Perry, politics, and political indictments

Based on all of the information available on August 21, 2014, the indictment charges that Texas Democrats have filed against Governor Rick Perry (Republican, Texas) have been characterized, by influential voices in the Democrat Party, as “flimsy,” “sketchy,” “frivolous,” and “way beyond the pale” actions that “Reek of politics all the way around.” The indictment has also been suggested to be an “Extremely dangerous trend in American politics” that happens in “Totalitarian countries and should not be done in the United States.”  One would think that such harsh condemnations, from these influential voices, might sway the Texas Democrats to quietly avoid pursuing the indictment, but these Texas Democrats would surely remind those nay saying, influential Democrat voices to “Remember Tom Delay.”

mugshot-300x277Perry’s “indictable” offense, based on the known information available, is that he demanded the resignation of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, after she pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated (DWI).  When Lehmberg refused to step down, Governor Perry vetoed funding for a state public integrity unit that her office relies on.

The case,” according to the Editorial Board of the USA Today, “Rests on a highly dubious legal argument: Perry can exercise his rights of free speech to seek Lehmberg’s resignation, and he can exercise his power of the line-item veto over use of state funds. But, supposedly, he can’t do them in tandem.”

After characterizing Governor Perry’s actions as hardball politics, the USA Today Editorial Board provides further analysis of this indictment writing:

Travis County includes the state capital, Austin, so its district attorney largely controls the state’s public integrity prosecutions. That power has been used to mount cases against GOP politicians, including former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and former House majority leader Tom DeLay.”

Those that have been following this story may submit to the idea that it is possible that Governor Perry played hardball politics in this incident, but they would also argue that the move he made was done only after the county’s District Attorney was arrested for a DWI, after she was observed swerving on the road, and after it was confirmed that she blew a .239% in the breathalyzer, a percentage that is listed at nearly three times the legal limit.  And if the arrest wasn’t enough to warrant such a move, the District Attorney then engaged in verbal abuse of her arresting officers, she purportedly grabbed and scratched at the officers, she began kicking at her cell door, and was even forced to wear a spit mask at one point (a mask that law enforcement officials use only after the accused has spit on them).  So, if Perry’s actions are to be characterized as hardball, they could only called such with the reminder that the District Attorney, in question, acted in the manner of those her office prosecutes on a daily basis, and that most people only see on the television show Cops.  Ms. Lehmberg was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 45 days in jail after her April 12, 2013 arrest.  Ms. Lehmberg issued a formal apology saying that she would not seek a third term.

After Ms. Lehmberg’s arrest –and her embarrassing post arrest actions were captured on a widely viewed video— Governor Perry requested that she step down and threatened to cut funding to her office if she didn’t comply. When Ms. Lehmberg refused, Perry kept his word.

Those that cede to the idea that there have been hardball tactics played by Governor Perry, who stated that he was “Following the rule of law in the state of Texas, and if I had to do it again I would make exactly the same decision,” would have to admit that Ms. Lehmberg’s post-arrest actions, at the very least, placed her in such a vulnerable position that Perry’s decision to veto her office’s funding is either justifiable, or tough to debate, but that it does not warrant a criminal indictment.

The USA Today Editorial Board is, however, not thoroughly convinced, writing:

Perry’s moves were part of a longstanding effort by Republicans to transfer public integrity powers to an office such as the state attorney general’s, which is much more likely to be in Republican hands.” The Board does, however, cede to the fact that:  “(Perry’s) moves clearly fall into the category of politics and policy making, and should be judged by voters, not jurors.”

USA Today’s Editorial board also cedes to the idea that the indictment of Rick Perry may lend some weight to the fact that Democrats are using the courts to stain the records of some leading Republicans, as Ms. Lehmberg did in 2005 when she played a role in bringing corruption charges against then-House Majority Leader Tom Delay.  Democrats have also used the courts to stain the records of former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (Republican, Texas), Governor Scott Walker (Republican, Wisconsin), and Governor Chris Christie (Republican, New Jersey).  (On the latter, USA Today writes that those charges may provide a more “straightforward, legitimate focus of inquiry.”)  But, they write, House Republicans are also using the courts to resolve policy differences with President Barack Obama.  (A move that Republicans would argue is more of a request for procedural examination by the courts, as opposed to an out and out policy dispute, that House Republicans are initiating to seek judicial review of the check and balances that Republicans purport are being tilted in favor of the president.)

