Rick Perry

Indictment of Perry May Actually Increase His Stature


"So what do you think of Perry's chances in Iowa?"
Travis County Sheriff's Office

Probably the only thing bothering former Texas Gov. Rick Perry about being indicted for using his veto power to force Democratic District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg out of office following a drunken driving arrest is that they didn't wait until 2015 to give his possible presidential campaign a publicity push.

The immediate analysis outside of Democratic partisan circles is that the charges are maybe just a little bit trumped up and may end up letting a rich, powerful political figure play the victim card. From Bloomberg:

"Every Republican in Iowa that I have spoken to thinks it is a politically motivated scheme to tarnish him as he prepares for the 2016 campaign," said Jamie Johnson, a member of the party's state central committee who last month introduced Perry at a county fundraiser in the state that will host the first presidential nomination contest.

"This is going to backfire and it will help Rick Perry," said Johnson. "It will cause people to rally around him."

And it's not just the right supporting Perry against the accusations. David Axelrod, former adviser to President Barack Obama, called the charges "sketchy." Jonathan Chait calls the indictment "unbelievably ridiculous" because it's essentially punishing Perry "threatening" a veto before carrying through with it:

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.

The Texas Observer gives some more background on the scandal here, arguing that there is some partisanship here in Perry's actions in that the Democrat-controlled Public Integrity Unit was one of the few state agencies outside his influence and that he would have been the guy to appoint Lehmberg's replacement. The Observer also notes that the state's Public Integrity Unit's role in indicting former U.S. Majority Leader Republican Tom DeLay, so "naturally" (their adjective, not mine) the Republicans would want to strip it of its power. The Observer, however, fails to note that charges against DeLay were later tossed out on appeal due to lack of evidence. The state is trying to get them reinstated (note the name-check of Lehmberg in this story from March). A decision probably won't come until 2015.

The Observer does note what will likely end up protecting charges of partisanship or cronyism by Perry from getting much traction with the public: There is a video of Lehmberg's hilariously drunken escapades in jail following her arrest. Her blood alcohol level was tested at .239, nearly three times the legal limit, and it showed. She does not make exactly a compelling figure to defend the character of the Public Integrity Unit, and it's hard to see exactly who outside of Texas political figures will see Perry's behavior here in a negative light, even if his motives were extremely tainted.

Meanwhile, Perry, when not defending his decision as governor, is calling for more action in Iraq, because of course he is.