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August 19, 2014 10:24 AM Lind on Lehmberg and Perry

By Ed Kilgore

When Michael Lind talks about Texas, you should probably pay attention. But in his piece at Salon about the indictment of Rick Perry for allegedly abusing his power by trying to secure the resignation of Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, he’s more compelling in discussing the national than the state implications, which he considers very bad for Democrats.

Chris Christie is perhaps the biggest winner from the Perry indictment. Bridgegate was an enormous blow to Christie, for two reasons. First, it destroyed his carefully crafted image as a nonpartisan nice guy instead of a stereotypically sleazy New Jersey pol. Second, forcing commuters to be stranded in traffic during rush hour to punish a political enemy is the kind of abuse of power that is easy to understand-unlike using a line item veto to cut one of a couple of sources of funding for the office of a county lawyer who pleaded guilty to drunk driving.
Now the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry allows Republicans to change the narrative, from “Who knew that Chris Christie was such a bully!” to “Look how liberal prosecutors are trying to bring down every Republican governor who is a potential president!”
Lehmberg’s indictment of Perry, then, will probably help the more electable Christie or Walker, whom Democrats should fear, while hurting, to some degree, the unelectable Perry, whom Democrats should prefer as the Republican presidential nominee.

But there is, says Lind, a more immediate reason the Texas struggle casts a poor light on national events: the upcoming battle over the president’s likely use of broad executive authority over deportations:

Stymied by Republican obstruction in Congress, President Obama is trying to use executive action to push through reforms in areas from immigration to the environment. For the most part, progressives have mounted a strong defense of broad executive prerogatives. It may be harder for progressives to argue that inherent executive authority is broad when exerted by a Democratic president to defer action against undocumented immigrants but narrow when used by a Republican governor in a line item veto to cut state funding for the Travis County DA’s office.

Now probably the best thing about the current discussion is that it’s getting harder every day for Republicans to argue that Texas authorities are acting as stooges for national Democrats. If so, they sure don’t seem happy about it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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