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Friday, October 28, 2016

A truism: Almost nobody looks good in his booking photo.

That said, the 47th governor of Texas, one James Richard Perry, certainly gave it his best shot when he faced the camera at the Travis County Courthouse last week. The resultant image is … not terrible. Perry is caught somewhere between a tight smile and an outright grimace, his mien taut with confidence and seriousness of purpose.

Gazing on that photo, one cannot help but suspect that a transparently political indictment designed by his Democratic opponents to cripple this presumed presidential aspirant might actually help him instead. One is not usually disposed to think of Texas’ swaggering governor as a victim, but darn if this indictment hasn’t turned the trick.

Of course, if Democrats in Texas have done the Republican governor an inadvertent favor, they sure haven’t done the country one. What is this thing lately of political parties using the courts as weapons of political destruction, trying to win judicially what they could not win at the ballot box?

A few words of definition before we proceed. The reference here is not simply to lawsuits and prosecutions with political import. Obviously there has been no shortage of those. But the sins and alleged sins of Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson, Larry Craig, Bob McDonnell, Tom DeLay and others — money-laundering, corruption, disorderly conduct — are at least recognizable as crimes.

By contrast, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is suing President Obama for issuing an executive order. Faced with mulish obstructionism from the GOP, Obama chose that route to make a technical change in a law — the Affordable Care Act — Boehner’s party hates. Now here’s Perry, indicted on felony abuse of power charges that could theoretically send him to prison for over a century. His crime? He issued a veto.

Here is the backstory: The district attorney of Travis County, Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested last year for drunk driving. Video captured her being belligerent toward police. Perry called on Lehmberg, who oversees the state public integrity unit, to resign, perhaps so that he might appoint a friendly Republican successor to head an agency that has been a thorn in his backside. Lehmberg refused, so Perry vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the integrity unit.

Neither principal in this sordid episode emerges covered with glory. Lehmberg’s behavior suggests the opposite of public integrity; she should have resigned. And Perry’s veto smacks of scorched earth, bully-boy politics, which is not pretty. It is also not a crime.

Things were not always thus. Once upon a time, the losing party felt itself bound to accept the will of the electorate with some modicum of grace. You weren’t happy about it, but you embraced the role of loyal opposition and bided your time until the next election in hopes your fortunes might change.

But that’s so 20th century.

For six years, the GOP has been trying to undo the election of 2008; Boehner’s lawsuit is only the latest of their many loopy schemes. Now, if Travis County is any bellwether, at least some Democrats are doing the selfsame thing.

It is behavior that should give all fair-minded Americans pause, regardless of party affiliation, for it illustrates with stark clarity the sheer brokenness of our political system. Flooded with corporate money, gerrymandered beyond any semblance of reason, it limps along prodded by those whose devotion to the “game” far outweighs any devotion they might have to that quaint relic we once called the public good. Now there is this misuse of the courts for political payback, this attempt to criminalize ordinary political activity.

The public should take note. Elections have consequences, folks used to say.

Overturning them does, too.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected]

Photo: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

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  • Dominick Vila

    Gov. Perry’s veto threat will not harm him politically. The fact that he was, allegedly, transferring funds from monies appropriated to attract cancer research firms to Texas, to his campaign coffers, would.
    In any case, Perry’s chances of being the GOP nominee for President in 2016 are nil. His record as Governor may be acceptable by Texas standards, it is not by national standards.

    • winnona

      You are sooo correct that I’m just going to say “DITTO”, and not repeat it…I might however, mention the fact that two attempts at ousting Ms. Lehmberg by ordinary, established means had failed before R. Perry tried his blackmail, so what was HIS hurry (she’d already said she wasn’t running again)???

      • Dominick Vila

        Maybe Lehmberg found incriminating evidence supporting the allegations of fraud…
        In any case, the is no excuse for Lehmberg’s behavior. Perry, like so many other Republican Governors, may have done unethical things, but that does not justify her drunken driving or her belligerence when she was stopped by a cop.

