Texas Gov. Rick Perry probably should not have vetoed funding for the public integrity unit controlled by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. He absolutely should not have been indicted for doing it. The indictment is an abuse of the state’s legal system, done in the name of punishing an abuse of the political system. One does not justify the other.
After a conviction for drunk driving, Lehmberg refused to resign her office, although part of her job is to prosecute drunk driving cases. She should have resigned, and politicians of both parties should have demanded it. Perry did, and he threatened to veto state funding for an investigations office she oversaw. She stayed put, and he vetoed the funding.
For that, he was indicted on two felony counts of abuse of power. Really.
Perry, who visits New Hampshire today, was defiant at his booking, and rightly so. Even The New York Times editorial board, which despises him, criticized the apparent “overzealous prosecution” in this case. The Times did not go far enough. This is not just overzealous prosecution. It is an attempt to criminalize a political dispute, which is a dangerous step in a nation in which the government is designed specifically to create political friction.
Texas is well known for its hardball politics, which is what the Perry-Lehmberg feud was. The only abuse apparent here was committed by the prosecutor. It is Texas, not Perry, that is disgraced by this indictment.