Rick Perry’s one of the best politicians around when he can play to a friendly crowd, but lately we haven’t gotten to see much of that. He’s a lame duck, after all. He doesn’t speak much in public in Texas anymore; he’s spending a lot of time in Iowa and South Carolina. So it’s been easy to forget that this is a guy whose tenure as governor is entering its teenage years for good reason—in the right setting, he is excellent at rousing a crowd.
The “right setting” apparently includes the courthouse where he’s being indicted for twin felonies. The drama that started last Friday will go on, presumably, for a long time. But make no bones about it—Perry’s winning the first act. Today, Perry got booked at the Travis County Justice Complex. He got fingerprinted, and got his mugshot taken. And he embarked on one of the most audacious adventures in modern American politics—can Rick Perry use twin felony indictments as a springboard into the White House?
Maybe that’s a stretch, but things are going very well for him so far. Of course, there’s the small caveat that the indictment just came down.
But in a defiant speech, Perry told the crowd—a mixture of the Texas press corps, a variety of left and right political types, and a handful of supporters, some of whom were beckoned here by Sid Miller (and who could ask for a better character witness than Sid Miller?)—that he would do it all again.
Perry spoke before and after he entered the courthouse. He was “standing for the rule of law” when he pressured Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign. The indictments were an “attack on our system of government,” and his legal team would “prevail.” He thanked the crew at the courthouse who booked him for their “great professionalism.” It was slightly less fiery than his press conference Saturday, when he seemed to threaten special prosecutor Michael McCrum with consequences for his grave overreach—but only slightly.
There’s no Perry like Perry on attack. Could he come out of this better than he went in to it? Maybe. A few high-ranking Texas Democrats, who hope otherwise, were in attendance today. Will Hailer, the Democratic Party’s executive director, spoke to the media afterwards. Soon, Texas school kids would be heading back to class, Hailer said, and in civics classes across the state, they’d learn that their governor had been indicted.
Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, was also in attendance. He was less mournful. “The governor’s favorability is going up, not down,” he said. “This is absolutely going to help him.”
Munisteri added: “If he can resolve these charges before the Iowa caucuses, I think he’s gonna be a folk hero.” Could he still be president? “I think Gov. Perry’s going to run for president and I think he’s going to be a very strong contender.”
Those are strong words. The future leader of the free world celebrated his good day, as we all would, with ice cream.
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) August 19, 2014