High-profile liberals who are ideological foes of Texas Gov. Rick Perry have nonetheless denounced the indictment handed down against him on Friday.
The grand jury indictment stems from his plans to veto funding for a state agency after the public had reportedly lost confidence in Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. She had been found guilty of drunk driving, but refused to step down. A Democrat, Lemberg apparently was unwilling to give Perry, a Republican, the opportunity to appoint a GOP-affiliated replacement for the Austin-based pubic integrity unit which investigates lawmakers for possible ethics violations.
Perry has insisted that following through on his veto threat was in accordance with the Texas constitution that gives the governor to power to veto spending bills. Critics of the abuse of power indictment also see it as a way to discredit a possible contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
As alluded to above, Perry is receiving support from unlikely allies, that being those from liberal Democrat precincts. For example, top Obama adviser David Axelrod said on Twitter that “unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy.”
Actress Mia Farrow, a well-known progressive, issued a tweet that stated “I’m no Rick Perry fan but the indictment doesn’t identify a law he violated. Looks like politics not felony.” Farrow must have received some blowback from fellow liberals and subsequently deleted the tweet.
New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, another Perry critic, nonetheless called the Perry indictment weak, outrageously unfair, unbelievably ridiculous, and farfetched. Chait added that “I do not have a fancy law degree from Harvard or Yale or, for that matter, anywhere. I am but a humble country blogger. And yet, having read the indictment, legal training of any kind seems unnecessary to grasp its flimsiness.”
MSNBC Morning Joe panelist Mark Halperin declared that “This is the stupidest thing I’ve seen, I think, in my entire career. I hope some judge throws it out right away. It’s not just kind of funny and ridiculous, but it’s an infringement on individual liberty. He’s got a First Amendment right… it’s easy to joke about this, but this is a serious thing. It is ridiculous that he was indicted for this. Ridiculous.”
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax that while he would never vote for Rick Perry, the charges against the governor were politically motivated and another example of criminalizing ideological differences. “Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment. If you don’t like how Rick Perry uses his office, don’t vote for him.”
MSNBC.com writer Timothy Noah offered this assessment on Twitter:
MSNBC host Ari Melber and former Obama campaign strategist Jonathan Prince expressed similar views:
I’ve made no secret — I don’t think highly of Rick Perry. Even still, indictment seems all bizzare. The guy is many, many, many things I’m just not sure he’s a criminal. Even liberals seem to think the thing is shaky. Let’s just let the guy finish his term so I dnt have to keep listening to him? Just because I dnt care for him as a politician doesn’t give me the right to criminalize his politics. That’s the conservative in me.”
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg had been arrested for drunk driving and was widely criticized for her conduct while in custody. She refused to resign even after been sentenced to jail and Perry carried out his threat. I have been critical of Perry in the past and I believe that his veto was wrongheaded. However, I view the indictment as very troubling on a separation of powers basis and the result of the extension of criminal provisions with tangential applicability to this type of dispute…
Perry (and, in fairness, various state groups) called for her to resign. Lehmberg refused. The conflict had, at the outset, obvious political dimensions. Lehmberg is located in the very liberal and very Democratic city of Austin. The governor hails from an extremely conservative part of the state and Lehmberg is one of the few Democratic officials with a statewide position…
With regard to two state statutes that formed the basis of the Perry indictment, Turley wrote that
From what I can see, these provisions are rarely used and prosecutors have waited for the strongest possible grounds for such charges. Indeed, such laws are written broadly in reliance on prosecutorial discretion. In this case, the special prosecutor seemed to pound hard to get these square facts into these round holes. A bit too hard for such a case.”
Added the Washington Post:
Unlike the New Jersey bridge scandal, where political wrongdoing was a given and the only question was the governor’s knowledge and complicity, Perry’s indictment is widely seen as a ridiculous political stunt. Most pundits, pols and voters concede that vowing to veto funding for a department unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned after a drunk driving arrest is commendable, not illegal. Liberal commentators have decried the indictment while conservative media and even potential 2016 opponents have rallied to his side.”
Does the fact that liberal pundits who wouldn’t vote for Rick Perry for dogcatcher have raised fundamental questions about the indictment change your opinion, if any, about the controversy?
Based on the arrest and booking videos, should Rosemary Lehmberg have resigned her position as Rick Perry wanted?
[top image credit: Gage Skidmore]