Most presidential aspirants would likely view felony abuse-of-power charges as a political liability, but former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday night that he wears the two-count indictment against him as a "badge of honor."
Appearing on Sean Hannity's Fox News program last night after a district judge refused to toss out the indictment Tuesday, Perry asserted that the case actually underscored his respect for the rule of law.
"What I tell people is, I wear this as a badge of honor—standing up for the rule of law and the Constitution," Perry told Hannity.
A grand jury indicted Perry in August on charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public official. The case stems from Perry's veto of $7.5 million in funds for the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Perry had vowed to veto the funds unless Lehmberg resigned following her drunken-driving arrest, an act that the prosecution says amounted to blackmail. Perry critics have noted that two other district attorneys in the state were arrested for drunken driving during his tenure, but didn't have their funding cut off. What makes Lehmberg different, these critics say, is that her Public Integrity Unit had scrutinized alleged corruption in the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of Perry's most notable initiatives during his 14 years as governor.
But Perry told Hannity last night that he acted in accordance with the law when he vetoed the funds.
"Every elected executive, whether you’re a governor or whatever, if you’re in the executive branch of your government and some outside group can come in and file a complaint and take it to a, in my case, one of the most liberal courts in the state and are able to return an indictment against a sitting governor for doing what is in my constitutional duty," he said.
Perry also vowed Wednesday that the case wouldn't affect his decision on whether to mount a second White House bid next year.
"Americans are looking for a leader who's not afraid to stand up, not be intimidated," he told reporters.
As much as Perry may hope that voters see his indictment as a testament to his leadership, Judge Bert Richardson's decision to allow the case to proceed means that the matter could drag on for months, complicating the former governor's plans to woo voters in presidential primary states.
Perry told the New York Times last week that he plans to decide on 2016 within the next five months.