- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 23, 2005

Politics is a funny business. It can also be nasty, as evidenced by recent hand-wringing of some members of Congress who owe their careers to Tom DeLay, and yet reportedly position themselves for promotions in hopes Mr. DeLay steps down because of recent ethics questions. The members or their staffs who have pretty clearly leaked negative innuendo about Mr. DeLay know who they are, and they should be ashamed of themselves (if that is possible in Washington).

Tom DeLay has been without question the most effective Majority Leader in a generation. As such, he also is a lightning rod — more so because he doesn’t cower to those who want him to. The ethics issues raised about Mr. DeLay, while worthy of note and which Mr. DeLay has continually offered to address in the proper forum, simply do not justify the near-obsessive attention given them the last few weeks. They are a crass way for Democrats and certain Republicans to try to take down someone they can’t beat.

Then there is this matter of Mr. DeLay and Jack Abramoff. Until a year ago when he was tossed into the Mickey Mouse Beltway feeding machine for being too decent and trusting, Mr. Abramoff was a highly respected lobbyist who for many years effectively represented many clients, including native Americans. This was before it became convenient for the Indians to jump on John McCain’s grandstanding investigation of “wronged” tribes, which for clarity’s sake are gambling interests that apparently can form a tribe with 10 people and aggressively prey on some of society’s most vulnerable to make hundreds of millions of dollars. Mr. DeLay and Mr. Abramoff were friends. So what?

Some facts: Beyond moving the president’s agenda more successfully than anyone in recent memory, Tom DeLay has spent countless hours raising millions of dollars for charity and visiting foster children scarred by abuse and neglect. He has done more for Republican members and to elect Republicans to Congress than anyone in a generation other than Karl Rove and President Bush. Few know these things about Tom DeLay because it is inconvenient to mention them when 500 people are busy biting the man’s ankles like a horde of blind rodents.

Those Republicans who may wish to undercut Mr. DeLay fail to realize if he does not lead the House majority, over time the majority is likely to become increasingly ineffective.

Tom DeLay is not majority leader because he won a popularity contest but because he is a very skilled tactician and House parliamentarian and an excellent negotiator for the conservative agenda. Much major legislation (tax cuts, Medicare reform, tort reform) may never have reached the president’s desk without Tom DeLay’s efforts. His position on the Terri Schiavo matter was a matter of conscience. Those who don’t care for it can defeat him at the polls.

In politics, there are two kinds of people: those who want to be something and those who want to do something. Tom DeLay is squarely the latter, and those who may seek to replace him don’t seem to understand the colossal responsibility that accompanies his position in the House. Simply “being Majority Leader” is a very good way to begin losing the majority.

Republican members, especially those Mr. DeLay all but elected and empowered, should remember this instead of tepidly endorsing a man who made them successful for many years.

We can be thankful some have finally taken to the newspapers and airwaves and begun defending their leader. That said, where is the sustained outrage at having their leader attacked — constantly and gratuitously by Nancy Pelosi and her interest-group lynch mob — each day in the national news? When will someone in the House leadership finally stand up and declare DeLay grievances must be filed in a week and the House then will move on, and that’s the end of it? One can hope some might overcome their fascination with the whole matter and do the right thing for the longer term.

If Republicans lose Tom DeLay, he doesn’t lose. Republicans do.


Republican media consultant and former director of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

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