How Rick Perry Can Make 'Ugly' Succeed

Can Texas Governor Rick Perry catch lightning in a bottle twice? Yesterday, at a campaign event in Iowa, Perry made these comments about the Federal Reserve and its Chairman, Ben Bernanke:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we’d treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous … um, treasonous in my opinion

Predictably, liberals, the mainstream media, and establishment Republicans had paroxysms of rage. They said that Perry called for Bernanke’s lynching, among other hyperbolic interpretations of his remarks.

Perry’s an old pro at this type of thing. In fact, in 2009, Perry made these comments while the crowd behind him was chanting, depending on whose interpretation you believe, “secede” or, as Perry would later claim, “succeed:”

There’s a lot of different scenarios … We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.

Just as Perry never said “lynch” on Monday night in Iowa, he never actually said “secede” in 2009, but the mainstream media and liberals associated  him with “secede” and it helped him gin up the conservative base in Texas to help him cruise to a primary win over establishment politician Kay Bailey Hutchison. It is why Perry’s comments in Iowa were deliberate to get the same type of effect on a national level and to help him win South Carolina, whose conservative primary electorate Perry was clearing targeting. The fact that Perry, at a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa this morning, doubled-down on his comments and said the Federal Reserve needs to “stop printing money that is devaluing the dollar” tells me these were pre-planned comments that were targeted to the state where Perry is seemingly planting his flag: South Carolina.

Here are four reasons why these comments were not gaffes and a part of a deliberate strategy by Perry to propel him to the front of the pact.

1. Ron Paul Matters:

Ron Paul wrote a book titled, End The Fed. Perry wrote a book titled, Fed Up. Coincidence? I think not. Much of the Tea Party movement railed against programs such as TARP and the government bailout of industry as policies designed to benefit elites on Wall Street that contributed to the country’s financial problems. As much as people disagree with Paul on foreign policy, his stands on domestic issues have given him a fervent following in states such as South Carolina and New Hampshire. And if it is a three-way race among Perry, Romney, and Bachmann, Perry can take enough votes from Romney and Bachmann while adding votes from Paul supporters to push him over the top. That seems to be the calculus here. 

2. Makes Perry the Anti-Bush:

Bush was a Wall Street Republican who adopted Texas. Perry is a Texan without the Yale Pedigree. So it is fitting that Perry railed against the bailout policies associated with Bush. In fact, many conservatives who ended up forming what is now the Tea Party movement began their revolt against establishment policies in large part due to Bush’s reckless fiscal spending, as evidenced by Bush’s refusal to veto nearly every spending bill during his tenure. 

3. Putting on the Black Hat vis a vis the Mainstream Media and the GOP Establishment:

With his rollout, Perry was getting a lot of praise from the mainstream media and the GOP establishment. And now it’s going to come to a screeching halt, to the benefit of the Perry. Republican primary voters this cycle loathe the mainstream media as much as they do the Republican establishment. By putting on the proverbial black hat and becoming the villain of the mainstream media and the Republican establishment, Perry is trying to be the “white hat” for conservative primary voters. 

4. Bigfoots HPV Vaccine “mistake”:

This weekend, Perry conceded that his mandating girls in Texas to get the “HPV vaccine,” which may be his greatest hurdle to overcome if he intends to get the Republican nomination because it shows an intersection between business and government that intrudes on the lives of parents that conservatives loathe. Perry’s Executive Order got overturned by the Texas legislature, and his comments about the Federal Reserve ensures that stories about the “HPV vaccine” do not flood cable television this week when primary voters are getting their first impression of Perry. Instead, their first impression will be that of a man in a seersucker blazer railing against the Federal Reserve. 

5. Carefully Worded:

Perry’s words, while seeming like they were off the cuff, were carefully worded. He said Bernanke would be treated “pretty ugly” in Texas, which is shy of “ugly.” In addition, “ugly,” especially in Texas can refer people calling people horrible names, so Perry can also claim that as opposed to the images of physical violence that liberals and those in the mainstream media are associating him with. In addition, Perry also said “almost treacherous” before saying “treasonous” in a way that could be construed to sound like “almost treasonous,” which is similar to “pretty ugly” in that it falls short of “treasonous,” or just “treasonous,” depending on how one chooses to interpret the words. In any event, Perry has a legal and semantic “outs” if anyone accuses him of going the distance with these implied “lynching” metaphors. 

6. Seersucker Blazer

It was not a coincidence that Perry changed into a seersucker blazer, as RealClearPolitics reporter Erin McPike observed and as the video clearly shows. Perry’s team knew that his comments would get picked up widely across cable television and dressed him to look like a South Carolinian. It also helps that a prominent “Perry” campaign logo is front and center in all of the clips so there is no mistake who the man in the seersucker blazer who is railing against the Federal Reserve is. Coincidentally, all of the above reasons are what make the South Carolina primary electorate tick this cycle, and it is clear that is the state on which Perry’s campaign is going to be made or broken.

h/t Think Progress.