For a long time, Texas Gov. Rick Perry walked too fine a line between politics and policy. It caught up with him late last week.

For months, a grand jury has investigated charges that Perry abused his power by going too far in trying to get a Democratic county district attorney removed from office.

The DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, pleaded guilty to drunken driving last year, served 45 days in jail and went into treatment. But she refused to resign.

That wasn't good enough for the governor. He wanted her out, and when she wouldn't leave, Perry just couldn't let it go. Instead, he used his veto power to withhold millions of dollars from the state's public integrity unit, which Lehmberg oversees and which investigates misdeeds of state agencies and officials. The county had to stitch together funds to keep the crucial agency operating on a shoestring.

It was a terrible policy decision on Perry's part, smelling of pettiness and partisanship. Now a grand jury has decided his action might be a crime.

Of course, an indictment is a long way from a conviction. A judge and jury will have the final say on that.

Whatever the outcome, the indictment is a dark mark at the end of a gubernatorial tenure that probably went on too long.

In recent years, Perry has been focused less on governing Texas than on making sure his base understands just how conservative he is. If he had done more governing and less politicking, ousting Lehmberg would not have been a priority and he wouldn't be where he is today.

As it is, a special prosecutor and former assistant U.S. attorney from San Antonio brought a case strong enough to get an indictment handed up.

No one can say what the outcome of this case will be.

But it's certain this won't help Perry's presidential ambitions.

The governor has been working overtime to burnish his national image and recast himself as someone other than the guy who answered "oops" to a question during a national debate.

Now he's the guy under indictment for abuse of power. That's even worse.

 

—The Dallas Morning News, Aug. 16