, 2011 9:08 AM:

    The media may be doing a swoon for Perry right now but his comments are not going into a memory hole. If he's the nominee, they will be prominently featured in campaign ads.

  • max on August 16, 2011 9:40 AM:

    Also yesterday, [Governor Rick] Perry went after President Obama�s patriotism again. Asked if the governor had suggested Obama doesn�t love the United States, Perry replied, �I dunno, you need to ask him.�

    H. L. Mencken: "Demagogue: One who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."

  • berttheclock on August 16, 2011 9:41 AM:

    er, del, in Texas Flip Flops, otherwise known as Phil Grahams, are really popular.

  • T2 on August 16, 2011 9:50 AM:

    I warned you guys.....once Perry gets in the race it is going to be "take no prisoners". Three days in and he's already suggested the President doesn't have the respect of his troops, the Fed chief is a traitor, and back-pedaled consistently to cover prior screw-ups. Obama better take note.....Perry is going to use this opportunity to attack him every day in every way. If Obama doesn't hit back right away each time, in six months Perry will be calling him " the weakest president we've ever had, a sissy". Wait and see.

  • bigtuna on August 16, 2011 10:03 AM:

    So I went to A&M [after Perry] and while I was a scum 'Yankee" dweeby grad student, I saw lots of Rick Perrys. I had to teach these moronic bastards. Almost to a person -

    1. - After awhile - not too long, in fact, they will come off as smug self rightous bastards who are dummer than nails. That is because they are smug self rightous bastards who are dumber than a box of nails. Achievement via the normal means - ie, working hard in school, is secondary to being in the A&M corp of cadets {check] marrying a cute girl who was your sweetheart [check], and then doing some lame ass degree with C-D scores [check] because being a white west texas aggie will get you in doors [check]. Serve time in military [check] wear cowbo boots [check] and keep the west texas twang [check] and don't think much [check] and you are set to "succeed" in a white texas sort of way.

    Their world view gets them a certain distance, but their bonds to each other, over valuing real learning, can only get them so far.

    And at 20 yrs old, they think they have the world in their hands, start out insufferable, and get worse with age. There are good reasons that Perry became the first aggie governor of Texas w/o being elected at first - many texans know what Aggie corp members are like, and hate them. The press will learn this if they spend any time with him.

    2. Krugman started to get on this point, but missed part of the Texas economic / job creating myth. It is a "miracle" really if you are white, well educated, and upper middle class. The Texas job profile provides for huge under educated workforce to endow the UMC with perks that only wall street types get. Gardeners, nannies, cleaning ladies, car park guys, health club attendants, sport club gophers, guys to haul your household trash away, etc. form a huge service corp to the monied, mostly white, technocracy that works in oil&gas, computers, academics, etc. Many are here illegally, or are part of a large family-community based network of labor that feed a continually system of service workers.

  • zandru on August 16, 2011 10:54 AM:

    "Thuggish Buffoons"

    There was a time when I would have thought that the American public would reject a thuggish baboon... that was two terms of Junior ago, however.

    At this point, while the American public may possibly have wised up, the DC punditocracy is still smitten. I dread the endless marveling of Good-Hair's "manly charistic" from the many milque-toasted men of the media...

  • Texas Aggie on August 16, 2011 11:14 AM:

    I have to agree with bigtuna to a certain extent. The "Good Ags*" that I knew were mostly undergraduates. The graduate students that I worked with had come from somewhere else and had a bit of experience with reality. Believe it or not, my department was about a quarter Moslem with grad students and postdocs from Africa, India and Pakistan.

    And of the CT's that I knew (CT = Corps Turd), only one of them had any sense at all. The rest were as bad as Goodhair or even worse.

    *Good Ag - Someone who internalizes all the myths and values of a white, heterosexual male dominated buddy system that values military action as the answer to all problems and who believes that if you cross the Red River, the Sabine River or the Rio Bravo, you will fall off the edge of the world. Far right wing religion is taken for granted except when it comes to party time. A Good Ag is not someone who want your daughter to associate with.

  • ameshall on August 16, 2011 1:25 PM:

    Little more than "a thuggish buffoon"? Of course. That's why he'll win the nomination. He has all the qualities the GOP base wants in a candidate. Be on the lookout for a Perry/Bachmann ticket.

  • bigtuna on August 16, 2011 2:38 PM:

    I had forgotten about the CT term ...

    Texas Aggie will know more than I, but I recall that the governor's job in Texas is / was pretty weak tea - there are few real constitutional powers, as I recall ? When I lived there, the state was run by William Hobby, jr. The people elected governors were all sideshows ....

  • Rick B on August 16, 2011 3:11 PM:

    rrk1 has got it right. "The reactionary know-nothings will eat it up. He's throwing red meat to the yelping dogs, and nothing, no matter how stupid, idiotic, or just plain crazy it is, will stick to him."

    In Rick Perry's case he has a talent for determining what his audience wants to hear, then delivering it in its most extreme version. But he always stops just short of advocating that he takes that action himself.

    Right now he is speaking to the tea party crowd who are disappointed that Congress chickened out and didn't shut government down. Last week he was throwing red meat to the Evangelicals and dominionists.

    He learned long ago that to win he had to make sure no one could get to the right of him. That is what you are seeing.

    Once the nomination is in hand he will not need to sound so extreme because in the general election the crazies can't get to his right. He'll moderate his speeches to get the right-wing of the (mostly Republican leaning anyway) undecided voters.

    Don't let the crazy fool you. Perry can read his audience like no one else in the business and deliver what they want to hear. He's a lot more dangerous than most people realize.

    FRP - Perry is not himself "simple." That's just the nature of the messages his audiences want to hear, so he gives it to them. He knows how to win over the right wing. Mind you, he's not especially well-educated, but Perry is anything but "simple."

    I'll concur with Bigtuna and Texas Aggie above. I WAS a CT. I needed a degree so I could become a 2lt in the artillery and call fire on the Viet Cong. But my eyes were too poor to get into the artillery, so I actually learned a few things. But Perry also has the worst of the west Texas attitudes - very small town, rural, libertarian, religious extremist, and all the rest. He combines that with a real talent for determining how to speak to the voters who will vote for him in clear, simple terms. (accuracy unimportant - just get the required group reaction.)

    It says a lot that Karl Rove will have nothing to do with him.

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