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SMU’s Cal Jillson Reaches a Bit Too Far in the Rick Perry Imbroglio

I’m going to let longtime FrontBurnervian Jackson Williams take this one because he’s the one who brought it to my attention. I agree with everything he says:

You surely know widely quoted SMU political science prof Calvin Jillson. I don’t know him, but a Thursday New York Times story about Rick Perry, involving the Travis County DA, concludes with a quote from Cal. I usually find his quotes in political news stories about Texas to be innocuous, never earth-shattering but within the realm of my understanding and generally agreeable. They began appearing in the late ’90s/early 2000s, and he’s become a go-to guy for reporters covering the beat. Well, I read this story in the Times and was struck by an acclamation he made.

Perry, as you may know, is the subject of a criminal investigation for the way he handled the drunken driving arrest of the Travis DA. Here’s what Jillson said about the matter: “This is one of those cases where you’re trying to criminalize politics. [Perry] thought that he saw a political opponent weakened and that he would tip her over. It was hardball politics, but it was by no means criminal activity.” Jackson went on in his email(s) to me:

Analysis and opinion is one thing, and he’s a decent quotemeister, but concluding in advance that something isn’t legally criminal is quite another. He literally makes a declarative statement on a legal matter that a) isn’t adjudicated, and for which b) he’s not trained.

The more I think about his quote, the more irked I am. You’ve got a state district judge taking it seriously, a special prosecutor taking it seriously (“I can tell you that I am very concerned about certain aspects of what happened here”), and a poli-sci guy from SMU who professes to know more about their jobs than they do. Yes, an Austin-based watchdog group filed the initial complaint against Perry last year, but it would have been tossed if it was much ado about nothing. As for Perry, one doesn’t usually hire a high-profile defense lawyer to rack up lots of billable hours for things that are “by no means criminal activity.” It would be like hiring Frank Branson to handle your parking ticket.

Jackson sent Jillson a note this morning to which Jillson has not replied.

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