Texas Governor Rick Perry is in the news, again, just as he has been throughout his recent months of not-officially-campaigning for U.S. President. This time, it’s not good news at all for the Texas Aggie alum, whose wheeling and dealing has resulted in a king-sized, heapin’ helpin’ of Texas trouble, with a capital “T.” On Aug. 15, 2014, Travis County special prosecutor Michael McCrum announced “that Texas Governor Rick Perry has been indicted by a grand jury in Austin, Texas.”
Just when you thought you could close the book on the history of the longest-serving governor in Texas state history, a grand jury in Travis County issues two indictments against Governor Perry. So there’s going to be a few paragraphs, pages, sections, and chapters to be written.
Regarding the career of the four-time elected official, Governor Rick Perry will have, as part of his legacy, that: “The grand jury today returned a two-count indictment against James Richard (Rick) Perry, Count one of the indictments charges him with “abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony” and count two of the indictment charges him with “coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony,” in the words of prosecutor McCrum.
Today’s indictments stemmed from an almost year-long investigation into the actions taken by Gov. Perry, who is accused of using his office to force Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after an arrest for drunken driving. When Gov. Perry used his power of the veto to “withhold $7.2 million in state money from District Attorney Lehmberg’s office unless she step down,” in the full story described by Tony Plohetski in today’s Austin American Statesman online.
Sadly, using the power of the governor’s office is the only way Rick Perry knows how to govern. And with each passing year, more Texas residents have shown their disappointment, displeasure and disgust with Rick Perry’s insistence on doing things “his way or the highway” in Texas. In College Station alone, for several years now, Perry has drawn substantive criticism for appointing his personal friends to made-up jobs at six-figure salaries and literally telling university officials that they “were” going to hire so-and-so. He’s also appointed his classmates and friends to be the chancellors of some of these educational institutions, the highest ranking influencers of secondary education in Texas, for better or for not.
And then the multiple state schools had to make room for the collective intelligencia of appointments to the various Boards of Regents, the governors and overseers of higher education, who span from Nobel Prize-caliber and great business minds to those whose greatest thoughts focus on: “Are my football seats good and is my parking place close enough?” Sad, but true.
“Friends of Rick” wasn’t just a singular occurrence at Texas A&M. It was epidemic across all the state universities. Most especially at the University of Texas at Austin has trouble over governance been an issue, and one can only ask where the governor fits in to the puzzles across the status of education of the younger minds.
The Texas Observer reported in April 2013 the study of the Texas Legislative Study Group, who noted that Texas “ranks 44th in high school graduation rate” and per Rep. Abel Herrero, “Texas investment per student is 27% less than the national average.” It’s the least told story, for fear of retaliation in some form, across the entire state of higher education in Texas.
With that as predicate, Gov. Perry’s choices and “recommendations,” for education beyond the group with the 44th-best high school graduation rate, have often been unqualified disasters in more cases than you can count. Ask anyone who works on these campuses and you’ll get an earful, as long as you agree not to quote them by name. That doesn’t mean Governor Perry hasn’t done some good for his alma mater or the other state schools. He’s such a pleasant fellow, smiles a lot and has an uncanny ability to laugh at his own failings, like when he forgets the third federal agency he’d pledge to get rid of during a GOP debate in 2011.
Given his inability to remember things at key times, there were more than a few Texas Aggies with cause to wonder what Gov. Perry and Chancellor Sharp were doing in Israel in October, 2013, with their “vision for peace in the Middle East.” A memo of understanding was signed but it’s been real quiet in College Station about how things are going over there on that new campus. Things were already pretty quiet about the Aggie campus in Qatar, and rarely is a word said about the one in Galveston. It’s all about Kyle Field and Aggie football 24/7 in Aggieland right now.
But with the news of today’s indictments of Gov. Perry, what some people will recall and commiserate over is that, during his final term in office, having announced his intention not to run again, he frequently left Austin and went on the road for his not-very-carefully veiled run for U.S. President, under the guise of seeking jobs for more Texans.
Perry’s appearances on television chatting up the morning shows didn’t win him too many new friends. More commentators focused on the new “serious” glasses he was wearing on his head rather than the brain inside his head. And there was always the talk of his crowning glory atop his head as partial qualification for his future political career.
The books are not closed, yet, because this story is far from over. One might say the story is just beginning. Stay tuned for further developments. It’s just a darned shame Molly Ivins isn’t here to write this story. In her memory, here’s a link to “The Late, Great Molly Ivins on Rick Perry.”
No matter what your political party, no matter what your university affiliation and allegiance may be, there is no excuse for bullying and contempt in state-level decision making. It’s is neither the act of a gentleman, nor is it an act of a scholar to behave thusly. Sadly, very sadly, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has just graduated from a Bum Steer award to a very bad Aggie joke. It could have been different. It really could have.