Politics

Mission accomplished for Texas Democrats: Rick Perry gets a mug shot

Mission accomplished for Texas Democrats: Rick Perry gets a mug shot

The Associated Press brings us the fruits of politicized prosecution, as the absurd abuse-of-power indictment by Texas Democrats of Governor Rick Perry snags the trophy they were looking for:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will turn himself into authorities Tuesday evening on two  counts of abuse of power, Local 2 News has learned.

According to our sister station in Austin, KXAN-TV, Perry will surrender at around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

His attorneys said Monday that a mug shot of the governor will be taken.

Easy peasy.  Cook up the most ridiculous indictment anyone has ever heard of, and provided the cooperative target turns himself in, you get a politically useful mug shot.  So far has the Republic degenerated that it’s a serious question whether the totemic power of the mug shot image will outweigh everything else about the proceeding, including the amazing footage of the belligerent drunk Perry was trying to get out of the public-integrity unit.

The case will most likely still be creeping through the courts while the 2016 election plays out, so the media will get to saturate every report with references to Perry as “embattled,” “embroiled in controversy,” “battling an indictment for abuse of power,” et cetera.  And yet, the details of the case are still engrossing enough to where the mug shot poses a serious question, not a slam-dunk declaration that the Governor’s political future is toast.  A lot will depend on how he plays this, and as the video above suggests, he’s playing it close to the net.  Perry’s people are making it clear he’s not going to handle this afternoon’s procedure quietly.  (I doubt he’ll take the livelier suggestions I’ve seen flying around the Internet for attire to wear to his police photo session, such as a Mothers Against Drunk Driving T-shirt.)

More from the AP article:

A Texas judge opted Monday not to issue an arrest warrant against Gov. Rick Perry, but the Republican still faces the unflattering prospect of being booked, fingerprinted and having his mug shot taken — and has assembled a team of high-powered attorneys to fight the two felony counts of abuse of power against him.

Leading conservatives around the country have mostly lined up to support the longest-serving governor in Texas history, and Perry’s aides said the case won’t derail his busy travel schedule, which includes visits to several key presidential battleground states as he continues to eye a second run for the White House in 2016.

“This is nothing more than banana republic politics,” Tony Buzbee a Houston-based defense attorney who will head a cadre of four lawyers from Texas and Washington defending Perry, said at a news conference. “The charges lobbed against the governor are a really nasty attack not only on the rule of law but on the Constitution of the United States, the state of Texas and also the fundamental constitutional protections that we all enjoy.”

Actually, Perry’s legal support is not at all limited to “leading conservatives.”  Plenty of liberals have been gathering at his side, including a few that strongly dislike him, but nevertheless think this indictment is a sham.  Among the latest to join the parade is Bill Clinton’s special counsel, Lanny Davis, writing at Newsmax:

Democrats know a lot about criminalizing the political process — and the terrible consequences to our nation and our democracy when it happens.

He means to say that Democrats have been the victims of criminalizing the political process, by which he refers to every single investigation ever undertaken of a Democrat.  Stop laughing, he’s got a serious point to make.  He’ll get there in a couple of paragraphs, right after a guest appearance by Zombie Joe McCarthy.

We saw it happen again and again in the 1990s, after multiple Cabinet secretaries in the Bill Clinton administration were “investigated” by “independent counsels” — and every one of them resulted in no conviction, despite the rush to judgment and the media’s use of the word “scandals” when an “investigation” is worth even less than an “indictment” as evidence of actual wrongdoing.

Yet we see the shameful indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry by the Travis County (Austin) district attorney because Perry vetoed funding of the public corruption unit. He did so after the district attorney leading that unit had pleaded guilty to drunken driving.

Whether or not Perry was right or wrong in vetoing that funding, motivated by good reasons or bad reasons, is not relevant. The voters get to decide that issue. But it is a perversion of the criminal justice system, a classic case of prosecutorial abuse, to indict Perry as a way of deciding the wisdom of his veto. Voters should decide that, not a prosecutor.

It is even more outrageous to anyone who cares about due process and civil liberties to read the comments from local and state Democrats in the state Texas Democratic Party about the Perry indictment. Most of the comments I read used language of guilt or a presumption of wrongdoing because of the fact of the indictment.

