Thursday, April 14, 2005

It's the GOP's Turn To Cry

Tom DeLay has not had it easy lately. First, there is the public and media focus on his myriad ethical lapses.

As everyone knows by now, DeLay has been investigated by the House Ethics Committee because of his role in the redrawing of Texas Congressional districts and his misuse of a federal government agency to try to track down Texas Democratic legislators who were hiding out in Oklahoma in an attempt to deny the state’s Republicans the quorum they needed in order to redraw those districts more favorably for their party. Actually, it’s called gerrymandering and everybody does it but most politicians don’t manage it with quite as much relish as Texas Republicans. Especially DeLay, apparently.

A district attorney in Texas is investigating the contributors to DeLay’s PAC as well. Apparently, it is a violation of Texas law for PACs to accept funds from some of the big business interests that contributed to his PAC. Several of DeLay’s associates have been indicted and its’ an open question whether Tom DeLay may join them.

And then the newspapers began examining in detail several trips overseas that he made, funded by high rolling lobbyists and Indian tribes with gambling interests. So, no, it has not been an easy couple of years for the House Majority Leader.

In addition, he has come under public scrutiny for his role in Congress’s interference with the Terri Schiavo affair. It is pretty hard for him to justify his bringing special legislation in an attempt to override several judges’ decisions to remove Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube, especially since he and his family did essentially the same thing when his own father was in the hospital after having a tragic accident that left him brain dead.

Although DeLay has a long history of strong Christian convictions, including staunch support for pro-life causes, this time I think his continuing war with the judiciary is more part of a strategy to divert attention from his ethics problems. It’s easier to use misdirection to get the press and public focused on his battle with the judges over the morality of end-of-life issues than to answer questions about his own morality. After all, what else are ethical lapses like possible bribery, conflicts of interest, and interfering with state elections but moral issues?

But another strategy that DeLay and his supporters are trying to use, as reported in last Saturday’s Washington Post, is to blame the liberal press and Democrats for publicizing his Congressional junkets and other questionable ethical lapses. Somehow, though, I don’t think “the vast left wing conspiracy” strategy is a particularly effective one.

He might, in fact, want to ask Hillary Clinton how well it played out for her and Bill to blame Republicans for the former President’s own moral lapses. Well, he got impeached. As did Richard Nixon when he too failed to convince voters that “he wasn’t a crook” but that the liberal media (those nattering nabobs of negativity) were out to get him. Paranoia can only take you so far in the absence of genuine innocence.

If DeLay goes down, he could well take the rest of the Republicans who are lining up to follow the game plan. A word of advice – yeah, I know, why the hell am I giving free advice to Republicans? Mostly because I know they’re so arrogant they won’t take it anyway.

But, it’s good advice.

What the Republicans and other conservative supporters of DeLay need to do is distance themselves from his moral problems without deserting him personally. Here’s the statement they need to make:

“We welcome a thorough investigation of all charges because we sincerely believe that our friend Tom DeLay will be cleared. By shining the bright light of truth on these charges, it will illumine all the dark places where innuendo and accusation hide. We believe in our friend’s innocence.

“However, even if there is any truth to any of these charges, Tom DeLay is not the Republican Party, the conservative cause (choose whatever you like here). He is a member of our group, but only one among many dedicated members. And our ideals are still valid. Our ideas have helped this nation and they still hold true, whether Tom is innocent or not. And we all hope he is proved innocent.”

A statement similar to that would do two things.

It would, first of all, establish his colleagues’ loyalty. Which is not a bad thing. These people have been his friend. There is nothing wrong with sincerely hoping that all the charges are wrong and that he is as innocent as they claim he is. And loyalty will take you far. Most people admire it. There are people in whom we believe strongly and will stand behind no matter what. And we hope there are people like that in our own lives, willing to believe utterly in us.

However, such a statement also establishes that DeLay’s supporters are moral. While they stand behind their friend and hope for his innocence, they also welcome investigation. They believe in him, not in covering up for him. That’s a huge difference.

The real question though is “is it true?”

I think not. Which is why they may all go down. Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut said it best, “it has taken Republicans only 10 years to get as arrogant as the Democrats were after 30 or 40 years.”

However long it took them to get that arrogant, they’ve played too many cards wrong lately, Social Security, Terri Schiavo, and now the ethics investigations. It’s foolish to think the public isn’t watching. It was the fatal mistake Jim Wright and the Democrats made in the 90s. And it cost them dearly as it will now cost the Republicans. Remember, they rode into power in 1994 by opposing exactly these sorts of ethical problems and legislative overreaching by the Democratic leadership. Hopefully, the Democrats have learned a hard lesson here, and it may be that it is the Republicans’ turn to learn it.

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