Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Memo to Rick Perry: Curb Your Inner Bully

My favorite statement so far on the Rick Perry indictment comes from Senator Ted Cruz: "Unfortunately there has been a sad history of the Travis County District Atttorney's Office engaging in politically-motivated prosecutions, and this latest indictment of the governor is extremely questionable." The second part of the statement is yet to be proved. The first part is true but misleading. As Cruz certainly knows, Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum (a good friend of mine) has no affiliation whatsoever with the Travis County District Attoney's Office or its pathetic Public Integrity Unit.

The Wall Street Journal runs a close second, with its Texas Chainsaw Prosecution editorial falsely claiming that McCrum is "a Travis County prosecutor," and bemoaning "the tactic of using a special prosecutor to disguise political motives." As the Journal undoubtedly knows, McCrum is a Special Prosecutor appointed by a Republican judge after Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg recused herself and her office from the investigation.  Perhaps the WSJ can enlighten us as to how Ms. Lehmberg manuevered McCrum's appointment and controls him to this day. I'll look for the editorial staffers to run that story right after they find Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The real danger comes from the Journal's suggestion that Perry file a federal civil rights action against McCrum in McCrum's personal capacity. This invites the kind of personal and institutional attack on a public servant (which is excactly what McCrum is) that the Journal rightly bemoaned during Ken Starr's tenure as Independent Counsel. There is an explanation for the Journal's turnaround on this issue. Blatant partisan hypocrisy.

The Journal's bully-boy editorial plays right into the vigilante component in Perry's persona. Let's not forget the Governor's infamous threat to former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke during the 2012 primary campaign: "If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas." And in his first public statement after the indictment, Perry, true to form, threatened that "those responsible" for his prosecution "will be held accountable." That's a threat, pure and simple, against the public servant McCrum, the Republican judge who appointed him, and, last but not least, the citizens who served as grand jurors. I am reminded of another infamous comment, from James Carville in 1996, that Judge Starr was "one mistake away from not having any kneecaps."

So here is my unsolicited advice to Governor Rick Perry. Attack the indictment all you want. Attack the theory behind it. Attack the wisdom, judgment and prudence of the prosecutor who brought it. Attack the overcriminalization of political acts. All of this is fair game and nobody, least of all a prosecutor, should be immune from public criticism. But try to remember that you are the "new" Rick Perry. Put on your glasses and your big boy pants and stop making threats, or I'll have to come back home. And hold you accountable.

(wisenberg)

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