08.17.14 9:45 AM ET
Peak 'Oops': Explaining the Perry Indictment
Here's the thing about Rick Perry's indictment. The case may indeed have plenty of merit. But merit aside, you can indict a ham sandwich if it's Republican in the most liberal hotbed of Texas: Travis County. The problem for Perry is that a Travis County jury can also find a Republican ham sandwich guilty.
Just when Perry was getting a second wind on his presidential aspirations, and getting very good reviews, along comes a grand jury to knock his legs out from under him by charging him with felony counts of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.
In April 2013, Travis County's District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for and pleaded guilty to driving while drunk. Rick Perry and others demanded she resign her position. But Perry went further and threatened to veto a $7.5 million appropriation for the state public integrity unit at the Travis County district attorney’s office. And then did veto the funds.
Running for President requires absolute focus. At the very least, this indictment will be an enormous distraction and drain on Perry's time, money and attention.
So, he has to deal with what will inevitably be time-consuming and complicated legal wrangling.
Politically, he can — and likely will — cast this as liberal conspiracy to handicap his political fortunes, though his lawyers will likely try and muzzle any editorial commentary whatsoever from the governor.
While that kind of message could have some resonance with Republican primary voters in places like Iowa, even they, like the broader public, could confuse "indicted" with "guilt." Or at least it means something pretty bad in their minds. The timing of the resolution of the case will obviously be key because not a lot of voters will want to vote for a candidate who is "under indictment," no matter how much they like him.
And obviously if he's found guilty, he's cooked. So the only real political prospects for Perry now are to resolve the case quickly by somehow getting it dismissed or to be found innocent of the charges relatively quickly.
And that could happen. Most people think a district attorney who pleaded guilty to being drunk while driving, and added fuel to the fire by making no doubt of her condition in a police video that went viral, should have resigned. And even Democrats like David Axelrod are coming to Perry's defense: "Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy."
On the other hand, If Perry had said nothing and simply vetoed the funds to the DA's office, he likely would not be in this current predicament.