If Rick Perry wants to be president of the United States, he should start acting more like a president and less like a second-string radio talk-show host. Ron Paul, who almost no one (including himself) would call a moderate and has advocated a return to the gold standard, was among the first to recognize that the Texas governor had simply gone too far in equating the Fed's monetary policy with treason.
Throwing red meat to a campaign audience in Iowa, Perry said: "If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous or treasonous in my opinion."
"This guy" is Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. You might agree with his policy of keeping interest rates at record lows in the hopes of stimulating the economy. Or you might disagree, or worry about inflationary pressure, or be concerned that such low interest rates interfere with the operation of the markets. Reasonable people can disagree about these things.
Paul, who has called for the abolition of the Fed and who has been pressing the issue far longer than Perry, said only half in jest, "He makes me look like a moderate. I have never once said Bernanke has committed treason."
Let the record be clear: Bernanke was appointed to his position by former President (and Texas Gov.) George W. Bush.
Questioning the patriotism of someone you disagree with on policy grounds may be good politics for Perry in the short run; the crowd cheered, and the press is writing. But whatever the short-term gain, it reflects a lack of respect and dignity that should be a disqualification for the highest office in the land.
Our Founding Fathers, for obvious reasons, took the idea of treason very seriously. Unlike other crimes, it is specifically defined, and limited, in the Constitution:
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."
Treason is not a term to be tossed around lightly.
Whether he is right or wrong, Bernanke loves his country as much as Perry does and has devoted himself to doing his best to honor and protect it.
Only weeks after Gabby Giffords returned to the House floor for the first time, Perry has no business making jokes about treating public officials "pretty ugly down in Texas," much less suggesting that they could be guilty of betraying our country. This is irresponsible talk, no better than hate speech, and while Perry has a right to say it, the rest of us -- Republican and Democrat, moderate and conservative -- have an obligation to condemn him for it. America has real enemies; the Fed chairman is not one of them.
I've never written these words before and may never again, but Ron Paul is right. It's not a question of who is "moderate." It is a question of who has any integrity or judgment. Based on his comments in Iowa, Perry may be a crowd pleaser, but he is not ready for prime time, let alone the presidency. Shame on him. If he is the best the Republicans have to offer -- the new front-runner as some are saying -- then his party is cruising for a bruising. Perry may not have better judgment, but most Americans do.