        • winnona

          Okay, so that may be so…there are NONE of us perfect, and she’s made a mistake (one I might add that Republicans under Perry have made also, and he did NOTHING). Two other established means to remove her were attempted and the powers that be decided against it, she said she would not run again at the end of her term, so WHAT WAS RICK’S RUSH??? Could it be that she was working on an investigation that would prove troubling for him?? He sure was intent on rushing her out the door to have made that threat…

          • Very Rev. Daibhidh Loggins, AC

            After all, the Public Integrity Unit, that is under the control of the Travis County D.A.’s Office, is the one held responsible for investigating wrongdoing on the part of Texas Legislators, regardless of party affiliation. He has wanted to 86 that unit for years, because it gave an authority that the Governor’s Office had no control over investigative authority over the Texas Legislative and Executive Branches, including the Governor’s Office.

    • Very Rev. Daibhidh Loggins, AC

      The funds transfers issues have been proven. There have already been a couple convictions of executives regarding the issue.

  • Kevin Perez

    “ cannot help but suspect that a transparently political indictment designed by his Democratic opponents..” gazing at that sentence, one has to wonder how Leonard Pitts, Jr. ever won a Pulitzer. Not one attribution as to who brought the case before the Grand Jury, not a word about the Republican prosecutor. Just a woefully incomplete paragraph of backstory about the Democratic AG who was busted for drunk driving is all that we get. No mention of the other two Texas AGs that got busted for drunk driving where Perry said nothing who happened to be Republican. This is a terrible article. I’m sorry that I clicked on it.

    • Terry Allen

      Thank you. A well-deserved comment. There is also the judge (a George W. Bush appointee) who appointed the Special Prosecutor. Sad, I suppose, that the national media seem to have decided it’s all politics, nothing to see here.

      Rick Perry may not in fact be the stupidest governor ever to occupy the Governor’s Mansion, and I’ll be truly sorry to be deprived of even the chance to watch him flame out gloriously during his next campaign. But this defiant chest-thumping is the worst possible behavior if he hopes to clear hiumself.

      It’s also the best strategy so long as the national media continue to delude themselves about what’s going on in Texas. Rick Perry’s going to be an ex-governor very soon, no matter how the case in Texas plays out. Rick Perry’s eyes are firmly on his next job.


    • jmprint

      I agree.

    • atc333

      Very nicely put.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Right. The GOP and election nullification…YAWN…Isn’t that how we ended up with the worst GOP president in US History? Something in TX water is causing brain damage down there.

    • Floridatexan

      George H W Bush is the epitome of the term “carpetbagger”. George W Bush was born in Connecticut.

  • Bren Frowick

    The entire premise of the article is bogus. Perry is guilty as sin of abusing his power to try and remove a civil service appointee with whom he differs politically, simply because she is investigating corruption in Texas politics, as she is SUPPOSED to do.

  • browninghipower

    What is with all this carping and whining from Dems about this indictment? Christ, if the situations were reversed, just how many goopers woulbe defending a Dem? NONE, you idiots. Stop it! Just stop your wimpering bullshit here. You all don’t even know the facts. Just shut up. God Dems are such morons…and so fucking annoying.

    • jointerjohn

      Annoying to you it seems when we care more about fairness than the home-team loyalty. Is it moronic to seek justice rather than political judo? If we voters would demand honorable and civil behavior instead of opportunistic partisanship we would all see a lot more civil behavior.

      • browninghipower

        Maybe on the Planet Wish Upon a Staristan, jointerjohn. But All I’m saying is that even the major TX papers in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio are pleading for the major Media to take the indictment seriously and NOT just buy the GOP line. This indictment is not merely political. I’m saying that the gop is quick to defend its felons loudly and often and that DEMS are pussies and suffer from battered wives’ syndrome. Civility and honor have nothing to do with it.

        • jointerjohn

          I share your assessment of the present contrast, I just feel that raising the civility bar is a better goal than joining the mud-wrestle. We agree on the problem, just different views on the solution. I truly believe there is a large sort of silent majority in America that is sick of “Jerry Springer Show” politics.

    • Very Rev. Daibhidh Loggins, AC

      Your comment about Democrats is offensive. There are many of us who do not ascribe to EITHER party line, and who instead use our God-given brains and independent thought processes to glean the truth from the facts. i MYSELF refuse to ascribe to ANY party. Both have good, both have bad. This is about a Governor using his political muscle to try and force out an official ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE, not APPOINTED. She obeyed the law after her sentence, paid her restitution, did her time, did her rehab, and is not running for re-election. His abuse of Power came from vetoing the funding, with OPEN THREATS TO DO SO, from a unit whose job was to investigate wrongdoings on the part of Texas Government, including hte Legislative, Executive, AND Judicial Branches.

