The indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry for… well, it’s rather difficult to explain exactly what he’s being indicted for, but it boils down to “talking tough while using his constitutional powers as Governor”… at any rate, it was dismissed as “B.S.,” “far-fetched,” “fishy,” “sketchy,” an example of the way political differences are criminalized in totalitarian countries, and a move that “reeks of politics all the way around” over the weekend.
And that’s just what liberals were saying about it. (Hat tip to Debra Heine at Breitbart News, who has been collecting the loudest raspberries from the Left. Let’s toss in late word from MSNBC, the network of the Left, where political analyst Mark Halperin called the indictment “potentially the stupidest thing I’ve seen, I think, in my entire career,” describing as both absurdly funny and a deadly-serious assault on Governor Perry’s First Amendment rights.)
He was one of the first to come out of the gate and slam the Perry indictment as “unbelievably ridiculous,” so let us give Jonathan Chait, writing for New York Magazine, the honor of telling the story:
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg ??? a Democrat who oversees the state???s Public Corruption unit ??? was arrested for driving very, very drunk. What followed was a relatively ordinary political dispute. Perry, not unreasonably, urged Lehmberg to resign. Democrats, not unreasonably, resisted out of fear that Perry would replace her with a Republican. Perry, not unreasonably, announced and carried out a threat to veto funding for her agency until Lehmberg resigned.
I do not have a fancy law degree from Harvard or Yale or, for that matter, anywhere. I am but a humble country blogger. And yet, having read theindictment, legal training of any kind seems unnecessary to grasp its flimsiness.
Perry stands accused of violating two laws. One is a statute defining as an offense ???misus[ing] government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant’s custody or possession by virtue of the public servant’s office or employment.??? The veto threat, according to the prosecutor, amounted to a ???misuse.??? Why? That is hard to say.
The other statute prohibits anybody in government from ???influenc[ing] or attempt[ing] to influence a public servant in a specific exercise of his official power or a specific performance of his official duty or influenc[ing] or attempt[ing] to influence a public servant to violate the public servant’s known legal duty.???
But that statute also specifically exempts ???an official action taken by the member of the governing body.??? The prosecutors claim that, while vetoing the bill may be an official action, threatening a veto is not. Of course the threat of the veto is an integral part of its function. The legislature can hardly negotiate with the governor if he won???t tell them in advance what he plans to veto. This is why, when you say the word ???veto,??? the next word that springs to mind is ???threat.??? That???s how vetoes work.
The theory behind the indictment is flexible enough that almost any kind of political conflict could be defined as a ???misuse??? of power or ???coercion??? of one???s opponents. To describe the indictment as ???frivolous??? gives it far more credence than it deserves. Perry may not be much smarter than a ham sandwich, but he is exactly as guilty as one.
For an illustration of Chait’s last point, try Googling “Obama threatens veto” and imagine how many indictments the novel legal theories of Travis County’s partisan Democrats could bring against him. He’d spend the rest of his life either in court or in jail. (For the benefit of anyone laboring under the delusion that the Perry indictment was the work of some impartial grand jury, Chait’s insult of Perry not being smarter than a “ham sandwich” – which should demonstrate just how much he likes the Governor – is a callback to an old joke Chait mentions at the beginning of his article: “They say a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.”)
I’ve got a question for Chait: if Perry’s not smarter than a ham sandwich, how has his state been single-handedly keeping the allegedly urbane and brilliant Barack Obama from presiding over an outright recession for so many years? That’s one of the big reasons for Democrat hatred of Perry. They resent him, and understand he’s a political threat, because they know damn well he’s been keeping the Obama economy out of the toilet.
This political indictment might have made Perry an even bigger threat. When I first heard the story, I thought the Democrats were on the verge of turning Rick Perry into a national folk hero. Chait is really under-selling what Rosemary Lehmberg did. She didn’t just “drive very, very drunk.” She was so belligerent that she had to be restrained by the police after her arrest, as can be seen in the booking video below. Her blood-alcohol level was three times over the legal limit. She tried to abuse her authority to intimidate the cops and get out of the DWI arrest. It didn’t work, so she ended up serving 45 days in jail. The idea of allowing this individual to remain in charge of a “public integrity unit” is insane.
It should be a national scandal for the Democrat Party that Lehmberg didn’t resign on her own, and wasn’t pressured into resigning by her party – on the contrary, they’re supporting her and going after the Governor who stood up for sanity and the people of Texas. The Democrats are casting themselves as the defenders of public corruption; the Party of government of, by, and for the privileged Ruling Class; the Party that gets upset when its elected officials are held to minimum standards of decency and conduct. And they’re doing this after six years of nonstop corruption, arrogance, and blockheaded failure from Barack Obama’s super-government. Normal Americans hear the Perry vs. Lehmberg story and think, “Just imagine what a leader like Rick Perry could do to clean up Barack Obama’s Department of Veterans Affairs!”
This is also not a good time for any Democrat, anywhere, to squeal about “abuse of power,” not with His Imperial Majesty Barack I coming off a long string of Supreme Court smackdowns. Also, this might not be the best time for Democrats to say anything about governors and ethics commissions, lest the inquisitive reader Google such words and discover the story of New York’s Democrat governor Andrew Cuomo squashing a commission whose investigations were getting too close to his office. Rick Perry used a veto threat to get a drunk driver off a public integrity unit; Andrew Cuomo decided his ethics commission was a bit too sober for his taste.
The point of this exercise isn’t to knock Perry out of the governor’s office – it takes years for these things to wend their way through the courts. The point is to set up a meme of “controversial governor Rick Perry” and “the indicted governor of Texas” for the media to replay endlessly during the 2016 presidential campaign. Given what actually happened, the public’s discontent with Obama corruption, and the extreme partisanship of the assault on Perry, I tend to agree with analyses at Bloomberg News and the Washington Post that this is going to backfire on Democrats big-time. The Republican rallying effect mentioned by Bloomberg was already happening over the weekend, as Perry received prompt and strong support from Senator Ted Cruz:
Unfortunately, there has been a sad history of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office engaging in politically-motivated prosecutions, and this latest indictment of the governor is extremely questionable. Rick Perry is a friend, he’s a man of integrity ??? I am proud to stand with Rick Perry. The Texas Constitution gives the governor the power to veto legislation, and a criminal indictment predicated on the exercise of his constitutional authority is, on its face, highly suspect.
And Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal:
I stand behind @GovernorPerry in his fight for honest government and I am certain he will prevail in this partisan suit.
??? Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) August 16, 2014
And even former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has disagreed strongly with Perry on certain issues in the past, and is often mentioned as a possible rival on the 2016 presidential campaign trail:
The indictment of @GovernorPerry seems politically motivated and ridiculous. Major overreach and an encroachment on his veto authority.
??? Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 16, 2014
This episode is also giving Governor Perry a chance to reintroduce himself to a national audience, and he made very good use of the opportunity on Saturday, delivering a strong statement that included adept handling of press questions during the Q&A session:
Not even the best lawyers can predict what will happen in courtrooms with 100 percent certainty, so unless this indictment is scuttled by all the “knock it off, fellas” hints coming from liberal writers and national Democrat big shots, it’s a story that will probably take a good while to play out. It’s off to a pretty good start for Governor Perry. I doubt many governors of either party would be eager to live with the fallout from this politicized indictment, if it succeeds.