WASHINGTON -- When the political parties gathered for their nominating conventions four years ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke was largely unknown.
Now, after the Fed’s unprecedented actions to deal with the financial crisis and Great Recession, he’s become a central villain for people who blame Washington -- particularly the Fed -- for the nation’s economic trauma.
“Ben Bernanke is a traitor, a dictator. He’s rotting out our republic,” South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis, a Republican, said to a standing ovation and chants of “End the Fed” during a rally in Tampa on Sunday of thousands of supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. (See the video below.)
Paul built his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination on dismantling the Fed. “End the Fed” was the title of his 2009 book -- and his war cry.
Paul has referred to Bernanke as a “monetary dictator” in the past. But Paul has done so in the folksy way of a country doctor, which he actually is.
Davis, elected in 2008 after serving as chief of staff to former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, ratcheted up the rhetoric in a 2012 political environment that has become more toxic and uncivil.
Davis focused his fire on Bernanke to warm up the crowd at the gathering at the University of South Florida before the Republican National Convention opened Monday in Tampa.
“Ron Paul has opened up my eyes to who the most powerful main in the world is,” Davis said at the Sunday rally.
“It’s not the president of the United States,” he continued. “It’s the chairman of the Federal Reserve and he’s hollowing us out, he’s destroying our liberty, he’s destroying our economic freedom and he has to be stopped.”
The crowd cheered its approval.
In a Bloomberg survey of 158 convention delegates from 10 battleground states released Monday, 64% rated the Fed’s performance as poor and 63% said the central bank’s independence was bad because it made the institution unaccountable.
So it’s not surprising that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he wouldn’t reappoint Bernanke as Fed chairman when his term expires in early 2014.
Romney reiterated that stance last week after one of his economic advisers, Glenn Hubbard, said Bernanke -- a registered Republican originally appointed by President George W. Bush -- “did an excellent job in the aftermath of the financial crisis” and “should get every consideration” for a third term as Fed chairman.