      • browninghipower

        I’ve been a Dem all my life and vote Dem because I despise Teabaggin’ goopers. But I reserve the right to call out corporate Dems and cowardly DC Dems when they deserve it. Your post appears to agree with my basic premise nonetheless. Good on ya…And Austin is a very cool city. I love the music scene.

  • Rob Hill

    “Elections have consequences — and so does trying to use the courts to nullify them.” So true. It can also be said that attempting to nullify them by threat and overreach has consequences as well. Let’s not forget that District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg is an elected official, and as much as one may not like her behavior it should be up to the voters alone to remove her.

  • Floridatexan

    What? This was written by Leonard Pitts? Couldn’t it just be that GOP governors are slimy criminals? Like Chris Christie…Scott Walker…Rick Scott? Perry and Bush before him have almost destroyed my home state. This is not about politics. This is about Perry’s desperate attempt to hide the facts of his graft.

  • Very Rev. Daibhidh Loggins, AC

    This report contains MAJOR FALLACIES!! NONE of the judges involved in the indictments were Democrats. ALL WERE REPUBLICAN!. One was even a PERRY APPOINTEE. Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg recused herself from any involvement, as well as Democratic Judge Julie Kocurek. The ENTIRE set of judges that indicted Gov. Perry were REPUBLICAN.
    Additionally, Perry NEVER MENTIONED the veto until after he demanded that she resign. She refused, he made the veto. (It should be known that the Public Integrity Unit, housed in the Travis County D.A.’s office, which this money was earmarked for, is responsible for investigating wrongdoings on the part of the Texas Legislature.). This is clearly a case of political bullying by Gov. Perry, against a unit that has been a thorn in his and his party’s political side for years.
    For at least 10 years, the Texas Republican Party has officially sought to strip Travis County of the public integrity unit, which prosecutes political corruption. Perry clearly thought that this was his big chance to do just that. Last December, the integrity unit secured the indictment of an ex-official from Perry’s state cancer research fund for an improper $11 million state grant to a politically connected biotech firm. Combine the integrity unit’s power with Lehmberg’s drunken outing and it is no wonder that Governor Perry pounced.
    The big lie in Perry’s PR playbook is to dismiss these charges as a partisan witch hunt. While there’s no bipartisan love between Perry and Lehmberg, Perry’s indictment has been advanced by Republicans. Recusing herself, Lehmberg referred our complaint to local Democratic Judge Julie Kocurek. Judge Kocurek also stepped aside, forwarding the matter to a Republican Perry appointee: Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield. Stubblefield assigned the case to Republican Judge Bert Richardson in San Antonio. And Judge Richardson appointed Michael McCrum as special prosecutor.
    Read more:

  • FT66

    Rick Perry abused his power. There was no way of punishing everyone in Texas because that woman had an excessive drink and was not ready to vacate her post. Not everyone in Texas was enjoying the drink. Rick Perry didn’t think thoroughly on this. His mind was on that woman while ignoring the rest of people in Texas. Why didn’t he use his power to send People from law enforcement to apprehend that woman (though she had already served her penalty). With his veto it was TOTALLY abuse of Power. Indictment fits here best for him.

  • dana becker

    Considering the charges were brought by two Bush appointed prosecutors I don’t see how this is partisan. He clearly tried to get her to resign because of a misdemeanor charge that she served time for but that did not require her to resign. He tried to coerce her and used a threat to defund her office if she did not. She also happened to be investigating some unethical charges that involved the Gov and donors. His actions do warrant this and if he is innocent it will come out at trial.

  • longtail

    I would hardly equate threatening to, and then cutting the funding for my own oversite to delaying the implimentation of an intricate health insurance bill………….. but that’s just me.

  • FreudGal

    This article might have legs if its premise were correct. These charges were brought by Republicans in Texas. Not a Democrat was involved in convening the grand jury or forging the indictments. Is the writer intent on casting blame to the Democrats, who had nothing to do with this?

