Living in Austin, I’m quite familiar with the antics of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg on the night of her arrest for DUI. It was all over the local news at the time. In the days that followed, citizens of Austin witnessed her shaky field sobriety test at the scene and her kicking, complaining, threatening, and even sticking her tongue out while in custody. Most of us likely have never seen anyone physically restrained except perhaps in a movie scene where a character is put in a strait jacket, but Ms. Lehmberg modeled a similar device for us in the Travis County Jail.
Thanks to the indictment of Governor Rick Perry for vetoing funding of the Public Integrity Unit which is run out of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office now the entire country can see Ms. Lehmberg’s antics for themselves all day long on cable television and You Tube.
It would be quite interesting to know what Ms. Lehmberg thinks today about her national fifteen minutes of fame.
From those tapes, the country now knows very clearly why Governor Perry didn’t think Ms. Lehmberg would make an acceptable steward of $7.5 million dollars in state funds.
Most rational people on the right and left see the indictment as a partisan witch hunt. Only the Democratic National Committee and the Texas Democrat Party jumped in immediately and called for Perry’s resignation. I’m guessing that they will quickly regret that decision since this mud is likely to soon sling right back in their direction and land all over their candidate for governor, Wendy Davis.
Ironically, even Craig McDonald, the Director of Texans for Public Justice, a leftwing group dedicated to going after Republicans and the organization that started this whole mess, revealed in what can only be described as a Freudian slip the true nature of this matter. On CNN this weekend, when asked by Candy Crowley to address the charge that this is nothing more than a partisan witch hunt, Mr. McDonald responded that “nothing could be closer to the truth.”
At least he was being honest.
Writing a blog post on this issue is interesting because there are so many different angles worth exploring.
First, there is the fact that every GOP governor who appears even remotely interested in seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016 quickly finds himself tainted by some charge of corruption or scandal. So far, we’ve had Chris Christie and Scott Walker fending off such attacks. Now there is Rick Perry. Could this really be just a coincidence?
There’s also the specter of a veto prompting a charge of abuse of power and a criminal indictment. It definitely makes John Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama look pretty innocuous. Even impeachment seems minor when compared to the possibility of sentencing a public official to decades behind bars for doing his job.
Finally, there’s the matter that Texans need to settle once and for all. Political abuse by the Public Integrity Unit in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office has gone on for years. It would be one thing if the unsuccessful prosecution of Kay Bailey Hutchison was the only unseemly activity to come out of that office. In that case, the prosecution only made Hutchison stronger. That was followed by the prosecution of Majority Whip Tom Delay. He was later exonerated but his political career effectively ended. Now we have Governor Perry in a similar situation.
For years, there has been talk of moving the Public Integrity Unit to the Texas Attorney General’s office since that official is elected statewide. That idea is heavily opposed by Democrats who like having the office in the safe Democrat environs of Austin, Texas. I bet they’d like an alternative even less. Why don’t we move the office to Lubbock County or Collin County? That would take the operation out of the politically charged environment of the state capitol. Trust me. If they don’t like the Attorney General handling things, they’d like District Attorneys in heavily Republican areas doing that work even less.
Still, this can’t continue. House Bill 1 of the next Legislature needs to be directed at moving that office.
They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ve worked with Governor Perry, and I’m confident he’ll get through this just fine.
As Texans, we often like to remind people, “Don’t Mess with Texas.” That goes double in this case.
To the Democrats out there bent on pursuing this there is a similar message.
Don’t Mess with Rick Perry.