WASHINGTON, August 16, 2014 — The indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry raises questions about the power of an elected official to impose his will outside the defined legal parameters of his job, much as President Obama’s liberal use of executive privilege raises the same questions.
Perry’s lawyer’s claims that Perry has constitutional veto authority under the Texas constitution, even when that affects public officials not under his authority. Obama’s lawyer’s claims that Obama has the constitutional authority to issue executive orders at odds with the clear letter of the law.
And they are both right.
Obama uses executive power to move his agenda around Congress, which he believes is in the nation’s best interest. Perry used his veto power to stop the transfer of $7.5 million dollars to Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit in an attempt to force out a public official who doesn’t work for the state.
Many in the liberal mainstream media stop right there and cry foul; Perry is a bully who used his power to attempt to coerce this fine public official.
Only that is not the full case here.
The veto was indeed threatened in an attempt to coerce Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to step down from her position. The attempt was not to coerce Lehmberg into stopping an investigation, or to vacate the position so that he could appoint a pliable rubber stamp. He didn’t do it in the expectation that deep blue Travis County would suddenly grow a crop of conservatives who could take over the DA’s office or the PIU.
Lehmberg’s office runs the Public Integrity Unit; she is the person who investigates corruption and ethical lapses. It is a job that demands, among its other requirements, that the person holding it have integrity and a reputation for ethics beyond dispute.
That does not describe Lehmberg. She was arrested on a drunk-driving charge in April, 2013, after being caught by Austin police with an open bottle of vodka in the front seat of her car. She then carried on in jail like a matronly baboon.
Was this a one time “oops,” a bit of excessive celebration after being appointed as a Sunday-school teacher? (She was caught in a church parking lot.)
Lehmberg, 63, was arrested after a witness called 911 to report seeing a car driving for about a mile in a bike lane, swerving and veering into oncoming traffic, according to an arrest affidavit.
According to her testimony as recorded by Statesmen.com:
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg took the stand Tuesday, testifying that she had been heavily intoxicated the night in April she was arrested for drinking and driving.
On the second day of her civil trial, she was solemn and reserved, admitting multiple times that her behavior toward the sheriff’s deputies and corrections officers who booked her into Travis County Jail “had been totally inappropriate.”
In response to questions from state lawyers, she also gave the first public and detailed account about the events that have led to the case seeking to oust her from office.
Lehmberg said she left work about 4:30 p.m. on April 12 because she had wanted to complete some tax work at home.
She drank some vodka and sparkling water, though she could not remember how much, before leaving about 7 p.m. for the Alamo Drafthouse, where she had two more glasses of wine.
She said she recalled how much she drank there because she had the receipt. But after leaving the theater, she stopped at a nearby liquor store to buy a bottle of vodka, then a convenience store to buy some soda, and sat in her car in the parking lot to have another drink, she said.
She was alone checking emails and “messing on her phone,” she testified. She could not remember how much of the bottle she consumed, she recalled, but when she turned on the ignition, she did not initially think she had been intoxicated to the point of physical impairment.
Once on the road, she said, she had trouble controlling her car and decided to find a place to stop and call someone for a ride. A sheriff’s deputy then pulled up and found the bottle of vodka in her front passenger’s seat three-quarters full, according to the testimony.
“Do you know you were intoxicated to the point that you couldn’t drive?” asked Jim Collins, an assistant county attorney prosecuting the case.
“I was more intoxicated than I could believe,” she responded
She plead guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail, of which she served less due to time off for good behavior.
But she didn’t resign, even after Perry asked her to. So he told her to resign, or he would veto the transfer of money to her office.
There is a direct relationship between alcohol and violence. According to U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics, alcohol was a factor in up to 37 percent of violent crimes committed between 1997 and 2008
In the videos taken by police after her arrest, Lehmberg is a belligerent drunk. A mean drunk. In testimony, she confirms that she asked that “connections” she had via the DA’s office be called when she was arrested:
During her trial Jim Collins, an assistant county attorney who is representing the state in the civil case aimed at removing Lehmberg from [office] referred to a deposition he took from her in early September. He was questioning her choice of “phone a friends” from the jailhouse following her arrest, including asking Travis County sheriff’s deputies call Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Lehmberg says the request was because “Acevedo is a friend.”
“So I’ll ask you again, you thought Art Acevedo, chief of Austin police, would want to know that you’ve been arrested by the sheriff’s office because he’s a friend,” Collins said Tuesday.
“Because he’s a friend of mine,” Lehmberg replied, also saying that she thought he would get a call about what happened and she wanted him to be notified.
“He’s not your only friend, is he?” Collins said.
“No,” Lehmberg replied.
“You didn’t ask them to call any other friends, did you?” he said.
“Greg Hamilton,” Lehmberg said, referring to the Travis County sheriff.
Video footage from the morning she was booked shows her asking for Sheriff Greg Hamilton.
“He’s not going to let me sit in jail all night,” she said. “That’s crazy.”
A research project by Ohio State University and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology says that a mean drunk is the result of a mean personality.
“People who focus on the here and now, without thinking about the impact on the future, are more aggressive than others when they are sober, but the effect is magnified greatly when they’re drunk,” said lead study researcher Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
“If you carefully consider the consequences of your actions, it is unlikely getting drunk is going to make you any more aggressive than you usually are,” Bushman added in a statement unconnected to Lemberg’s arrest.
Herbert Munden, an Austin doctor testified that the district attorney has a chemical dependency and that Lehmberg told him that over the past five years, she had two to three vodka drinks most evenings. Munden also said Lehmberg told him that drinking caused her to feel irritable rather than relaxed.
Munden said that Lehmberg was drinking to deal with job stress and because drinking had affected a relationship in her life, and possibly contributed to ending it.
It is important, when deciding whether Perry abused his Veto power that this was not a back-room deal; it was the subject of talk shows and public discussion.
He was not, as liberal pundits like to say, bullying, or using his position to cudgel political opponents. He was being a caretaker on the people’s purse.
In short, Governor Perry told Lehmberg, “I don’t think the citizens of Texas can trust you with $7.5 million dollars, so I am not going to give you $7.5 million dollars of Texans money. You resign, and we will pass the money to the office, but its not going to be given to you for your stewardship.”