Republicans Grabbing DeLay Tar Baby
In a move somewhat remniscent of then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s pronouncement that the country would have been better off had Strom Thurmond been elected president, Republican Members of Congress are rushing to issue warm statements about Tom DeLay as he readies for departure from the House. In both cases, the motivations behind the remarks are perfectly understandable in human terms but perfectly stupid politically.
Thurmond and DeLay were both good colleagues who made a lot of friends in their respective institutions and some throwaway comments about their great service to the country and their valued friendship is both understandable and even commendable. But given the inflammatory nature of both, there is simply a line that can not be crossed without peril. Yet, it is happening again:
“He has served our nation with integrity and honor, and I’m honored to call him my colleague and friend.” – Majority Leader John Boehner
“His leadership helped take our Republican conference and, as a result, our nation in a new direction, and I am confident that Tom’s legacy as one of the most effective Republican leaders in a generation is assured.” – Majority Whip Roy Blunt
“The hatred and relentless criticism of Tom DeLay breaks all records. He makes Newt Gingrich, Dan Quayle, and Bill Clinton look like their tenure in Washington was a honeymoon.” – Republican Conference Vice Chairman Jack Kingston
One does not exactly benefit from extolling DeLay’s integrity as the model for conservative Republicans.
Others were somewhat more judicious in their word choice. For example, NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds strikes the proper tone:
The House Republican Conference is losing a powerful conservative voice in Tom DeLay. I applaud Tom for over two decades of service to the Congress and to the people of Texas’ 22nd District.
Tom’s invaluable presence on the campaign trail will certainly be missed as we continue the battle to strengthen our House Republican Majority, but on this day, we celebrate him for time and again delivering on our party’s bold agenda of reform. To say Tom was a driving force in every key accomplishment of this Republican Congress is no understatement.
In all my years as an elected official, I have never seen a better vote counter than Tom DeLay. I continue to think of Tom as an inspiring leader and wish nothing but the best to him and his family.
This message pays proper homage to a lost friend — long service, strong leader, big ideas — without embracing the very things that caused his fall. I’m not sure that “I have never seen a better vote counter” is something I’d want on my tombstone but it’s likely true.
It’s decent and admirable to refrain from kicking a man to whom one owes a great deal while he’s down. But let’s not go overboard in extoling the man’s character, given that he has been censured by the Ethics Committee and is currently under indictment.
Update: For the most part, the Right Blogosphere is taking a decidedly different tone.
- Glenn Reynolds: “I’m not sorry. His ‘no fat in the budget’ remark lost me, and I was never much of a fan.”
- Ace: “For the best, I think. The guy may have been demonized by the media, but, like Nixon, he gave them a knife and they twisted it with relish.”
- Jon Henke: “It’s always worth celebrating when another bad politician slides back down the greasy pole.”
- Steven Taylor: “… a man who got far too caught up in the Us versus Them mentality of partisan competition to the point that he forgot his job was governing, not beating the Democrats.”
- Sean Hackbarth is of a mixed mind: “No loss to me. He was a big-spending Republican.” Yet, “The short-term lesson is for local Democratic prosecutors to launch politically-motivated investigation of GOP Congressional leaders. If there’s some smoke, as in DeLay’s case, they just might force a few more into resigning.”
- Stephen Green echoes my opening: “No biggie – I always got him confused with Trent Lott anyway.”
Interestingly, people who know DeLay professionally seem to genuinely like him, whereas most who observe him from afar think he’s rather sleazy. I’m not sure how to account for that, other than that he’s probably a pretty decent guy when taken as a package whereas outsiders focus only on DeLay the politico.