Civil Discourse Now

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Texas Governor Rick Perry should not be indicted and President Obama should not be sued---separation of powers, dudes.

   The indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry is as woeful as Congressional Republicans’ threat of a lawsuit against President Obama. At first I wrote “silly,” but changed the adjective, because the criminal action in Texas and the civil action in (presumably) a United States District Court waste public resources and open balance-of-powers questions to litigation.
   First, a word about the Texas situation. I do not like Governor Perry. I consider myself to be left-wing, if that term has meaning. The United States was lucky when Perry tanked in the Republican primaries.
   Second, a word about my views of the Obama Administration. I voted for then-Senator Obama twice and President Obama twice. I lived in Chicago for two years, but my multiple votes were legitimate. I voted once each in the 2008 and 2012 primaries and the 2008 and 2012 general elections. I am disappointed in aspects of his presidency. His foreign policy has carried over some of what President George W. Bush had done. The Affordable Care Act originally was a Republican-backed idea hatched at the Heritage Foundation. We should have had a public option. Those things being said, his administration, in my opinion, is far preferable to the McCain/Palin ticket of 2008 or the Romney/Ryan ticket of 2012.
   The Texas situation involves, from what I have read of Texas constitutional law, Perry’s lawful exercise of his veto power as governor to express his displeasure with refusal of the District Attorney of Travis County to step down from office after her conviction for drunk driving. Perry first threatened to veto a measure that was to provide $7.5 million in funding to the state-wide Public Integrity Unit—a unit headed by the same District Attorney who had been convicted. When threat of veto failed to obtain the result Perry desired, Perry made good with his threat.
   Republicans are upset with President Obama. They have threatened to sue the President.
   These are separation-of-powers questions. The President, and most (if not all; I have not perused the constitutions of all 46 states and four commonwealths) governors (the heads of the executive branches of their respective states’ government) have the power to veto legislation. The power to veto legislation is part of the give-and-take of our governmental system. The proper responses are not to indict the chief executive for exercise of that power, but to override the veto and to seek to replace the person at the next election. (Perry has announced he will not seek re-election.)
   In the case of President Obama, there is a dearth of information as to the bases for any such lawsuit. Speaker of the House John Boehner has been vague about such grounds. More ludicrous is a Republican claim that President Obama has over-stepped his authority by not enforcing some of parts of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. This is ludicrous because Republicans have voted 30? 40? 50? times to repeal the legislation. Also, President George W. Bush was quite the guy when it came to executive orders and “signing statements,” the latter consisting of a statement he issued at the time legislation was enacted, explaining how he would not enforce that legislation or would do so on a limited basis.
   The GOP’s lawsuit efforts are worthy of sanction, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, by the judge in whatever court their lawsuit is filed. Such litigation is frivolous.
   More dangerous is the effort to criminalize Perry’s action. This would set precedent for criminal charges against any governor for any action in the scope of authority of her or his office.
   The District Attorney of Travis County should have taken a cab on the night in question. She would have dodged her drunk-driving offense by not committing it. Once she saw the inevitability of conviction, given the nature of her office, she would have been prudent to resign. Perry’s actions might be good or bad, but criminal they are not.

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