The White House denounced Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Tuesday for his threatening remarks toward the head of the Federal Reserve that represented some of the most inflammatory rhetoric of the 2012 election campaign.
Campaigning in Iowa on Monday, the Texas Governor said he would consider it "treasonous" if Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke "prints more money between now and the election" in November 2012 -- a fresh sign of the political heat the central bank faces as it tries to right the stumbling U.S. economy.
The White House responded by saying it is important for the central bank to remain independent, and jabbed back at Perry, who on Saturday entered the race for the Republican nomination to face President Barack Obama.
"I certainly think threatening the Fed chairman is not a good idea," White House Spokesman Jay Carney said.
"When you are president or running for president, you have to think about your words," Carney said in Iowa, where Obama was on a campaign-style bus tour.
Perry, who succeeded former President George W. Bush as Texas governor, is known for strongly conservative social and fiscal political views. Perry is one of the top-tier candidates for the Republican nomination.
In his first three days as a candidate, he has upset Democrats by questioning Obama's patriotism and implying the U.S. military does not respect Obama as Commander-in-Chief. His remarks on Bernanke caused the biggest flap.
"If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all will do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas," Perry said, to laughter from supporters in Iowa.
"Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, treasonous in my opinion," he said at the Iowa campaign stop.
Iowa next February is set to hold the first contest on the road to the party presidential nominations.
Bernanke was appointed in 2006 by Bush and reappointed by Obama. Under Bernanke, the Fed has embarked on one of the most extended periods of cheap money in U.S. history, keeping U.S. interest rates near zero since late 2008 and pledging to do so until mid-2013.
Accuses Fed of 'Printing Money'
Perry's campaign did not back away from his comments and said the Texas governor was expressing his frustration with the U.S. economic situation and the "out of control spending" in Washington.
"Most Americans would agree that printing and spending more money is not the answer to the economic issues facing the country," Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said.
Perry's comments may have been an attempt to tap into the anti-Fed sentiment of some conservative Republican primary voters. He is a favorite of Republicans aligned with the conservative Tea Party movement, which advocates smaller government and deeply distrusts the unelected, but powerful, officials of the central bank.
But his comments could turn off Independent voters whose support will be needed by any Republican against Obama in the 2012 general election.
"When you say those things in the Lone Star State (Texas), you look colorful. When you say these things on a national stage ... it's going to come back and get you," said Ford O'Connell, an advisor on Republican John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.
"You've got to be more like James Bond and less like Rambo," he said.
Democrats have seized on Perry's remarks to make their case that he is a loose-talking cowboy likely to act too hastily under pressure if he were to win the White House.
Perry, who caused a stir in 2009 when he openly pondered his state's secession from the United States, is no stranger to verbal barbs. When asked at a campaign event on Monday whether he thought Obama loved the country, Perry replied, "You need to ask him."
Critics also say the comments contradict the Texan's promise to focus his campaign on jobs, the issue expected to most bedevil Obama as he campaigns, with the economy growing sluggishly and unemployment stuck above nine percent.
Perry's comments also raised some Republican eyebrows.
Tony Fratto, who headed public affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department and served as a White House spokesman under Bush, slammed Perry's comment on Twitter on Monday.
"Gov. Perry's comments about Chmn Bernanke are inappropriate and unpresidential," he wrote.
(Additional reporting by Alister Bull in Dyersville, Iowa; Editing by Will Dunham.)