Did Rick Perry just threaten Ben Bernanke? (UPDATES)


U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Yes, it's political silly season.

But, campaigning in Iowa, Texas Gov. and presidential candidate Rick Perry said something shocking.

He's unleashed the "T" word, and I don't mean taxes: treason. 

Perry aimed his odd accustion-meets-threat at Fed 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 drawled Monday night at a backyard event just outside Cedar Rapids. “Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous in my opinion.”

Here's the video clip, in which Perry seems to be referring to the Fed's strategy of quantitative easing:

No matter your political persuasion, treason a serious accusation, especially when aimed at the brainy chairman of an independent economic institution that has the primary job of keeping inflation under control and boosting U.S. employment (not to mention regulating banks, U.S. money supply, and other important matters).

Reaction to Perry's remarks has been swift.

Here's what Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times:

Yes, he’s showing ignorance of the basics of monetary policy; yes, he appears to have implicitly threatened violence against my former department head. (Incidentally, threats of that kind are a long-standing feature of modern GOP rhetoric; as early as 1993, Republican Senators would joke about what might happen to Bill Clinton if he visited their states, and the Broders of the world pretended not to notice).

But somehow everyone I’ve read seems to miss the bit about Bernanke playing politics — implying that anything he does would be in the interests of helping Obama get reelected.

That’s a hell of an accusation to make — especially when you bear in mind that Bernanke was a Bush appointee. But this is apparently how people like Perry think.

Tony Fratto, a Treasury official under the Bush administration, tweeted the following: "Gov. Perry's comments about Chmn. Bernanke are inappropriate and unpresidential."

Nouriel Roubini, the economics professor lovingly known as "Dr. Doom" was even harsher, tweeting that the "Texan thug" was making "murder threats" against Bernanke, the Guardian reported.

Later, Perry's campaign tried to calm everyone down, as Slate reported:

On Tuesday morning Perry's communications director, Ray Sullivan, tried to take the edges off the governor's remarks from the previous day. "The governor was passionate and energized by a full day at the Iowa state fair and public events and interacting with the people of Iowa," he said. Perry and the American people, he added, are simply frustrated with Washington politics, and that irritation was what fueled his remarks.

Perry himself later spoke on the issue and did not back away from the comments, as reported by the New York Times' Lede blog:

“Look, I’m just passionate about the issue,” Perry said, “and we stand by what we said.”

Here's how the Fed states its mission:

  • conducting the nation's monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.
  • supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation's banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers.
  • maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets.
  • providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation's payments system.

Treason does not appear in the above, by the way.