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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

In our opinion: Perry indictment a concern

Deseret News editorial

Published: Fri, Aug. 22 12:00 a.m. MDT

 The recent felony indictments of Texas Gov. Rick Perry following his use of constitutional veto power is seen by many as what could become a dangerous trend.

The recent felony indictments of Texas Gov. Rick Perry following his use of constitutional veto power is seen by many as what could become a dangerous trend.

(Evan Vucci, Associated Press)

Renowned Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz is a self-identified liberal Democrat who, under normal circumstances, would not be the first person one would expect to come to the aid of a conservative Republican who finds himself in legal hot water. So when Dershowitz calls the two felony indictments brought against Texas Gov. Rick Perry as “un-American” and part of an “extremely dangerous trend,” his observations aren’t easy to dismiss.

At issue is the governor’s use of his constitutional veto power to deny funding to Austin’s Public Integrity Unit. Perry’s veto defunded the department after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign in the wake of a drunk driving conviction that forced her to spend 45 days in jail. The indictment cites a Texas law that forbids the “misuse” of public funds to “harm another.” Perry announced prior to his veto that his decision to deny the $7.5 million in funding was due to Lehmberg’s unwillingness to step down. The Washington Post, in an editorial lambasting the indictments as “wrong-headed,” noted that “[b]y the weird logic of the indictment, Mr. Perry would have been in the clear if he had simply vetoed the funding without threatening to do so first.”

Like Alan Dershowitz, the Washington Post is not usually in the front of the line to defend conservative politicians. But Perry has no shortage of liberal defenders. Obama campaign strategist David Plouffe took to Twitter to call the indictments “pretty sketchy.” And Clinton and Obama administration strategist Jonathan Prince posted a tweet summarizing the entire case as follows: “Have to say Perry indictment seems nuts.”

That perception doesn’t seem to be limited to just one ideological persuasion, and that’s entirely appropriate. Both Democrats and Republicans ought to be concerned by what Dershowitz identifies as “another example of the criminalization of party differences,” a practice he notes is common under totalitarian regimes but not here in the United States. By dragging a constitutional veto decision into the courtroom solely on the basis of a partisan disagreement, Texas authorities risk undermining the integrity of both the legal system and the political process as a whole.

It’s no secret that Perry is actively contemplating another presidential campaign, and no doubt many of his opponents were gleeful at the possibility that his ambitions would be derailed by these indictments. But bringing the governor down on spurious charges would likely prove to be a Pyrrhic victory that would end up enhancing his standing before the electorate.

But these are raw political considerations, which ought to have no bearing in the courtroom. Politicians who make decisions people don’t like ought to be voted out of office, not put behind bars.

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1. JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC,
Aug. 22, 2014

"Dershowitz calls the two felony indictments brought against Texas Gov. Rick Perry as “un-American” and part of an “extremely dangerous trend,”"

I have to agree with Dershowitz.

And, in general the Republicans will join with Dershowitz and yell "un-American" and "extremely dangerous" and the Democrats will defend this and list why this is substantive.

And then we take the talk of impeachment of Obama and the actual law suit filed against him. This is also "un-American" and a "Dangerous trend". And the partisans will switch roles.

And, I have little doubt the people on both sides will comment on how one is completely justified and the other is bogus.

In the end, they are both partisan, political maneuvers, plain and simple.

2. ECR
Burke, VA,
Aug. 22, 2014

Boy, the world seems to have turned upside down. The Deseret News is quoting the likes of Alan Dershowitz, the Washington Post and David Plouffe to support their editorial position. Certainly the indictment against Governor Perry seems a bit over the top. But as you state so clearly "[b]y the weird logic of the indictment, Mr. Perry would have been in the clear if he had simply vetoed the funding without threatening to do so first." Too bad the governor wasn't smart enough to understand that.

I also find it ironic that the DN calls this indictment, which has a political motive attached to it - from both sides - has ignored the House of Representatives attempt at "dragging a constitutional ...decision into the courtroom solely on the basis of a partisan disagreement" in their lawsuit against President Obama. Perhaps the DN would care to explain the difference. Or is it just that Alan Dershowitz hasn't yet spoken out about it?

3. SCfan
clearfield, UT,
Aug. 22, 2014

Well, it's pretty simple to look ahead and see what track this thing is on. Beginning in January 2015 it is possible that President Obama will need to use the veto power quite a lot, as there could well be a Republican Congress that will be sending him a lot of legislation that he doesn't want to to sign. Imagine if the precedent of indicting a chief executive for using veto power was to become legal and fashionable.

4. ShaunMcC
La Verkin, UT,
Aug. 22, 2014

I never thought I'd say this but Alan Dershowitz is right. Actually I thought he was right a couple of other times, but his efforts to remove God completely from public discourse has made me a little cross with him. Nevertheless, bringing charges against political figures for doing their job according to the rules is more than chilling - no matter how much we disagree with the specific ways they do their job. The liberals support him here because they know if this can be done to Perry, it can also be done to any of the liberal politicians for doing their job in unpopular ways, even if they have the legal right to do so. Hopefully these charges will be thrown out without wasting a lot of time and money on something so frivolous and vindictive. Simply put and in agreement with this editorial, "If you don't like what an elected official does, vote them out of office."

5. gmlewis
Houston, TX,
Aug. 22, 2014

As a Texan, I have admired Gov. Perry for many years. I agree with the author that these charges against him are bogus and dangerous to our political system.

I would be aghast if he didn't have the chance to run for President because of these spiteful indictments. He isn't perfect, but he's a better candidate than any others that have been identified so far.

If he is nominated as a Presidential candidate, I hope the people of Louisiana will remember his compassion for the refugees that Texas took in during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Other states helped, but Texas received the majority due to Gov. Perry's leadership.