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New York Times Editorial on Tom DeLay says He is Detached From the Nation's Business, Electoral Democracy, and His Party
When power and leadership come to politicians incapable of handling either, the results can be disastrous. DeLay seems not to be listening and is given a rifle in Houston by the NRA.
Power for Power's Sake, NY TIMES, April 17, 2005
When power and leadership come to politicians incapable of handling either, the results can be disastrous. The Democrats who controlled Congress into the 1990's grew so comfortable with their majority that they lost track of the country. As House speaker, Newt Gingrich sacrificed his revolution to his swollen ego. And now there is Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, whose hunger for power has grown so insatiable that it has detached him from the nation's business, the principles of electoral democracy and even the mainstream of his own party.
Mr. DeLay's ethical and financial lapses are serious and disqualifying for his high office. But even more alarming than his love for political money is his abuse of power. He appears to be confused about the difference between a legislative majority won in an election and total control held indefinitely.
Mr. DeLay is not content with having a Republican president and majorities in both houses of Congress. He wants to control every aspect of government fully, and to deny the Democrats any role at all. The method is simple: when the game does not go his way, he changes the rules. If Republicans cannot win huge majorities in House races, he shifts the boundaries of their districts; if ethics rules start to catch up with his reckless behavior, he rewrites them. Most recently, when rulings by judges - the one branch of government still beyond his grasp - did not precisely suit him, Mr. DeLay resolved to impose his ideology on the judiciary.
Mr. DeLay began building his megamachine with a breathtakingly hubristic "pay to play" system. It was not just that anyone who wanted access had to contribute to the Republican apparatus. The new rules also required that special interests refrain from contributing to Democratic causes.
In Texas, his home state, Mr. DeLay engineered an extraordinary gerrymandering to cement a Republican majority in the House delegation. When Democratic lawmakers left the state to stall a vote, he once again abused his power by sending federal agents after them. The circuitous funneling of DeLay machine money into the Texas scheme led to indictments against two close associates.
But when the timorous House ethics monitors began questioning Mr. DeLay's behavior and had the gall to actually admonish him last year, Mr. DeLay purged the committee of the Republicans who questioned his rule and replaced them with solid loyalists, some of whom have actually contributed to his legal defense fund. Then he began altering the rules to make sure that if some further charge managed to slip through, it would die of neglect.
When he bothers to explain himself, which is not often, Mr. DeLay complains about some vast left-wing conspiracy, or he rolls out the "everyone does it" dodge. Yes, many members of Congress take junkets, but the dubious financing for Mr. DeLay's trips seems like those off-the-books Enron operations. Surely, the House majority leader can get to Scotland or Seoul without the help of corporate chieftains, foreign lobbyists and shady accountants.
At first, Mr. DeLay's endless power grabs served a policy agenda, just as Mr. Gingrich's 1994 revolution had its Contract With America. Whether you liked it or not, it was a list of political positions and government initiatives. But increasingly, Mr. DeLay has been in hot pursuit of things that have nothing to do with the issues on which the Republicans ran in the last two elections, and everything to do with accumulating and monopolizing power.
The most striking recent example was Mr. DeLay's outrageous attempt to inject Congress into the personal tragedy of the Schiavo family. When nearly 20 judges, many of them conservative jurists appointed by Republicans, blocked Mr. DeLay, he became enraged and applied his principle of power. He ordered up a Congressional investigation of those judges and hopes to produce some new legislation. He didn't say what that legislation would be, but it was not hard to guess. Mr. DeLay has pushed bills through the House to strip the courts of their powers to review laws and even tried to break up the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That bill, thankfully, died in the Senate.
Mr. DeLay says that his only critics are Democrats and their supporters, by which he includes this page. But Republicans are worried. Mr. Gingrich, who knows a thing or two about overreaching, said last week that Mr. DeLay "at some point has got to convince people that what he has done was reasonable and authentic and legitimate."
President Bush, who at least has an agenda related to public policy, has gingerly taken a step or two back from Mr. DeLay. On Wednesday, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said: "We support his efforts, along with the efforts of other Congressional leaders, to move forward on the agenda that the American people want us to enact."
That point is surely lost on Mr. DeLay. After all, this is the man who once was reported to have declared upon being stopped from lighting a cigar in a government-owned building, "I am the federal government." The remark now seems prophetic. Government is hobbled by Mr. DeLay and it is up to his fellow Republicans to finally realize that.
DeLay speaks at NRA convention
By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2005
HOUSTON - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay returned Saturday to the much-needed embrace of his home turf and his core supporters, capping a fiery convention of the National Rifle Association by telling the organization's leaders that guns are crucial to keeping the peace and preserving the American way of life.
"It isn't just our homes and selves that need defending," he said Saturday night in the convention's keynote speech. "It is our freedom. ... God gave it. The Constitution preserves it. And together we will defend it."
The NRA gave DeLay a flintlock rifle. He held it above his head and echoed the words NRA President Charlton Heston had famously shouted when given his own commemorative gun: "From my cold, dead hands."
DeLay did not directly address the controversy swirling around him this spring.
The Sugar Land Republican's appearance represented the apex of a convention where politicians and gun-rights advocates pulled few punches, berating and belittling Democrats, gun-control advocates, the United Nations and the news media, among others.
President Bush also delivered a message by videotape Saturday night to NRA leaders as 3,000 people dined on steak with cognac sauce. He pledged to fight new gun-control provisions and called on Congress to pass a measure that would grant gun makers and dealers immunity from some lawsuits. The measure's backers say it would protect the companies from frivolous lawsuits; critics say it would sacrifice public safety to reward the powerful gun lobby.
DeLay's appearance drew about 200 protesters to a convention center in downtown Houston. They held signs that read "Fight Corruption; Dump DeLay," and they chanted "This is what democracy looks like."
Several made clear that they were there to protest DeLay and not the NRA. One of his constituents, 51-year-old Jackie Rico't, a chemical-company worker from Seabrook, held a sign that read: "2nd Amendment Yes; Tom DeLay No."
"I'm not against the NRA," Rico't said. "But DeLay is bankrupt -- morally and ethically. We need to take our district back."
DeLay is facing many problems this spring.
In Texas, three of his top aides have been indicted on campaign-finance charges and his political fund-raising operation is under investigation. In Washington, he faces ethical charges regarding his relationship with lobbyists and questions about relatives who are on his campaign payroll. And he was forced to apologize for saying judges would "answer for their behavior" in the Terri Schiavo case.
Despite those woes, DeLay was received with adulation and a standing ovation inside the convention. "I hope the national media saw that," he said, the only allusion to the controversy.
DeLay has been one of the NRA's stalwart supporters for more than 20 years, even fighting gun-control legislation that has considerable popular support, such as a program that gave cities money to buy guns back from residents. While some have suggested that DeLay should resign his leadership post, many NRA members at the convention blamed his problems on Democrats.
"It's just another target the liberals have found," said David Adams of Richmond, Va. "They did it to Newt Gingrich. He's just their next target. It's much ado about nothing."
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