Our Opinion: Lone Star state politics


The irony of Texas governor and erstwhile Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry complaining that he is the victim of a political prosecution in his indictment on felony charges of abuse of power is undoubtedly lost on him. The state is infested by partisan politics at every level, and as governor for the past 14 years he has played a part in creating it.

Former U.S. House Speaker Tom Delay’s famous smiling mug shot of 2005 resulted from an indictment related to allegedly illegal campaign fundraising. The Texan left office a year later, was found guilty and was later acquitted on appeal. Texas is one of many southern states gerrymandered, in part through the efforts of the former Speaker, to isolate Republicans from black and Hispanic voters. According to The New York Times, Mr. Perry in his 14 years has appointed thousands of presumed loyalists to virtually every board and commission in the Lone Star state. Mr. Delay blames "Washington Democrats" for the Perry indictment. We’ll assume this includes President Obama, who in the eyes of the GOP is to blame for everything wrong on the planet.

The governor, however, had no control over the grand jury in the state capital of Austin, which is that blue spot amid a sea of red in election night maps of Texas on the cable networks. Mr. Perry could be the victim of political payback, as he and his supporters claim, but if true he should have known enough not to give his foes an opening. The governor was angry that the district attorney for Travis County, of which Austin is the county seat, refused to leave office after being arrested on a drunken-driving charge. The Democratic DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, should have taken at least a leave of absence, but the governor’s mistake was in vetoing $7.5 million in funding for an anti-corruption unit within the DA’s office apparently because of her refusal to resign. That money was needed to fund a worthy program that had nothing to do with Ms. Lehmberg’s arrest.

A Delay-style mug shot would damage Mr. Perry’s continuing presidential hopes and a felony conviction would end them. Mr. Perry can cry politics all he wants in his heavily politicized state but that won’t change the fact that in playing politics in Travis County he crossed a line that earned him an indictment for over-extending his power as chief executive.


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