Bush Not Seeking DeLay’s Ouster

Despite their well publicized differences, President Bush is not working to get embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay fired, according to a “Washington Memo” from NYT’s Elisabeth Bumiller.

Bush Is Seen as Unlikely to Seek DeLay’s Ouster

President Bush and Representative Tom DeLay, the much-investigated but still powerful House majority leader, have never been pals. They made that clear in the fall of 1999, when Mr. Bush, the Republican front-runner for president, accused Mr. DeLay of balancing the federal budget on the backs of the poor and Mr. DeLay shot back that Mr. Bush “does not know how Congress works.” In an interview that fall, Mr. DeLay also recalled that, when he first met Mr. Bush, the future president was “oil-field trash – that’s an endearing term, by the way.” In private conversations afterward, Mr. Bush was heard to express contempt for Mr. DeLay.

But Republicans say that, for now, Mr. Bush’s political need for his fellow Texas Republican transcends his personal distaste and the growing questions about Mr. DeLay’s ethical conduct. For that reason, they say Mr. Bush and Karl Rove, the president’s chief political strategist, are unlikely to try to jettison Mr. DeLay in the same way that they deposed Trent Lott as Senate Republican leader for racially charged comments Mr. Lott made in 2002. “They need DeLay, and they particularly need him on Social Security,” said a Republican strategist close to the White House who asked not to be named because the situation was so “toxic.”

The White House was counting on Mr. DeLay, the strategist said, to push the president’s sputtering Social Security plan through Congress because “the rest of the leadership is not as experienced, they’re not as capable and they don’t know what DeLay knows about individual members and what makes them tick.” Mr. Bush’s relationship with Mr. DeLay, Republicans say, falls into the familiar Washington pattern of professional respect and mutual self-interest; as Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday, “there are different levels of friendship.”

Not to mention that Congress doesn’t take too kindly to presidents butting into their internal business. It’s the job of House Republicans to ensure that their leaders are up to the proper ethical standards, not the executive branch. Further, while it’s true that Bush, Rove, and company wanted the Lott problem to go away, it’s far from clear that that was a major factor in Lott’s being ousted.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.