The Trouble With Tom DeLay

Originally posted at RedState

Today, the Wall Street Journal opines that Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader, is in danger of smelling like the Beltway.

We will leave it to the WSJ to recount the reasons why, but we concur in the conclusion. It takes only a casual observer of congressional politics to understand that the Democrats have adopted a “Gingrich” strategy of tarring and feathering every opposition leader with charges of impropriety and arrogance while stymieing all of the majority’s legislative efforts. With DeLay, the Democrats have largely succeeded in the eyes of the media. Once DeLay becomes involved in any issue, he is treated by the Democrats and many in the media, no matter how casually he might be involved, as a congressional bogie man on the issue — if DeLay is for it, it must be bad.

Newt Gingrich succeeded in discrediting Jim Wright, the former Speaker of the House, as corrupt. Wright became involved in several questionable deals and ultimately resigned from Congress before being convicted of anything. The Democrats succeeded in portraying Gingrich is out of touch and arrogant, a useful caricature with which to shift public opinion away from the GOP. Sadly, DeLay has been an accomplice in allowing Democrats to portray him as both corrupt and arrogant.

It is bad enough that DeLay supposedly pressured one Member of Congress into voting for the medicare reform bill by offering support or opposition to the Member’s son, who had dynastic aspirations of taking over his dad’s spot. What’s worse is that DeLay actually acted like an unethical man. DeLay knew or should have known that the Democrats would be out to tar and feather him as a power hungry, corrupt politician. Notwithstanding that, DeLay willingly participated in junkets arranged by scandal plagued lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Tom DeLay, as far as anyone can tell, has not broken any law. DeLay’s problems stem from the fact that he acted like an ordinary Member of Congress, i.e. he followed the ethics rules mostly to the letter, but did nothing more to overcome appearances of impropriety. Being in his position, he should have done more and been more careful. Instead, DeLay changed Gingrich-era House ethics rules to his liking, an action that even someone not absorbed into politics would easily view with suspicion. Some of which the GOP spent an extraordinary amount of political capital defending, only to later go back to original rules.

Republicans are not yet about to revolt against Tom DeLay, despite the wishes of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. There is a lot of loyalty within the GOP for what DeLay has done. But, if DeLay does not work harder and fight harder against the left, which is out to get him, and the media, which wants out of a scandal drought, he will cause more harm than good for the party. DeLay has a window of opportunity. Right now the public sees the man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the face of the GOP, not one Congressman from Texas. Should the White House change hands, however, all eyes will focus on DeLay and the loyalty he now has will be tested. In the end, it would be better for the party to take DeLay to task than for the courts to do so or for the voters to take the GOP to task.

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Erick Erickson

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