Pondering the Perry indictment
By Bruce Walker
The indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry for the "crime" of exercising his constitutional power to line-item veto appropriations which he believes are bad for investments for Texas taxpayers is so macabre that even conservative commentators seem confused.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, was arrested for DUI in April 2013 with blood alcohol content three times the legal limit. The police video of her arrest shows coercing law enforcement officers who arrested and who booked her. (The failure to successfully coerce these officers is not relevant to her crime.)
On video anyone can see a district attorney warn the officers arresting her: "…that's yall's problem not mine." She coerces the deputies who followed standard procedure to book this dangerous drunk drive that Travis County Sheriff Hamilton was "…not going to let me sit in jail all night. That's crazy" and again abusing her authority by and by exacerbating her criminal misconduct by telling the deputies "Y'all are gonna be in jail, not me." Lehmberg actually did what Perry is accused of doing: she coerced, albeit unsuccessfully, public officers to not perform their lawful duties.
Perry called on this creepy thug in charge of law enforcement in the county which houses state government in Texas to resign. Despite acknowledging in her drunken stupor to arresting officers than her career was ruin, Lehmberg refused and, stunningly, is still in office. Perry then told Lehmberg that as long as she was in charge of the Public Integrity Unit, part of the Travis County District Attorney's Office, that he would not try to stop appropriations to that particular unit.
Perry has a line-item veto which allows him to pick and choose which parts of the state appropriation bill on his desk he will veto (and which he will approve) and the Public Integrity Unit had already come under criticism for politically motivated investigations. It is a discretionary operation which does not need to exist for the Travis County District Attorney to perform her designated duties.
Any member of the legislature who from the floor of his chamber said "I cannot in good conscience vote for funding for the Public Integrity Unit as long as Ms. Lehmberg remains Travis County District Attorney" or who in Appropriations Committee hearing asked pointed questions about Lemhberg's misbehavior in questioning the need for the Public Integrity Unit would be just as guilty as Perry.
Beyond that, no one seems to have grasped Perry's veto message which states:
"Despite the otherwise good work the Public Integrity Unit's employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence. This unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the State budgetary process. I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation." (The italics added and are important)
The Travis County District Attorney was given state funding for statewide operations and not Travis County funding for Travis County operations. Lehmberg could not be voted out by the voters of Texas but only by the voters of Travis County. The constitutional role of Perry and the Texas Legislature in the state appropriation process is to insure the wise, frugal and proper use of Texas taxpayers.
Perry's lynch mob would have us believe that the vile and unprofessional behavior of Lehmberg is not a proper consideration in his constitutional exercise of the line-item veto. What if Lehmberg's Public Accountability Office was infested with drunk drivers and louts who insult and abuse arresting officers and suppose that Lemhberg did not fire the miscreant employees in her office? Would Perry be committing a crime in trying to end funding for this Public Integrity Unit? Indeed, would these officials be guilty for even trying to reduce the appropriation because of Lehmberg's bad behavior or her employees' bad behavior?
The more I think about the indictment of Perry the most Orwellian or even Kafkaseque in all seems.
Bruce Walker is the author of book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life and a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right.