Rick Perry appalls Republican top brass with new attack on the Fed

 

Washington

Shrugging off criticism even from within his Republican party, Texas Governor Rick Perry kept up his attack on the Federal Reserve yesterday, demanding that the US central bank open up its books to show it was not engaging in "improper" actions that undermined the economy.

Mr Perry's comments, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, the site of the first primary next February, came barely a day after he caused a furore by accusing Ben Bernanke, the Fed's chairman, of pursuing potentially "treasonous" policies that would have seen him "treated pretty ugly" back in the governor's home state.

Yesterday his tone was less acerbic, his target the same. The central bank should become more transparent, Mr Perry declared. Otherwise, "there will continue to be questions about their activities and what their true goal is for the United States".

Whatever else, the attention paid to the episode proves how Mr Perry has turned the battle for the Republican nomination on its head in the mere five days since he formally declared his candidacy last weekend. For the moment, he dominates every political conversation; his name featured in the headlines of all three main articles devoted to the campaign by the New York Times yesterday.

According to one poll, he has already vaulted ahead of Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and long the presumed front-runner for the nomination to face President Barack Obama in 2012. According to the Rasmussen poll, Mr Perry leads Mr Romney among Republican voters by 29 to 18 per cent, with Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Congresswoman, in third place with 13 per cent.

The governor's folksy Texan manner belies a hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners campaigner who has never lost an election in his life. New Hampshire has long been seen as safe Romney territory, but Mr Perry's two-day visit is aimed at changing that, and fast.

Nonetheless his assault on the Fed has upset even some leading members of his own party. They fear he has gone too far, attacking an institution explicitly above the political fray, with the sort of overheated rhetoric that alienates so many moderate voters.

"It was a very unfortunate comment", said Karl Rove, a top adviser to George W. Bush, the former president and Mr Perry's predecessor in the Texas governor's mansion. "You don't accuse the chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country."

Nor, Mr Rove added, was it "smart politics".

"Governor Perry is going to have to fight the impression that he's a cowboy from Texas," he told Fox News. "This simply added to it."

While the broadside from Mr Rove reflected in part the well-known tensions between the Bush and Perry camps, it also voiced the worry of many Republican strategists that while Mr Perry's trenchant views and strong sympathy for the influential Tea Party movement make him appealing to the activists who dominate the primaries, they may be too much for moderate voters in swing states like Ohio and Florida who decide general elections.

The remarks about the Fed are far from the first time Mr Perry has caused uproar. In 2009, he half jokingly suggested Texas should secede from the union. But his impressive economic record in Texas makes him a formidable candidate at a time when high unemployment is an overriding concern.

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