- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

Democrats can choose their own path, but Republicans better not be too anxious to throw House Republican Leader Tom DeLay under the bus.

I don’t say Mr. DeLay should be exempt from scrutiny, House rules or the law. But he is certainly entitled to a presumption of innocence, which should remain until a credible case of misconduct has been proven.

But that’s not how certain Democratic leaders have things sized up. Rep. Charles Rangel of New York said, essentially, that Mr. DeLay has the burden of demonstrating he did nothing wrong. Now, this is certainly an interesting standard when invoked by someone who champions civil rights.

Some argue Mr. DeLay should step down as leader because allegations of unethical behavior against someone in such an important position set a bad example and poison the governmental waters.

I think Mr. DeLay’s powerful position happens to cut the other way. That is, I think he has been so important to advancing the conservative agenda that he ought not bow out unless he has actually done something wrong. If the opposition party’s miracle antidote for an effective majority agenda is to lodge allegations against a majority party’s leader, the majority party should never hope to accomplish much of anything.

It is important to separate the issue of Mr. DeLay’s conduct from his accusers’ conduct, motivations and hypocrisy. If he has done something that warrants expulsion, he should resign — no matter if all his detractors are guilty as sin.

But separating the issues does not mean focusing on one (the allegations against Mr. DeLay) and ignoring the other. We do need to inquire into his accusers’ conduct, motivations and hypocrisy, especially when it might bear on their credibility.

I believe the reason politicians like Charles Rangel, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are willing to condemn Mr. DeLay on the strength of the charges alone, is in their minds he is inherently guilty by virtue of his ideology.

In their view, conservatives — especially those who completely believe in their principles and, worse, are effectively advance the right-wing policy agenda — are already evil. To discover ethical or legal infractions by such people is merely confirmation of what is already true in nature — conservatives are guilty: of religious zealotry, favoring the rich, exploiting the poor, racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. (And Mr. DeLay is even worse than most conservatives, because he is arrogant, meaning unintimidated by their liberal “Highnesses.”)

So while it would be unthinkable for a reasonable person to suggest someone — even a politician — should have to prove his innocence, it is perfectly reasonable to demand that of one as presumptively sinister as Tom DeLay. (If you think I’m exaggerating, just remember the venom constantly aimed at Mr. DeLay, way before he was accused of any infractions besides endorsing an ideological agenda repugnant to liberals.)

Mr. DeLay is just another in a long line of victims whose major crime is unabashed conservatism. If the left can demonize someone as aboveboard as I personally know John Ashcroft to be, and if they can with a straight face paint Kenneth Starr as a sex-obsessed ne’er-do-well, they can ruin anyone — mostly with impunity.

At this point — as others have cogently written — it doesn’t seem Mr. DeLay has done anything worthy of ouster as House Leader. He can hardly be crucified for paying family members from campaign funds for legitimate work they did when House rules expressly authorize the practice —it is permitted by congressional regulations. He can hardly be cashiered for a trip to Moscow paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research, not Russian companies. He can hardly be faulted for a trip to South Korea funded by an organization only very recently registered as a foreign agent, unbeknownst to him.

And he can’t be removed because a liberal, politically charged prosecutor indicted three of his former associates, especially when Mr. DeLay himself hasn’t been implicated in the case.

But no matter. Democrats will just keep throwing charges against the wall until something sticks, because this is ultimately about power and thwarting the conservative agenda.

If it turns out Mr. DeLay has engaged in misconduct that warrants his stepping down, he should graciously do so, regardless of the hypocrisy and double standards effervescing from the other side. Otherwise, he should remain in his position and continue to fight aggressively for what he believes in — the very things motivating the opposition to destroy him.

In the meantime, Republicans better stand by Mr. DeLay. Who knows? Any one of them could be next.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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