Texas Gov. Rick Perry appears to be making no apologies for a comment on the 2012 campaign trail in which he suggested Texans might want to rough up Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke if he tries to tackle the economic slump by printing more money.
"The governor was expressing his frustration with the current economic situation and the out of control spending that persists in Washington," Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner told Fox News on Tuesday. "Most Americans would agree that spending more money is not the answer to the economic issues facing the country."
The low-key delivery of the remark, captured on camera Monday, the same day Perry filed his candidacy papers, earned laughs from the audience in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas," Perry said. "I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost ... treasonous in my opinion."
But the video quickly made its way around the blogosphere and drew swift criticism, including from corners of expected support. Tony Fratto, former spokesman for President George W. Bush, said on his Twitter account that the comments were "inappropriate and unpresidential."
Ex-Bush adviser and Fox News analyst Karl Rove echoed the complaint, calling Perry's remarks "very unfortunate."
The reaction is just a taste of the scrutiny Perry is going to face and demonstrates the perils of being in the public eye 24-7. As the longest-serving governor in the country, Perry has a record to run on. But he also has a record to be picked apart.
To defend it, Perry will need to summon the folksy eloquence that got him this far. But outside of Texas, his speech-ifying could be a double-edged sword. Though an instant frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, Perry faces the challenge of sounding more than a bit like George W. Bush, the other Texas governor who ran -- successfully -- for president, but left office with low approval ratings.
Perry told Fox News on Monday that he's no carbon copy of Bush. "I tell people, I say, one of the quickest ways you can tell the difference is, you know, he's a Yale graduate, I'm a Texas A&M graduate."
Even Rove acknowledged that Perry has to "fight the impression that he's a cowboy from Texas." But the Bush confidante urged Perry to distinguish himself from Bush more respectfully. Rove, claiming Bush moved "heaven and earth" to help elect Perry as his lieutenant governor in Texas, said "it sounds like" Perry's being ungrateful. Rove said, this time, he chalks it up to Perry being on the national stage for the first time.
"No matter how big politics is in Texas, it's much bigger and much more different on a national stage," Rove said.
Perry's big Texas record is getting a thorough combing-over by the media and political critics, about everything from his mandate requiring young girls to get HPV vaccines to his presiding over the largest number of executions under any governor. One particular case that could cause problems for the governor is that of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas man convicted of killing his kids by arson and executed in 2004 despite claims that the science used in his case may have been flawed.
Already, Perry was questioned Monday about his post as Al Gore's Texas campaign chairman during Gore's unsuccessful 1988 bid for president. Perry claimed these were the days before Gore was "Mr. Global Warming." Politico.com noted that Gore was talking about global warming before his 1988 bid but his backers say that Perry and Gore obviously didn't agree on everything.
Ex-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also tweaked Perry in an interview on MSNBC Tuesday morning when Gibbs questioned how the governor who famously suggested a Texas secession from the U.S. is now seeking to lead the entire nation.
"Just two years ago, the governor of Texas openly talked about leading Texas out of the United States of America -- and now this campaign has caused him to profess his love for the United States. I think it's a remarkable turnaround," Gibbs said.
Perry will have to defend his claim that he is a jobs governor, presiding over a state that created 40 percent of new jobs in America since June 2009. He attributes the growth to low taxes and fewer regulations, but opponents argue the windfall can be traced in part to the state's oil and gas sector -- helped along by rising oil prices that Perry could not control.
The state unemployment level is at 8.2 percent, high, but below the national average and attributable in part to an upswing in the state's population due to relocations from other parts of the country attracted to a growing economy.
But Perry's true baptism into the race may have come when ex-President Bill Clinton gave him some ribbing from afar, at an event in New York. Clinton touched on Perry's budding candidacy, calling the governor a "good-looking rascal" and saying he's "tickled" by his campaign announcement.
"He said, you know I'm going to Washington to make sure that the federal government stays as far away from you as possible -- while I ride on Air Force One and that Marine One helicopter and go to Camp David and travel around the world and have a good time. I mean, this is crazy," Clinton said.