The weekly column from Clark Judge:
Rick Perry’s Indictment: The Price of Integrity
By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc.; chairman, Pacific Research Institute
As the Manhattan Institute’s Diana Furchtgott-Roth wrote at Real Clear Markets not long ago (http://bit.ly/1oQyWBT), the indictment of Rick Perry looks straight out of the Saul Alinsky playbook: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.” It is America’s current misfortune to have a major party in the hands of a faction that embraces the most toxic kind of political practices.
But since he is in the news, what of Mr. Perry? Furtchgott-Roth goes on to detail Texas’ stellar economic performance during his governorship. Was he just standing there or did he actually do something that gives him claim on credit for all that prosperity in the midst of national stagnation?
Here is my own Rick Perry story, which, to me at least, answers the question.
Early in 2012 I appeared on a panel at a Heritage Foundation conference in Dallas. My session was in the afternoon. In the morning, I was walking through the lobby of the hosting hotel and stopped to chat with a Washington-based reporter I knew. After a few minutes, up came an energetic, spirited, very attractive woman. She was a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat Ted Cruz ultimately won and my friend’s next interview. At their invitation, I sat in on their talk.
As it turned out, she wanted to discuss state more than national politics. Just that morning the legislature had voted down a move to abolish the Texas Railroad Commission and replace it with a state agency. You may know that, for historical reasons, the commission has tremendous power over the oil and gas industry in Texas. At one time that power made it a global force, influence unique among agencies of American states, indeed of state, provincial and regional governments throughout the world.
The commission’s design (three independently elected commissioners) is a model of good governing practice. There is a literature in economics about governance of regulatory bodies. The Railroad Commission is set up in just the way you would want to prevent corruption and abuse. The commissioners act as a check on one another. If something is amiss, two unite to stop the third, or if the two are the issue, the third blows the whistle with the legislature. That’s the theory, and, I gather, that ‘s how the Texas Railroad Commission has performed over the years.
So this commissioner and candidate was jubilant that the effort to change things had been defeated. She told us how the victory had come about. It was a close run thing right up to the last week. Then Governor Perry had stepped in. Quietly he made a phone call here and gave an indication there. With a series of almost imperceptible nudges, the close run thing had become a done deal.
From very good seats, I have watched several governors of several states and both parties in such moments. Perry’s performance was just how first class chief executives work with their legislatures. On most issues, there is no fanfare, no grandstanding, but at critical moments a quiet shifting of weight settles the outcome in favor of the broad public interest, which is exactly the interest a governor is elected to represent.
If a state – or the nation – has such an executive at the top, its government will know a minimum of corruption or abuse of power. Bad laws will be defeated. Incompetent officials will be dismissed. The law will be enforced in an evenhanded manner. Leaving that meeting, I thought, Rick Perry is a first-class chief executive. I felt certain that he had played a significant role in Texas’ triumph during his tenure.
Setting aside the Alinsky factor, the indictment of Governor Perry looks like a sleazy prosecutor revenging a crony. From what I learned that morning in Dallas, Perry is just the kind of governor who would have such political low-lifes as enemies. It is in perfect keeping with his character that he would take steps to force out an official – any official — who was pulled over for driving drunk and responded by kicking at and threatening the arresting officer. Such an official does not belong in public office, particularly an office charged with policing the integrity of other officials.
For all the unseemliness of the prosecutor’s vendetta, this incident highlights how a good governor gets the people’s work done, day in, day out, making public bodies serve the general good. My guess is that the indictment will end up putting a plus the column of Governor Perry’s national reputation. Mr. Perry will deserve that plus.