Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry campaigned in Iowa today, and made a rather provocative comment about President Obama.

Just minutes earlier, while delivering remarks at the Des Moines Register Soapbox here, Perry focused his fire on President Obama, who will be in a different part of the state later Monday.

“He says he’s on a listening tour,” Perry said, “so I’m going to talk to him.” … Perry warned that a “big black cloud” hangs over the country.

“I think you want a president who is passionate about America — that’s in love with America.”

Perry didn’t explicitly say the president doesn’t love America, but the implication wasn’t exactly subtle.

I find it rather remarkable, by the way, that the political world threw quite a tizzy when unnamed sources close to the Obama campaign referred to Mitt Romney has “weird,” but Rick Perry challenging the president’s patriotism — in public and on the record — is somehow acceptable.

Regardless, of all the lines Perry should feel comfortable pushing, this one should be awfully low on the list. You’ll recall that in early 2009, Perry was so outraged by Democratic efforts to clean up Republican messes, he pushed the rhetorical envelope much further than he should have.

Specifically, in April ’09, he denounced the United States government as “oppressive,” arguing that it was “time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas.” Soon after, he said he doesn’t want to “dissolve” the union of the United States, “But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

If voters want a president who is “passionate about America” and who is “in love with America,” they may think twice about electing someone who flirted with seceding from America.

Update: Here’s the video of Perry’s comments. For the record, this is not someone doing an imitation of George W. Bush; Perry really does talk this way.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.