Have these Democrats rushing to make public comments any clue that a prosecutor almost always can, as has been said by many lawyers for a long time, “indict a ham sandwich” if they wish? The grand jury hears only a one-sided presentation of evidence by the prosecutors. No rebuttal is allowed. No cross-examination fundamental to due process is allowed.

In fact, an indictment is evidence of nothing. It is literally just an accusation, not even close to proven facts. Yet I read some Texas Democrats calling for Perry to resign — resign! 

I hate to be the one to break it to Mr. Davis, but presumptions of guilt without a trial are quite popular on the Left these days.  Just swing by Ferguson, Missouri and read some of the signs.  I’d avoid stopping at the QuickTrip for a snack, though.

But aside from all the posturing, he’s got a solid point about the need for cross-examination.  (He even slips in the well-worn “prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich” maxim.)  He’s actually refuting his own Party puffery by making it clear that indictments are not the same thing as investigations or Congressional oversight, but frankly that sounded absurd the moment he said it.  Among other things, the relationship between Congress and the President of the United States is unique, and since we all seem to agree that impeachment is a dead letter unless the President is caught on camera committing a capital crime, Congressional oversight in accordance with the Constitution is one of the very few checks on executive power.  Even a politically tendentious investigation is quite a bit different than the lawfare being waged against Rick Perry.

Davis goes on to observe that Democrats would be furious if ambitious Republican prosecutors tried to take down a prominent liberal this way, which is undeniably true; what he’s forgetting to mention is that the media would be equally furious on behalf of a Democrat.  Rick Perry will have to swim upstream carrying a narrative the media would cheerfully push over a waterfall, if he had a (D) after his name.

Another man of the Left speaking up for Perry is law professor Alan Dershowitz, whose comments are also related by Newsmax, where he has a regular column:

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz calls himself a “liberal Democrat who would never vote for Rick Perry,” but he’s still “outraged” over the Texas governor’s indictment Friday on charges of abuse of power and coercion.

The charges are politically motivated and an example of a “dangerous” trend of courts being used to affect the ballot box and politics, he told Newsmax on Saturday. 

“Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment,” Dershowitz said. “If you don’t like how Rick Perry uses his office, don’t vote for him.”

[...] “This is another example of the criminalization of party differences,” said Dershowitz, a prominent scholar on United States constitutional law and criminal law who writes the “Legally Speaking” column for Newsmax. “This idea of an indictment is an extremely dangerous trend in America, whether directed at [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay or [former President] Bill Clinton.”

There we go with Bill Clinton again.  You’d almost think he didn’t lie under oath in a court of law.  But let’s give the good Professor the floor, because he’s on a roll:

Further, Dershowitz said, such indictments are something that’s done in totalitarian countries and should not be done in the United States.

In such countries, “if you don’t like them, you indict,” Dershowitz said. “In America, you vote against them…this should be up to the voters. There is no room in America for abuse of office charges, and this has to stop once and for all. This is a serious problem.”

And indicting a politician, rather than fighting back through a ballot box, “is so un-American.”

Dershowitz also told Newsmax Perry was well within his rights when he vetoed the money for Lehmberg’s office, as he “saw a drunk serving as DA” who “shouldn’t be enforcing criminal law.”

Dershowitz believes Perry will be acquitted, and the indictment will become an embarrassment to those involved.

Perry is often named as a potential candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016, and has opted not to seek a fourth term as governor of Texas. Dershowitz said he hopes the legal charges are resolved long before the presidential election campaign cycle begins.

“It’s just ridiculous the extremes some prosecutors will go to,” when they seek criminal charges in retribution for actions that they don’t agree with politically,” Dershowitz said.

I’m a tad more skeptical than Dershowitz that this will all be cleared up before the 2016 presidential campaign gets into high gear, but we shall see.  I also don’t think the correct takeaway from all this is that abuse-of-power charges should be impossible to level against anyone.  To make such a statement is to diminish the purity of one’s argument against this particular act of legal tomfoolery.  The Perry indictment is uniquely weak.

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