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Hot-Headed Talk Shifts Perry Off Jobs Focus

Gov. Rick Perry's nascent presidential campaign is focused on jobs. But Tuesday, he was answering questions about controversial statements on "treasonous" monetary policy and President Obama's relationship with the U.S. military.

Gov. Rick Perry campaigns at the Hamburg Inn restaurant in downtown Iowa City.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Gov. Rick Perry has made job creation the focus of his nascent White House bid. But on Tuesday his campaign was answering questions about controversial statements he made about potentially “treasonous” steps the U.S. Federal Reserve might take and pointed remarks about President Obama and the U.S. military.

Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan was asked to explain Tuesday what Perry meant when he said the previous evening it would be “almost treasonous” for the U.S. Federal Reserve to print more money to prop up the economy ahead of the 2012 presidential election. It was clear the governor isn't backing down.

“Americans are fed up with the shell game, the budgetary shell game, the fiscal shell game that Washington, D.C., seems to be playing with our jobs, our economy and our livelihoods,” Sullivan said.

Later, after a meeting with business leaders in Dubuque, a reporter shouted a question at Perry about the controversy:  "Look, I'm just passionate about the issue and we stand by what we said," the governor responded.

Perry made the remarks at a house party in Cedar Rapids after a mostly successful day of retail politicking at the Iowa State Fair and other stops in the state, where he is making his introduction to voters in what will be the nation’s first caucus early next year. Perry used Texas-style fighting words in a warning directed at U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"If this guy prints more between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to 'em in Iowa, but we would treat 'em pretty ugly down in Texas,” Perry said in response to a question from the audience.“

“I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, or treasonous, in my opinion,’’ he said. It seemed clear that Perry meant to say “treasonous” to begin with but had accidentally uttered the word “treacherous” instead.

Later, in a brief exchange with reporters, Perry was asked whom he was talking about when he spoke of "this guy" potentially committing treason. He said he was talking about the Federal Reserve. Bernanke was first appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush. He was re-appointed by Obama last year.

“We’ve already tried this,” Perry said. “All it’s going to be doing is devaluing the dollar in your pocket, and we cannot afford that.”

He was also asked about his statement earlier in the day that the U.S. military deserved a commander-in-chief it could respect. After graduating from Texas A&M University, Perry served as a U.S. Air Force pilot flying C-130 planes.

“I think people who have had the same experiences connect with individuals of like experiences. That’s human nature,” he told reporters. “My instinct is if you polled the military, both the active duty and veteran, and said, ‘Would you rather have a president of the United States that never served a day in the military or someone who is a veteran?’ they’re gonna say, I would venture, that they would like to have a veteran, someone who has been in their shoes, someone who has faced some of things that they faced. That’s just a fact of life. … The president had the opportunity to serve his country, I’m sure, at some time and he made the decision that wasn’t what he wanted to do.” 

Another reporter asked him about another earlier remark in which he said he would be a president who is “passionate about America — that’s in love with America.” Was he suggesting, the reporter asked, that Obama isn’t?

“I dunno,” he said, shrugging, “you need to ask him.” Pressed, Perry said, “I’m saying, you’re a good reporter, go ask him.”

Sullivan, the spokesman, was asked Tuesday if the governor’s rhetoric was overly harsh.

“I think you’ll just have to listen to what the governor says every day,” Sullivan said. “The message is certainly going to evolve and be responsive to the news of the day. Just keep watching."

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