Tom DeLay's Future; A New Movement for the Republican Party?

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

Tom DeLay's Future; A New Movement for the Republican Party?


Byline: Tod Lindberg, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It was surprising that Tom DeLay got to write his own narrative for his exit from Congress. One might have expected a greater degree of media and partisan skepticism directed at his self-portrait of his exit as a man seizing a political opportunity to extract maximum benefit for his party. At least, if my former deputy chief of staff had copped a plea to corruption charges the very same week, with more to come, I would expect skepticism.

But no, the story was that Mr. DeLay, having defeated a primary challenge, chose the moment to step down in order to clear the way for another Republican to take his place on the ballot in the general election, thus potentially saving a seat for the GOP in the year that poses the greatest challenge to its majority of its 11-year run so far. Admittedly, that sounds a lot better than: He's trying to outrun the long arm of the law.

I think Mr. DeLay got away with his story line because of the sense in Washington that he's finished. The dictates of political realism tell us that you don't waste your energy on the dead. Democrats made a seamless transition from demonizing Mr. DeLay to demonizing Republicans for being just like Mr. DeLay, the memory of the dead man still being fresh enough, presumably, to continue to inflict political damage. The pleasure Democrats took in his downfall was genuine, even if they will miss the live target.

Many Republicans, meanwhile, were openly glad to see him go. He was too much trouble to defend now, in exchange for no benefit of consequence, the political power of the majority leader's office having slipped away beyond hope of recovery. So let him go softly on a platter of his own spinning.

But here's the thing: I really doubt we have seen the last of Tom DeLay. Rather than his demise, last week may have been the opening act of his comeback. Comeback as what, I don't know, but at a minimum, as a major force in GOP politics, whether the Republican establishment likes it or not.

Now admittedly, there are a couple things that will have to happen in order for him to achieve his return to consequence. First of all, he will have to avoid indictment in the widening Jack Abramoff corruption investigation. It would be foolish to think that we know what's on the prosecutors' minds from their court filings so far. Do they have a case against Mr. DeLay? How good a case? Is it getting better from the testimony of those who served on his congressional staff and have turned cooperating witness? …

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