Rick Perry's Political Motives


The indictments announced Friday against Rick Perry don’t fully detail the prosecutor’s evidence against him, and it’s possible that when all the evidence is presented Texans will be united in their desire to see him sent to the pokey. On the basis of the facts as we know them, though, the case against Perry seems no more dispositive to me today than it did in April, when the special prosecutor announced that a grand jury would be seated

To review those facts, in 2013 the Travis County district-attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for drunk driving and sentenced to 45 days in jail. It was a penalty that no one could find fault with after viewing video footage of the field sobriety test and her subsequent behavior at the station that evening (she served about half the sentence and entered a treatment program after leaving prison). A number of Texans felt that she should resign, among them Perry, who publicly warned that he would use his line-item veto to remove state funding to the Public Integrity Unit—an anti-corruption outfit located in the Travis County DA’s office—unless she stepped down. 

At the time, Democrats grumbled that Mr Perry’s threat was politically motivated. The Public Integrity Unit investigates corruption among statewide officials, which means, in the context, that it’s a check on Republicans like Perry and his pals. If Lehmberg stepped down, Perry would, in theory, have had a chance to replace a Democrat with a Republican appointee more friendly to his agenda. And after Lehmberg refused to resign and Perry vetoed the funding, the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint, charging that the veto had been politically motivated. That led to yesterday’s indictments; the charges are coercion and abuse of power. 

Perry, unsurprisingly, responded Saturday by doubling down, dismissing the indictment as “outrageous.” More surprising, perhaps, is how quickly public opinion has moved in his favor, or at least in favor of proceeding with caution. Republicans were quick to rally round, but even independents and Democrats, after the initial fizzle faded, seemed skeptical of the indictment. 

More Thoughts on the Perry Indictments

The indictment of Rick Perry turns Texas politics upside down. He can't be a serious presidential candidate when he is facing a potential jury trial. But it also has serious effects on the state party. An obvious issue is that Greg Abbott has previously ruled that the state could pay for Perry's defense. Does anyone think the Democrats are going to sit idly by and allow Perry to continue to spend large sums of money on his defense when he stands accused of breaking the law? Not a chance.

Verging on Irrelevance

I don't think Republicans recognize what is happening to their party in Texas. The GOP is verging on irrelevance. The failure of Texas to land the Republican national convention should have been a wake-up call for the state party. There was a reason why the Republicans chose Cleveland over Dallas: The national Republican party likes us for our money and for our electoral votes, but they don't really want to deal with us. The Republican platform was the final straw. No rational Republican leader would have chosen to put the convention in Dallas when the state party was calling for "reparative therapy."

The Red & Rough Guide

In an increasingly liberal America the market for books that explain why Texas remains steadfastly conservative seems to only grow. The two latest entries are Princeton University professor Robert Wuthnow’s Rough Country: How Texas Became America’s Most Powerful Bible-Belt State (Princeton University Press) and Texas Republican operative Wayne Thorburn’s Red State: An Insider’s Story of How the GOP Came to Dominate Texas Politics (UT Press).

The Compassionate Social Conservative

As a student at Alief Hastings High School, outside Houston, Kyleen Wright became, she says, a “noisy” pro-life activist, and the 54-year-old has since spent more than thirty years working for the cause. It can be rowdy work at times, as during last year’s debate over Texas House Bill 2, which introduced new abortion restrictions and prompted two special sessions and Wendy Davis’s famous filibuster.

Abbott on the Attack

I was inclined to think that the new Rasmussen poll showing Greg Abbott with a mere 8-point lead against Wendy Davis was an outlier until yesterday, when the campaign issued a statement dinging her as "out-of-touch with Texans" after the Houston Chronicle reported that in 2000, as a member of Fort Worth City Council, she had voted in favor of a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty pending further study and possible changes. Today, Davis says that she supports capital punishment, and the Abbott campaign is suggesting that her previous support for the moratorium gives the lie to that. Her professed change of heart, the statement argues, is just a matter of political expediency, given that a whopping majority of Texans support the death penalty. Capital punishment is one of the relatively few policy areas where Texan public opinion is markedly more conservative than national attitudes. About three-quarters of Texans support the death penalty, as do about 60% of Texas Democrats, and, strikingly, 60% of African-Americans, a result that Rodger Jones puzzled over in the Dallas Morning News earlier this year.

A Creepy Texas Story

On Friday, Wendy Davis released a 60 second TV ad--her first TV ad in this year's gubernatorial campaign, and the first campaign ad I can think of that's caused me to ask myself if this is the kind of situation where an outbound link should be accompanied by a "trigger warning." Trigger warning, just in case: the ad, which you can watch on YouTube, relates to a 1993 rape case, and includes a few moments

What Governor's Race?

With three months to go until the general election, there isn't much reason to talk about the governor's race. It's over. In fact, there was no governor's race. The only good day Wendy Davis had was the contretemps with Abbott over his keeping the location of dangerous chemicals secret, an exchange that Davis clearly won. Otherwise she has little to show for her efforts.


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