Use ballot box, not jury box, to settle policy disputes

Indicting a governor for using his veto power in a display of hardball politics is outrageous, even by over-the-top Texas standards. It is just about as outrageous as the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives suing the president because a Democrat in the executive branch is not running things the way the Republican-controlled House would like.

Turning to the courts to settle partisan political differences is becoming troublingly familiar. In addition to the recent dubious indictment of the Texas governor and silly lawsuit against President Obama by Speaker John Boehner, we had the seemingly endless, and fruitless, not-so-secret probe of Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by a Democratic district attorney.

In the latest example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry finds himself indicted by a grand jury for playing some heavy-handed politics.

In 2013, police caught Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg driving while intoxicated. Ms. Lehmberg gave police a hard time when arrested. A Democrat, she also headed up the Public Integrity Unit - seriously. In Texas, the D.A. is an elected position.

Not one to miss an opening to make a Democrat squirm, particularly one in a prosecutorial unit known to be poking around his administration, Gov. Perry called for her to resign and threatened to veto the $7.5 million in operating funds for her Public Integrity Unit if she failed to do so.

She stayed and he vetoed. While there obviously should be, there is no law in Texas protecting the independence of the integrity unit or stopping the governor from cutting off its funds. Yet the two-page indictment, thin gruel by prosecutorial standards, calls the governor's threat and veto criminal coercion.

A Texas court should quickly toss the indictment. In the meantime, it could hurt Gov. Perry's chances of reviving his presidential hopes, though the prospect of a comeback after his abysmal performance in the 2012 primaries is dim in any event.

The bigger issue is to reserve law enforcement and the courts for real corruption and malfeasance, not to play politics.

If you don't like a governor or president, try to elect someone else. If you're persuaded the laws give the executive branch too much power, then work to pass new laws.

As Gov. Perry noted on the "Fox News Sunday" TV program, "This is not the way we settle differences - policy differences - in this country. You don't do it with indictments. We settle our differences at the ballot box."

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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