What do these four have in common? Why, they all are (or were) potentially viable candidates for the national office.
Invocation of the legal process against Christie may well be warranted. (So too with Bob McDonnell, whom I didn’t include in my list because, although once vaguely mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, his prospects never approached those of the other four). In the cases of Palin, Walker, and Perry, the charges seem plainly to have been ginned up in the hope of derailing the governors’ prospects for national office.
This sort of thing is standard operating procedure in countries like Russia and China. Now it is becoming part of the Democrats’ playbook.
However, America remains a two party country. And two parties can play the same game.
Attacking rising Democrats through bogus legal proceedings is a game Republicans shouldn’t play under any circumstances. It seems inevitable, however, that Republicans sooner or later will retaliate in this fashion.
There aren’t many promising Democratic governors. But Julian Castro served three terms as mayor of San Antonio. Now he’s been elevated to the cabinet and is being groomed as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016. He aspires, no doubt, to become the third installment in the Democrats’ identity presidency trilogy (Obama, Clinton, Castro).
Texas Republicans could attempt to derail Castro by seizing upon or inventing allegations of wrongdoing during his time as mayor and initiating some sort of legal proceeding. I have no reason to believe that Castro has, in fact, engaged in criminal wrongdoing. But neither, from all that appears, has Perry.
Come to think of it, if Barack Obama had risen in a less politically monolithic state than Illinois, Republicans probably could have harassed him via the legal process. Recall his real estate dealing with the corrupt Tony Rezko.
Republican resort to this sort of tactic probably would not produce quite the same damage that Democrats can inflict. When an important Republican is charged, however baselessly, it’s front page news. In the case of important Democrats, you might have to read about it in an editorial page denouncing Republicans for McCarthyism or worse.
But Republicans probably could get enough mileage to make this tactic worth their while politically. At a minimum, the public would begin to see these indictments as meaningless. Criminal law in this context would now be viewed as nothing more than politics by other means.
And so, another pillar of a healthy, democracy — public confidence in the ability of the system to prosecute public figures impartially — may well be destroyed, thanks to the Democrats’ lack of respect for democracy.