Regardless, the Democrats from Texas, that are responsible for the indictment, are now being called out by Republicans and Democrats alike for the “flimsy” charges of this indictment against Rick Perry.  Influential Democrats, like David Axelrod, have called the indictment “sketchy”.  Liberal writer, Jonathon Chait said: “To describe the indictment as “frivolous” gives it far more credence than it deserves.”  Joe Trippi, of Fox News, described it as “Way beyond the pale” and that it “Reeks of politics all the way around.”  Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz said, of the indictment, that it marks an “Extremely dangerous trend in American politics,” and that “Such indictments are something that’s done in totalitarian countries and should not be done in the United States.”  And naïve Republicans may take some comfort from such universal castigation, but those Republicans are simply choosing to forget the effect the indictment of Tom Delay had on the 2006 midterms.{2}

Some bold Republicans defended Tom Delay at the time, saying that the indictment charges made against him were intended to distract, but this most effective Republican at the time was forced to resign his seat in accordance with the Republican House Conference Rules on Congressmen and indictments.  And this most effective Republican, at the time, even agreed not to seek reelection because of the feared “distraction” his case might have brought to those Republicans seeking keep a majority in the House during the 2006 midterm. (A huge check mark for Democrats.)  The case against Delay eventually took three grand juries to achieve an indictment, and Delay was eventually, after eight years, able to successfully appeal a conviction that the Texas Appeals Court ruled as “Legally insufficient to sustain.”

In the intervening time period –and here’s the important part to even casual viewers— the Democrats used Delay’s indictment to build a “Culture of Corruption” narrative that led to the Democrat taking Congress in 2006, and if Bryan Weston of PJ Media is to believed Obamacare.

We have Obamacare now in part because the Democrats used a corrupt case against an innocent man (Delay) to snatch Congress.”{3}

So, while the details of that indictment against Delay were deemed “flimsy” at the time, it achieved everything that the Democrats needed to take back the House.  The ends justified the means, in other words.  Some bold Republicans took to the airwaves to decry the specific charges made against Delay, and what it said about “politics as usual being used in the arena of violations of criminal law”, and most Republicans believed that Americans would eventually see through such nakedly, transparent action.  Democrats, however, opted to avoid directly addressing the specifics of Delay charges and simply built a comprehensive “Culture of Corruption” narrative against Republicans.  They simply placed the House Majority Leader’s name on a list without going into the specifics, and they used this indictment as an underpinning to the narrative that achieved for them a majority of the House in 2006, that eventually led to Obamacare, and the actions of playing this non-specific short game led to a number of benefits long-term.

The point is that while some Republicans may laugh off these nakedly, transparent attempts Texas Democrats are currently making to indict Perry for “exceeding his authority”, and other leading Republicans on other charges.  Some Republicans may point to those influential Democrat voices that condemn these actions, but Democrats are building new comprehensive narratives, and prefixes for individual Republicans, that they hope all Republican candidates will fall prey to, under an umbrella that “if repeated often enough might become true” in the minds of voters, as they head to the polls in November.  The point is that the Democrats are desperate, as they head into a 2014 election that most prognosticators are currently predicting does not currently favor the Democrat Party in the Senate.  The point is not whether the charges made against Rick Perry for “exceeding his authority” are eventually thrown out, eight years from now, as long as Rick Perry can be introduced as the “indicted” Republican Governor Rick Perry.  The point is not whether any of these other Republicans are actually exceeding their authority, or engaged in some form of corruption, so long as Democrats can characterize their actions in such a manner that builds a narrative that they can sell to voters.  It’s as cynical, and as dirty, as politics gets, but as proven in the “flimsy” case against Tom Delay shows, it works.  Remember Tom Delay!





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