Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently joined the GOP presidential race, speaks Thursday with patrons at Popovers in Portsmouth, N.H.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently joined the GOP presidential race, speaks Thursday with patrons at Popovers in Portsmouth, N.H. Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Gov. Rick Perry made a splash the size of Texas into the Republican presidential field this week. He plunged in with events in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, demonstrating each step of the way that he's not shying away from controversy, or attention.
On Monday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Perry showed he is more than happy to attack even the chairman of the Federal Reserve.
"If this guy prints more money between now and the election," Perry said, "I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.
"I mean printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, er, treasonous in my opinion."
The Fed chairman is an independent post, and the current chairman, Ben Bernanke, was a Bush appointee. Republican guru Karl Rove, who worked in the Bush White House, was not amused.
"You don't accuse the chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country," Rove told Fox News. "And suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in Texas, that's not ... a presidential statement."
President Obama was more forgiving, or perhaps patronizing. "I'll cut him some slack," Obama told CNN. "He's only been at it for a few days now."
Weighing In On Global Warming
On Wednesday, Perry arrived in New Hampshire, the country's first primary state, where he spoke at Politics and Eggs, a bipartisan meeting of business leaders.
He planted a religious, social conservative flag by saying, "There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data" on global warming. Earth's climate may be changing, he said, but it has been changing since the planet was formed.
"And I don't think, from my perspective, that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven," he said.
Scientists and most governments across the globe agree — the data show that global warming is real, and caused by humans.
University of New Hampshire political scientist Andy Smith, who attended the breakfast, says talking about social issues to a moderate New Hampshire crowd was not Perry's worst offense Wednesday morning. In Smith's view, the whole speech just belly-flopped.
"Obvious applause lines didn't generate any applause, to the point where I as an audience member felt somewhat uncomfortable," Smith said. "It was like a comedian kind of falling flat onstage."
On Thursday, Perry raised eyebrows again in coastal Portsmouth, N.H.
On a bright, sunny morning, he greeted people enjoying coffee and pastries at Popovers cafe. A boy, prompted by his mother, asked about evolution.
"It's a theory that's out there," Perry said. "It's got some gaps."
He went on, "In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one is right."
Actually, creationism is not part of the Texas public school curriculum. Texas does call on students to "evaluate and analyze" evolution, which could allow teachers to discuss creationism.
At Popovers, a crowd of protesters hovered on the periphery shouting, "Hands off our Medicare!" and "Stop the unionbusting!" They carried signs saying, "No Texas trash talk" and "Another Texas idiot for sale."
George Carlisle, 61, who owns a local real estate company and lives above the cafe, is more open-minded.
"These guys are on and these women are on 24 hours a day," he says. "We've got to be ready to see their humanity, too, and their foibles, and their flaws. If you put a microphone in front of Abraham Lincoln for 24 hours a day, I'm sure he'd say something stupid."
Steve Scott, 51, is reserving judgment as well. "The joke around New Hampshire is that you don't really know anybody until you meet them three times, and that goes [for] the federal candidates."
Asked whether he has a favorite in the Republican presidential race, Scott says, "I haven't met any of them three times yet."