There are two prevailing lines of thought about the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). One is that it is good for Perry and his political ambitions, and the other is that it is bad for Perry and his political ambitions. On its face, it would require contorted logic to ever think that an indictment is a net positive — and there is no doubt that Perry’s preference would be to have not been indicted. However, as The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan points out, Perry “may be in an even stronger political position than he was before the charges hit.”
Perry needs something to help reshape his image and overcome the negative stereotype of him as the loopy, shallow pretty boy of Texas politics. This indictment could be the game-changer he needs to generate a fresh start and a new image. It’s no secret that Perry is eyeing a presidential run in 2016, and the debacle of his 2012 campaign is an obstacle that he will need to overcome. If Perry artfully uses this occasion to be a victim, martyr and fighter, it could be just the rehab he needs. For better or for worse, Perry will be getting a lot more media attention than he would otherwise in the coming days and weeks.
There is little question that the indictment is absurd. And after watching the video of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s behavior after her drunken-driving arrest, it’s no wonder that Perry declared a loss of public confidence in her ability to lead the public integrity unit. If you have not watched the video yet, tune in. It’s on its way to being a classic in U.S. politics.
But this indictment is bigger than just Texas. Proper prosecution of abusive public officials is a good thing. It reassures the public that the checks and balances in our democracy are working. Concocted, phony and retaliatory prosecutions serve only to reinforce the public’s skepticism about the motives of our country’s political leadership and undermine the public trust. If we needed further erosion of the public faith in our government, this indictment certainly supplies it.
Bogus charges against a political foe erode the relevancy of legitimate corruption charges when they are actually needed and warranted. By pursuing Perry’s indictment, the Democrats might actually do Perry some good. But in the meantime, they are contributing to the further disintegration of the ability of our two-party system to create a government that functions.
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