Perry won’t disavow extremist Fed rhetoric

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry raised a few eyebrows yesterday with borderline-violent rhetoric about the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke. “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,” the Texas governor said. “Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, or treasonous, in my opinion.”

The comments have drawn bipartisan criticism, but as of this morning, the Perry campaign isn’t backing down.

A spokesman for Mr. Perry said Tuesday the governor “got passionate” in his remarks about the Federal Reserve, but he did not disavow the comments.

“He is passionate about getting federal finances under control,” the spokesman, Ray Sullivan, said in an interview here. “They shouldn’t print more money, they should cut spending and move much more rapidly to a balanced budget.”

The campaign went on to say Perry was “expressing his frustration with the current economic situation and the out of control spending that persists in Washington.”

No apologies, no regrets, no concessions. A leading presidential candidate raised the specter of violence against the chairman of the Fed and casually threw in a reference to “treason,” but those waiting for contrition will be waiting a very long time. As far as Perry and his team are concerned, yesterday’s rhetoric was acceptable. If the campaign saw the quote as a negative, they’d retract it. Obviously, they don’t.

At this point, the focus will likely be on the reckless comments and the perception that Rick Perry is a thuggish buffoon. But even if he’d phrased his criticisms in a more responsible way, it’s important to realize that the underlying policy sentiment is itself ridiculous.

For one thing, the implication of Perry’s remarks is that he believes the Fed could do more to boost the economy, but taking such steps would be “almost treacherous or treasonous.” In other words, if Bernanke were to take steps intended to help the economy, this would, in Perry’s mind, be outrageous.

For another, Perry’s understanding of monetary policy is pathetic. The governor just doesn’t understand the topic he’s addressing.

What’s more, Perry actually seems to believe we’ll all benefit if policymakers take money out of the economy and focus, not on job creation, but on a balanced budget. He’s as confused about economic growth as he is about monetary policy.

And finally, in the bigger picture, those who raise the specter of secession just haven’t earned the right to start accusing anyone of treachery or treason.

Not since Newt Gingrich’s out-of-the-gate collapse has a candidate humiliated himself so thoroughly, so quickly.

Update: Mark Thoma reminds me that Perry’s assertion that the Fed “should cut spending and move much more rapidly to a balanced budget” is itself strikingly ignorant, since the Fed doesn’t have those kinds of powers anyway.