With Congress out of session, the nation turns its lonely eyes elsewhere in search of suitably entertaining political theater. And sure enough, Democrats in the great state of Texas have done the trick.
On Friday, a Democratic prosecutor in Travis County (that is, hyper-liberal Austin) obtained a grand jury indictment against Republican Gov. Rick Perry. The charge? He threatened to veto an appropriations bill — a plenary power granted him under the Texas constitution — and then followed through on his threat.
|Weak as the case against Perry appears at first glance, it gets worse the more closely the details are examined.|
The bill in question included funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney's Office. There are no allegations in the indictment that suggest Perry acted for personal gain or did anything more than irk the very Democrats now attempting to prosecute him. And, as weak as the case appears at first glance, it gets worse the more closely the details are examined. Perry vetoed the funding after Rosemary Lehmberg, head of the Public Integrity Unit, refused to resign after being arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Lehmberg's arrest was not a typical drunk driving arrest. After miserably failing a field sobriety test, she refused a Breathalyzer test. A blood sample, taken under warrant, revealed she had been driving drunk at three times the legal limit. During her arrest and booking, she repeatedly accused law enforcement officers of trying to ruin her career, and even threatened to put sheriffs' deputies in jail when they weren't quick enough in removing her handcuffs. She demanded to see the sheriff and kicked and screamed in her cell until she had to be forcibly restrained, all of which is on video.
Lehmberg's threatening behavior demonstrated she was not fit to uphold the integrity of the state's governing institutions, and easily explains Perry's veto. So the case against Perry is not only weak but ridiculous. Several liberal commentators outside Texas have said as much. Among them are former Obama adviser David Axelrod, New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait (“To describe the indictment as 'frivolous' gives it far more credence than it deserves”) and even the editors at the reflexively hyper-partisan ThinkProgress website.
This is not the first bad-faith partisan indictment to come out of Travis County. In 1993, former Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle brought an indictment against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, hoping to keep the Republican tied up in legal knots through the 1994 election. When a judge forced him to try the case on the spot, he refused to present any evidence and she was acquitted.
In late 2005, Earle indicted then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, essentially for handling campaign contributions from various sources smartly and according to the exact letter of the law. DeLay was permanently run out of politics within months, but it was eight years before he received a formal acquittal. Perry won’t withdraw from politics and appears determined to seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. It likely won’t be eight years before this indictment is dismissed, either.