Conventional wisdom holds that whatever presidential ambitions Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) may still hold have been destroyed with his indictment by a grand jury on charges that he abused his power. Sure, the charges are trumped-up, and have been denounced (however reluctantly) by critics right and left. Surely the spectacle of being charged–and subjected to the ultimate humiliation of the “mugshot” (above) has to have an effect.
Yes, it will have an effect–and it is likely to be a boost, not a burden, to Perry. Consider the contrast he struck on Tuesday, when he turned himself in, with President Barack Obama, whose treatment of the courts and the judicial system has been the opposite. Perry was defiant, vowing to fight, but ultimately respectful of the judicial process. Obama has been sued by House Republicans–and has not stopped mocking the courts and opposition.
Obama adviser David Axelrod, to his credit, has defended Perry. One suspects, however, that he may be trying to head off Democrats’ own–real, not trumped-up–legal problems. Attorney General Eric Holder is facing charges of contempt. Myriad Obama administration scandals are still waiting to be investigated properly. And Hillary Clinton, the presumptive 2016 Democratic Party nominee, is a constant scandal waiting to happen.
Perry, by contrast, is being persecuted by Democrats because he opposed corruption. Typically, conservatives tend to gravitate towards whichever of their number is most directly in the left’s crosshairs. That is doubly true in extraordinary circumstances. The stigma of the “mugshot” is being flipped: Perry’s case now evokes the heroism of the vigilante outlaw, the just man in an unjust world, the Lone Ranger against the corrupt sheriff.