'Rick Perry is an idiot': The politics of name-calling

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"Rick Perry is an idiot, and I don't think anybody would disagree with that." That was the opening salvo lobbed Friday morning by former Treasury official Bruce Bartlett while being interviewed on CNN's "American Morning."

He was responding to critical comments that presidential hopeful Rick Perry had made recently about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Perry, the governor of Texas, had said Bernanke would be "treasonous" if he moved forward with a plan to print more money to help America out of its money problems.

Bartlett's comments are not only hyperbolic -- surely at least one person, most likely Perry himself, would disagree -- but just the latest indicator of how low the political debate can sink into the mud.

The verbal slap-fighting started earlier this week when Perry was speaking in Iowa. "If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what you all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas," Perry said. "Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost ... treasonous in my opinion."

The backlash to such charged language was immediate, with the White House calling on Perry to elevate the debate and adding that "threatening the Fed chairman is probably not a good idea." Political guru Karl Rove went even further: "You don't accuse the chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country, of being guilty of treason. Suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in Texas — you know, that is not, again, a presidential statement."

Bartlett, in his CNN interview, said the blame belonged more to the White House and administrations past and present who have been content to overlook the Federal Reserve in their focus on more pressing issues.

Obama "has had open seats on the fed almost his entire presidency," Bartlett said, "and I think that this sends a signal that he just doesn't really care very much about what the fed does."

CNN's "PoliticalTicker," meanwhile, offered up this background (or perspective, depending on how you look at it) on Bartlett himself: "Despite serving in Republican administrations, Bartlett is no stranger to GOP criticism, particularly of former President George W. Bush. Bartlett's 2006 book 'Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy' accused the administration of departing from conservative economic principles. More recently he attributed the economic recession to the former president and Republican Party."

Perry's office was not available for a comment.

Apparently, these guys haven't seen the polls showing that Americans are sick of this kind of nonsense, most recently downgrading all three political parties -- the Democrats, the Republicans, and the tea party -- for the mess in Washington, D.C. A mess, it's reasonable to assume, that is made worse by name-calling.

And what's next? Pigtail pulling?

Watch the video of Bartlett's interview below -- if you listen closely, you can hear laughter in the background after his "idiot" comment.

 

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-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a campaign visit in New Hampshire on Thursday. Credit: Jim Cole / Associated Press

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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