CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- For all the talk that Rick Perry is competing with Michele Bachmann for conservatives in Iowa and with Mitt Romney for establishment donors following his long-anticipated entry into the presidential race, what he really did on Monday was set his sights squarely on President Obama with some controversial talk.
Chief among his complaints: If the Federal Reserve prints more money between now and the 2012 presidential election next November, the reasons are all political, and that is "almost" treason.
Near the end of a session with dozens of Iowans behind a voter’s backyard pool here, Perry took a question about the future role of the Federal Reserve and initially hoped to dodge it. Instead, he put up his dukes and went after the president.
“I’ll take a pass on the Federal Reserve right at the moment, to be real honest with you. I know there’s a lot of talk and what have you about 'em,” he said. But then he couldn’t help himself from engaging.
“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all will do to them in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” Perry said, adding, “I mean printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion. Because all it’s going to be doing -- 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.”
Asked by reporters later if Perry was referring to President Obama or Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Perry didn’t hesitate.
“No, I’m talking about the Federal Reserve,” he said. “If they print more money between now and this election, I would suggest that’s exactly what they’re doing,” he explained, meaning that would be a political trick to secure Obama’s re-election.
“We have tried printing the money, and it didn’t work. All it has done is devalue the American dollar. We need to get a Congress in place with a president who understands you cannot spend your way to prosperity, and printing more money is [a] travesty on the American people.”
On the heels of Obama’s arrival in the Hawkeye State on Monday as part of a three-day bus tour, Perry implored Iowans to challenge him for an overarching plan.
“What’s going on in Washington, D.C., is stunning -- stunningly bad,” he said. “We’ve had almost three years of this president’s debt, rising taxes, unemployment. And now we’re told we’ve got a recovery going on. I don’t think it feels like a recovery to those 9.1 percent of the people out there that are unemployed.”
He called for a six-month moratorium on pending federal regulations and blasted the president for failing to produce a plan to spark job growth.
Commenting on Obama’s visit this week to the Midwest, Perry said, “He’s going to talk about jobs, but I think the only one he cares about is the one he’s got.” He complained, “Since he’s been president, this country’s lost 2.5 million jobs.”
And so, he said, “I think it’s fair for Iowans to ask the president tomorrow, ‘Where are the jobs that you promised, Mr. President?’ That’s a fair question to ask this man.”
Democrats, for their part, did not let Perry go untouched and unleashed the Iowa Democratic Party chair and Texas Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett to blast Perry’s record in the Lone Star State. They also blasted out a document calling Perry irresponsible for his comments that if he were in Congress, he would have voted against raising the debt ceiling limit earlier this month.
But Perry wasn’t piping down.
On Sunday he said one of the reasons he took on a White House run is to ensure that Americans in the military “respect highly” the president of the United States. He intimated that he’d be a good candidate for that because, unlike President Obama or the top Republican contenders for the office in 2012, he has been in the military.
Perry later took several opportunities to explain himself, and said here Monday night, “I just think people who have had the same experiences connect with individuals of like experiences.”
He continued, “The president had an opportunity to serve his country I’m sure at some time, and he made a decision that that wasn’t what he wanted to do.”