Political Hay

Lehmberg Democrats Drunk on Their Own Power

From Austin to Ferguson, pulling out all stops before November 4.

By 8.19.14

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You might not have seen the arrest or jailhouse videos from Rosemary Lehmberg’s DWI episode when it happened in the spring of 2013, but there’s a good chance you saw them over the weekend. If you still haven’t, we can fix that by having you click here and here.

That Lehmberg, district attorney for Travis County, Texas, isn’t at least as famous as Toronto's crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford is no surprise. Given how sloppy and belligerent she was during the arrest, not to mention her staggering blood-alcohol level of .239 (three times the legal limit), it is a bit odd that she was a virtual unknown outside the state of Texas until over the weekend.

Why is this dumpy dipsomaniac now on the national radar after her disgrace was so long quarantined in Central Texas? Because over the weekend Lehmberg’s office, through the use of a special prosecutor, managed to secure an indictment on Friday.

Not of Lehmberg, mind you. Of Governor Rick Perry, who demanded her resignation after she was sentenced to forty-five days in jail for driving while intoxicated. Perry threatened to veto funding for the Travis DA’s Public Integrity section, which in a strange bit of legerdemain is a state-funded oversight body seated within a local district attorney’s office with, as it turns out, a bad history of malicious and frivolous prosecutions of political enemies of the Democrats who have controlled the Travis DA office for decades (among them Kay Bailey Hutchison and Tom DeLay), unless Lehmberg waddled out of office. And when she refused, he carried out his threat.

This, per the indictment (which really must be read to be belived), is somehow an abuse of Perry’s power. He issued the threat of a veto, which is protected political speech under any reading of the First Amendment, and he carried out that threat per the power granted to him by the Texas Constitution. And for that reason, he’s being indicted.

It’s eye-opening stuff, to be sure, and in a different time the Lehmberg-Perry drama would be the stuff of scandal. But in 2014, it’s a weekend sideshow.

After all, today’s Democratic Party can do much better than rank political prosecutions. Perry isn’t even the first this year; he’s in line behind Scott Walker, among others.

For pure in-your-face affronts to American political protocol, consider the sad case of Major-General Harold Greene of the U.S. Army, the highest-ranking American military officer killed in battle since Vietnam. Greene, the victim of a green-on-blue attack in Afghanistan, was buried last Thursday in an uncommonly quiet ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Quiet, indeed, given the absence of, for example, Barack Obama or Joe Biden.

Biden was in the Hamptons; Obama golfed at the Vineyard Country Club.

One shouldn’t begrudge the president his vacation; as his defenders make clear, he’s still on the job. After all, last week Obama was able to release a statement of condolence to the family of Robin Williams after his suicide. He made sure to declare victory for the Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar — before ISIS managed to capture or kill several hundred of them after Obama declined a rescue attempt. And he was also quite verbose about the case of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri who found himself afoul of six bullets fired by a local policeman after a rather bizarre, tragic encounter.

It seems that Brown, who stood a mountainous 6’4” and some 290 pounds, was walking in the street while making a slow getaway after conducting a strong-arm robbery of a local convenience store — the surveillance video of which shows him to have been something less than the “gentle giant” he was portrayed to be immediately following his death. In fact, the aggression and violence on that video lent credibility to the police narrative that Brown had rounded on Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who commanded him to walk on the sidewalk, and actually attacked Wilson in the police car. Video surfaced later in which witnesses said Brown, who after the melee with Wilson had run away, was reapproaching the policeman and in fact charging him when he was shot, which an autopsy performed for the Brown family by famous pathologist Dr. Michael Baden seemed to confirm, the case appeared by Sunday to be another one of the unfortunate, but rare, cases in which a police officer shoots and kills in self-defense.

But because Ferguson is a city which is two-thirds black run by a white mayor and an overwhelmingly white police force, and because there has been a history of tension between the cops and the black community, the Brown case was too juicy for the race industry not to politicize. Within days of the shooting, Jesse Jackson had weighed in, only to ultimately be booed when he committed the unmannerly act of fundraising among the aggrieved in Ferguson. So had Al Sharpton, who managed to incite a riot on Sunday. And Eric Holder swung into full Trayvon mode, descending on Ferguson with FBI agents and DOJ community organizers in tow and by the weekend demanding a third autopsy of Brown.

The result? Naturally, shooting and looting more than a week removed from Brown’s death, and a nation transfixed by racial animosity as Occupy groups, the New Black Panthers and International ANSWER were setting up shop to defy the authorities. The Ferguson PD couldn’t stop it, neither could the St. Louis Police nor the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Obama, by the weekend, finally let word out that he’d pause his Martha’s Vineyard vacation and go back to his job — if briefly. Perhaps he sensed an opportunity in speechifying about Ferguson; after all, the Trayvon Martin racial dustup did him a solid in the 2012 electoral cycle. Making Brown a new martyr for the race industry and a rallying cry for Democratic voters seems as good a strategy for holding onto the Senate as any, no?

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About the Author

Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics.