OTTUMWA, Iowa -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry was fired up the minute he got off the bus here.
Perry, fresh from watching President Obama's address to urge Congress to pass a temporary extension to the payroll tax cut, today slammed the president for having "messed up" priorities on taxes and putting stimulus and bailout funds "down a rathole" rather than focusing on job creation.
"I just saw the president on TV talking about this extension of the payroll tax," an animated Perry told about 100 Iowans at Kuhly's Bar and Grill in Ottumwa. "And he's standing up talking about $40 a paycheck and what that means. Let me ask you all something. Are you better off today than you were $4 trillion ago? Somebody needs to ask this president about the $4 trillion that he basically has put down a rathole, that didn't create any jobs, that put this country in the economic condition that it's in."
"I will suggest to you his priorities are so messed up," he added with visible frustration.
"He's worried about a temporary tax cut, when we ought to be talking about freeing entrepreneurs so that they have the confidence that they can create jobs in this country, putting people back to work," he said to applause. "That's what this president ought to be talking about. But he's more interested in playing politics.
The Texas governor did not specifically mention the role congressional Republicans are playing in the Capitol Hill standoff over the cut. (He ignored shouted questions from reporters yesterday on the impasse as well.)
Perry spokesman Mark Miner told reporters after the event that the Texas governor is opposed to the payroll tax cut extension for any amount of time, because he believes the entire tax system should be overhauled. That opposition is independent of the tax cut's attachment to a measure expediting a decision on whether to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Perry supports the building of that pipeline and routinely speaks at length about it on the stump.
But the moment offered Perry -- who often criticizes the president's "radical environmental base" for its opposition to the pipeline -- another opportunity to mount a passionate defense of more open domestic energy production.
"He's on television not 10 minutes ago talking about how that $40 out of that payroll tax was going to cost a man $40 a month to drive to see his father, to take care of his father in another city," Perry said of the president. "Hey, Mr. President, how about opening up some energy resources in this country and that's the way you drive down the cost of energy? That's the way you put people to work. That's the way the American people want you to act. Not playing politics."
Meanwhile, in Tama, IA, fellow presidential candidate Michele Bachmann also commented on the payroll tax debate. "The president and all 535 members need to sit down and make a decision that they aren't going to spend one more dime than what we take in in revenue. And we got to get the problem solved," she said.
"This is a big mess, and no one wants to address it, and I will. I will walk in and lead and that's what needs to be done."