Rick Perry deletes tweet about drunk Democrat. Why did he bother?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered an unflattering tweet of a political rival deleted from his account. But frankly, it wasn't so far out of line from his other attacks. 

Jim Cole/AP
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at a GOP picnic in Chichester, N.H., last month. His war with a Texas prosecutor heated up again this weekend with a deleted tweet.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry took back a tweet on Sunday. Why did he bother?

We ask that because the disparaging tweet at issue kind of sums up his political strategy for the moment.

First, the background: On Sunday night Governor Perry’s verified Twitter account posted an image of Rosemary Lehmberg, the Democratic prosecutor at the heart of Perry’s recent indictment on charges of public corruption.

The (doctored) image of Ms. Lehmberg was unflattering. “I don’t always drive drunk at 3X the legal alcohol limit ... but when I do, I indict Gov. Perry for calling me out about it. I am the most drunk Democrat in Texas.”

As Chris Cillizza notes at “The Fix,” this was a Twitter “oops.”

The tweet did not represent an accurate account of the indictment. Lehmberg did indeed drive while very inebriated, and was arrested, convicted, and served time for it. Perry publicly demanded she resign from the Public Integrity Unit in Travis County, Texas, which investigates corruption among Texas politicians statewide.

She refused to resign, in part because Perry could have appointed a Republican in her place. In turn, Perry said he’d veto funding for her unit is she did not step down. She did not, he vetoed the money, and there we are. A special prosecutor appointed by a Republican judge concluded that the Perry’s threat was an illegal coercion of a public official, and brought the case.

Anyway, after the mock photo of Lehmberg went into the twittersphere under Perry’s name, he apparently thought better of it. Or most likely, he saw it after an underling had already put it out. So he ordered it deleted.

“A tweet just went out from my account that was unauthorized. I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down,” read a followup tweet.

Perry must have decided that inserting Lehmberg into a photo with a beer bottle was too harsh. But is it really worse than the mug shot T-shirts Perry’s campaign is selling?

The front of those shirts has Perry’s mug shot, which is pretty good. He’s smiling just enough, and well-dressed. “WANTED” is stamped over the picture, and underneath it says, “FOR SECURING THE BORDER AND DEFEATING DEMOCRATS.”

The back has Lehmberg’s mug shot. It is not a flattering photo, given her state at the time. On the shirt the word “GUILTY” is superimposed on the image. Underneath is written, “DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED AND PERVERSION OF JUSTICE”.

The campaign is mailing these out in return for $25. If they are in better taste than the deleted tweet, it is not by much. It’s easy to see how a Perry staffer might think it was OK to hit the send button on the “most drunk Democrat” tweet.

The twitter feed in question is Perry’s personal account, so perhaps there is a legal or tonal issue. The rest of the feed is pretty bland. It’s full of tweets about meetings with foreign officials, thanks for support from other US politicians, and so forth.

But given his campaign’s evident desire to frame his indictment as Perry versus a Democratic prosecutor who’s been convicted of DUI,  it does not look to us as if Perry is going to suddenly soften up in advance of an expected run for president.

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