    Regardless of what the beltway media says, the Governor of Texas broke the law. He can say that everyone does it, but does that make it legal?

  • jcurtis595

    Leonard, you need to get your facts straight before you open your mouth. It looks like a political move until you check out what Perry actually did. Its not the veto (which I am sure got the DA looking for something bad on Perry), but, alas, lift up the rock and you will find a snake, a real snake. The Prosecuting Attorney recused herself and now objective lawyers and Grand Jurors are involved in a real criminal occurrence. The truth will out in court as this IS going forward.

    Jay Curtis (author of THE CODE)

  • BOC

    “Perry, indicted on
    felony abuse of power charges that could theoretically send him to prison for
    over a century?” His crime certainly wasn’t for issuing any vetoes?”
    It was for misappropriation of funds and abuse of executive power. These Texas
    GOP tactics have played out with ‘W’ Bush. The fact that the absent minded
    Texas Governor has not grasp this as reality is no surprise to anyone with
    common sense. As for his presidential aspirations, you have to have the ability
    to ‘tie your shoes and chew gum’ simultaneously. Perry has demonstrated on
    national TV (presidential debates) that brain-freeze is a serious handicap,
    when spontaneous decision-making is a must have skill set.

    In no way, are the democrats mimicking these childish and selfish behaviors. The democrats are not obstructing the political process, nor are they bringing false charges against political leaders who are fighting to serve at the pleasure of the American people. The GOP/TP could care less if America succeeds or burns, if they are not in control.

  • ExRadioGuy15

    Wow….now, even the National Memo is repeating that GOP lie about the indictment being “partisan politics”…shame on you, National Memo…
    For the record: the Travis County prosecutor “recused” the case and referred it to a special prosecutor. A REPUBLICAN special prosecutor took up the case. A judge appointed by Bush 43 recused himself. It was sent to another judge, also appointed by Bush 43, and that judge signed off on it.
    The National Memo needs not to be a part of the propaganda network of the Fascist GOP….instead, it needs to tell the truth about matters…

  • angryspittle

    I believe the real issue is the fact that two others who were in similar positions were not asked to resign for similar “indiscretions” but were of the right party indicating blatant favoritism and a violation of the concept of the rule of law that the GOP is so fond of citing.

  • Bryan Blake

    Mr. Pitts should take a job with Fox. His story is just as much a fiction piece as is the daily gruel of Fox. As a Texan who lives near Austin I have watched the story unfold. An independent Republican prosecutor presented the facts to a grand jury which returned the indictment. Contrary to what the mainstream media says Perry was indicted for abuse of his official power and not the exercise of the veto power of the governor’s office.

    This essay is simply not up to the usual standards of both Pitts and The National Memo.

  • atc333

    The “crime”, if it exists, is not the veto, it was the attempt to compel or coerce, the resignation of an official by the threat of a veto ot a budget item which would defund her agency, , effectively shutting down the effective functioning of the department and all of its pending investigations.

    The prosecuting attorney claims that there is more to this story than has been disclose at this time. Perhaps Perry was attempting to thwart a full blown investigation into his or others potentially criminal behavior. by seizing an opportunity to end that investigation by the agency he defuned.. Obviously, defunding her agency was not in the best interests of the State of Texas, and its people. The question is Why? Good, bad, or indifferent, the facts will all come out over time.

  • JO

    Fiction, no matter how often or loudly repeated, does not become fact.

  • joe schmo

    Lehmberg’s first mistake….take your position for granted, get drunk and actually get caught. Of course, it didn’t help her cause that they filmed her entire sobriety test inside and outside the jail and what did this uncooperative lunatic do? She gave the police the ‘do you know who I am’ and first thing she said….’you are ruining my political reputation.’ Well lady, you did that to yourself

    Bully-boy politics? What a lark. When a Conservative steps up to the plate as Perry rightly did, you people cry foul. Why? Because it does not fit in with your political agenda. Emotions over common sense and truth. Go figure.
    Texas – best economy, biggest job creator, no income tax…..You just can’t handle it because Texas is a very successful Red State. Get over it!

  • herchato

    Tricky Ricky & Lame Lehmberg what a pair to draw too!