Perry's faults many, but he's no criminal

EDITORIAL

Political moves embarrass state, further entrench dysfunction between parties

Some might say it was karma, but last week’s indictment against Texas Governor Rick Perry was unneeded and sideshow theater.

Perry was indicted by a special prosecutor for coercion and abuse of power by a Travis County grand jury for threatening to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit. The PIU was looking into a case involving the Cancer Prevention Institute (whose creation Perry pushed).

But the funding veto threat seems to have been aimed at ousting a bad district attorney and suffered from bad timing, not criminal activity.  

After the pathetic arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, the governor should have let her situation play itself out through voter recall or re-election denial instead of threatening to veto funds. (As disgraceful as her DWI conviction was, she should have resigned immediately.) But we fail to see how wanting her gone after this embarrassing episode rises to the level of criminality.

Our criticisms of the governor are many, and we are anxious for new leadership after his record-length tenure. Perry has been an exemplar of crony capitalism and “pay to play” politics. He has made public health issues worse by his refusal to work with the federal government, and the state’s transportation infrastructure has sat idle while our population has boomed. He has done poorly by public education and has appointed regents who sought to meddle in higher education.
But whether one agrees with him or not, there is no denying that he has made the most of his time in office and used his political strength to make Texas a solid red state. Though Texas has been called a weak-governor state, where the lieutenant governor wields more power, Perry has used his gubernatorial power — including vetos — to great effectiveness.

To indict a sitting governor over a questionable and difficult to prove charge is brazen. Though it may harm Perry’s presidential ambitions, this will not help Democrats’ political fortunes.

To be sure, many get fatigued with long-serving office-holders, whether a second-term president or a multi-term governor. But it’s a slippery slope to want to try and use the courts to oust or punish those who are legitimately elected by the voting populace.  

This indictment is just another escalation of the political theater between Democrats and Republicans and most of us are more fatigued with the parties being unable to work together than with any individual politician.

This indictment is another embarrassment for the state of Texas, which needs no help with red-faced theater.

Even if one takes smug satisfaction in a lawsuit against the president or indictment against a governor, we all should ask ourselves as voters and American citizens if these are the best way to deal with those with whom we disagree.

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