Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rick Perry used, not misused, power

I was just in the car and heard a 30 second NPR national story about Rick Perry's indictment for abuse of power, and it left out a crucial detail that seems to be left out a lot in coverage of this story.

Here is a good summary from the Associated Press:

After Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunken driving in April 2013, Perry threatened to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state's ethics watchdog unit in her office unless she resigned. Lehmberg is an elected Democrat and Republicans have long accused her public corruption prosecutors of targeting conservatives.

The shallow coverage has simply said that Perry vetoed funding to force a public official from office, and then moves on to other details of the case. Leaving the drunk driving out of it changes the whole ball game. It makes Perry's actions sound reasonable, although with Lehmberg's reputation for targeting conservatives it's likely his motivations are less pure.

I'm not saying this crucial detail is being left out on purpose to tilt the coverage or singling out NPR. NPR is far from the only news source to leave out that detail, and other NPR stories have included it. With our old friend Hanlon's Razor it's fair to chalk this up to incompetence and not malice, but it does mean members of the public are getting the wrong idea about the subject.

Even serial conservative-basher Jonathan Chait thinks this is a political witch hunt. He makes reference to the old joke that grand juries are so loose with indictments that they would indict a ham sandwich:

The theory behind the indictment is flexible enough that almost any kind of political conflict could be defined as a “misuse” of power or “coercion” of one’s opponents. To describe the indictment as “frivolous” gives it far more credence than it deserves. Perry may not be much smarter than a ham sandwich, but he is exactly as guilty as one.

When you've lost Jonathan Chait, you've lost the case.

1 comment:

  1. As far as I'm concerned, the Texas Gov. has a free hand to veto or sign bills using whatever criteria he or she wishes, a power granted by the Texas Constitution. I would say that no law can be passed limiting that power. It might be unethical, but if the Perry wanted to tie his signing a bill to the color of a DA's socks, that's an issue for voters, not the legislature.

    (How often does the president "coerce" congress by threatening to veto a bill unless this or that is done?)