A journalistic divide has appeared between the media in Texas and the national media, when it comes to Rick Perry’s indictment. Media Matters for America says that Texas journalists are calling on national outlets to take the case more seriously. Currently, many reputable national outlets, such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, and USA Today have dismissed the case as nothing but politics.
According to the Media Matters piece, Wayne Slater, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, said:
“Rick Perry is getting good press because he has been masterful in the way he has framed this as a matter of partisan politics. Instinctively political journalists and reporters and outlets at some distance understand that Perry is winning the politics at the moment and that his narrative of events really comports with their general sense of how things work, that politicians threaten people and coerce people.”
Slater said that Perry does have a history of playing hardball politics and forcing people out of their offices. He said that reporters in Texas who know Perry know that it’s a far more nuanced story that writers and reporters around the Beltway might understand.
Indeed, the editorials in the publications listed above do seem to dismiss the indictment as nothing serious. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine called it far-fetched, and ended his piece with:
“To describe the indictment as ‘frivolous’ gives it far more credence than it deserves. Perry may not be much smarter than a ham sandwich, but he is exactly as guilty as one.”
USA Today said that “politics as usual” should not be a crime. They also had this little gem in their op-ed on the case:
“This bid to criminalize politics will undermine more legitimate cases against public officials. One can easily imagine other politicians saying they, too, are being prosecuted just for doing their jobs, even when the charges against them are much stronger.”
The New York Times asked whether Perry’s “bad judgment” was really a crime in the headline of their op-ed. They said, towards the end:
“Governors and presidents threaten vetoes and engage in horse-trading all the time to get what they want, but for that kind of political activity to become criminal requires far more evidence than has been revealed in the Perry case so far.”
Business Insider has some quotes from other liberals who are skeptical of the indictment. David Axelrod, Obama’s former campaign strategist, said on Twitter:
“Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason. Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy.”
Business Insider also reported that even Think Progress said Perry’s attorneys might have a point when they said that Perry’s veto was perfectly legal.
Forrest Wilder, a reporter for the Texas Observer, told Media Matters that the charges are something everyone needs to take seriously. He said that the judge appointed to the case is Republican, the special prosecutor who brought the indictment served as a federal prosecutor under George H.W. Bush, and that he presented testimony from 40 different people, along with hundreds of documents of evidence, to the grand jury. That hardly suggests a political stunt on the part of Democrats.
Perry’s lawyer is asking the judge to toss the indictment out as unconstitutional, according to the the Dallas Morning News. The motion questions whether anybody even has the right to indict him for exercising his legal right to the line-item veto.
The message Perry keeps trying to push, that the national media does appear to be eating up, is that the indictment is over his use of the line-item veto. It’s not. It’s over why he used it in this case.
Perhaps we should pay more attention to people in Texas when it comes to Perry and this case. They’re right, many of the people dismissing the indictment as mere politics aren’t in the front row in Texas very often, so they don’t see the details and nuances that Texas reporters might see every day.