Rick Perry's Gaffe Problem

Texas governor finds what plays in Texas may not play elsewhere.

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Perry's announcement speech got positive coverage, but the media's approach has been growing increasingly negative. Perry has been very visible, voluble, and controversial, and the media have been portraying him as something verging on a loose cannon.

One example was his response to a question about whether President Obama loves his country. Perry said the questioner would have to ask Obama--which left the impression that Perry has doubts about the president's patriotism.

Another example came yesterday, when Perry called global warming "a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question." This brought derision from John Weaver, a senior adviser to GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. "We're not going to win a national election if we become the anti-science party," Weaver told the Washington Post.

His biggest gaffe was his comment that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke might be guilty of "treasonous" behavior for how he is handling economic policy. "If this guy prints more money between now and the election," Perry said in Iowa, "I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we --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." [See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

This received criticism in many media outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Christian Science Monitor, and from a variety of television pundits.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee said, "Rick's ramblings from the past 48 hours in the Hawkeye State show a candidate that's trying to create his own reality." Even Fox News commentator Karl Rove, the former political strategist for President George W. Bush (a former Texas governor who named Perry as his lieutenant governor), said Perry seems unpresidential and needs to choose his words more carefully. [See a slide show of who's in and out for the GOP in 2012.]

Rove is right. Perry isn't just talking for Texans anymore. He might get a pass for indiscreet or over-the-top comments back home, but not on the national stage as he seeks America's highest office.

"He could be the candidate of the year or he could be the flavor of the month," says a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan. "He'll now be put under the microscope and we'll have the answer a month from now."

  • See a slide show of the 2012 GOP candidates: Who is in and who is out.
  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP primary.
  • See a photo gallery of Michele Bachmann on the campaign trail.