Texas Gov. Rick Perry quickly discovered that national politics is a whole different game than statewide politics -- even in as huge a place as the Lone Star State -- shortly after he formally announced his presidential candidacy in South Carolina. Perry said Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was acting in a “treasonous” way with national monetary policy. He also said that were Bernanke down in Texas, he’d be treated “pretty ugly” because of his job performance.
Of course the statements, in the glare of the national presidential campaign spotlight, created a controversy. A spokesman for Perry said he was “passionate” about reducing the federal debt, and Perry refused to back down from the statement. His comments generated widespread criticism across the country, including barbs from former officials of the administration of George W. Bush, who appointed Bernanke to his post.
With the economy still struggling mightily and the financial markets in turmoil, President Obama is certainly vulnerable; his approval ratings are the lowest they’ve ever been. But nobody in the crowded Republican field has been able to step forward to a clear front runner’s position, and Perry’s gaffe proves that he has lots to learn about national politics, too. The election is still well over a year away, and it will be interesting to see which GOP candidate finally clears the field. But one thing’s clear: those who expected Perry to gain immediate favor were wrong.