November 18, 2004
Rules are for other people

The Tom DeLay Scoundrel Protection Act is now official Republican policy.

House Republicans moved to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay from a Texas political corruption case, deciding Wednesday that he will not be automatically forced to give up his leadership post should he be indicted.


Asked if he could be an effective leader if he is indicted, DeLay responded swiftly.

"I am not going to answer that question because I am not (going to be indicted)," said DeLay, the second-highest ranking House Republican. "This has nothing to do with whether I was going to be or was not going to be."

Translation: I'm not the only one who's above the law around here.

Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, who initiated the rules change before consulting with DeLay or his staff, said GOP leaders needed protection from "any crackpot district attorney" with a political agenda.

Translation: Only we are capable of judging ourselves and our actions.

You know, if I ran an advertising agency, and the Democratic Party hired me to devise a campaign around this latest move by the GOP, the first slogan I'd release would be something like "Democrats Believe Crooks Should Not Be Leaders...Unlike Some Other Political Parties We Could Name". I know that an indictment is not a conviction, but so what? I'm just a hypothetical advertising agency here. And hey, we don't even know for sure that the GOP has a rule in place which says that a member who has been convicted of a crime would have to relinquish a leadership role. Besides, I'm sure the Republicans can explain the difference to voters. They're good at that sort of fine nuance.

Let's check some editorial reviews:

The Houston Chronicle says "In a show that combined bravura with insecurity, House Republicans changed their rules so that Majority Leader Tom DeLay would not automatically have to step aside from his No. 2 spot if he is indicted as part of a state investigation into campaign finance operations."

The Express News says "[Rep. Henry] Bonilla's eagerness to disregard reasonable ethical standards to curry favor with DeLay is an embarrassment."

The Statesman says "In changing their rules to protect U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republicans in Congress have made it clear they prefer raw power over ethical leadership."

The Morning News says "Having power doesn't mean you can abuse it. Regrettably, that's what congressional Republicans did yesterday when they changed an important party rule Ė apparently for the benefit of one man."

(Todd Gillman notes, by the way, that this is just one more GOP reform from the 90s which has since been tossed aside.)

The Lufkin Daily News says "It seems our Republican leaders really donít care what actions they have to take, or how those actions appear, as long as they get what they want."

The Waco Tribune says "[I]n an outrageous power play typical of DeLay's reign as Congress' most powerful man, House Republicans changed rules under which he'd have had to relinquish his majority leader post under a state felony indictment."

More to come, I'm sure.

UPDATE: The Stakeholder has a nice roundup of the case against Tom DeLay so far, and a petition you can sign to let the GOP House leadership know how you feel about their actions. And do read William and TP's comments below. Senator Bedfellow indeed.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 18, 2004 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

Am I the only one who remembers the line from Bloom County: "Leaving a trail of slime wherever he goes..."? I think it's relevant here.

Posted by: William Hughes on November 18, 2004 9:02 AM

"Now, Senator Bedfellow, we here at the Bloom Beacon really think you'll like this one . . ."

Posted by: TP on November 18, 2004 10:12 AM

Josh Marshall over at is trying to figure out how much weight to give DeLay's attacks on Earl.

Any anecdotes/facts/figures you can supply to shed a little light?

Posted by: Ken Chambers on November 18, 2004 1:07 PM

Ken - I think Earle's record more or less speaks for itself. He's prosecuted far more Democrats than Republicans (though as he says, you have to have power to abuse it, and for most of his tenure it was Democrats who had the power), and he has a pretty good ratio of convictions/guilty pleas to losses.

DeLay defines this as "partisan" because Earle is a Democrat, plain and simple. In his world, only a Republican can criticize (much less prosecute) a Republican. Of course, in his world, that never happens.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 18, 2004 1:46 PM

Tom DeLay is the son of Satan, and just hearing his name makes me want to cry. I signed the petition; any little bit will help, right?

Posted by: Christine on November 18, 2004 2:55 PM

I think people are off base when they accuse Earle of being partisan. i am not aware of DeLay saying that about him, but it is certainly accurate to accuse Earle of being a publicity-mad egomaniac who cares entirely about being in the public eye and who are cares not at all about doing his real job, which is putting criminals behind bars.

Take a look at the record of rates of violent crime in Travis County. While rates of violent crime have been falling across the nation over the past 20 years, these rates in Travis County have not mirrored that decline during Earle's long tenure. And the actual stats of Earle's DA office in convicting and imprisoning criminals bear out a causal relationship between Earle's shirking of his real duty and the plight of Travis County residents who are victimized by violent crime.

Earle has pursued public figures on the flimsiest of cases. It is true that, in some cases, his campaigns have been warranted, and even meritorious. Perhaps he has become addicted to the feeling he got in those few good cases and now sees scoundrels everywhere.

His case against DeLay, like his case against Kay Bailey Hutchison, is without merit.

I expect the lege to unburden Earle of leadership of the Public Integrity Unit. He has demonstrated that he lacks the judgment necessary to perform this role, and it is unfair to the residents of Travis County that he continue to be distracted from his real job.

Posted by: abelard on November 18, 2004 8:50 PM

I've called a couple of the Texas delegation to see how they voted. So far, Burgess was at a funeral, and his staff will call me back with his opinion on the matter, and Granger was for the rule change. Any bets on whether any of the Texas Republican delegation will go on record against the rule change?

Posted by: Brennan on November 18, 2004 10:37 PM

"I think people are off base when they accuse Earle of being partisan. i am not aware of DeLay saying that about him"

Then you haven't been paying attention, because the "partisan witch hunt" line has been the staple of DeLay's defense all along. Here's a quote from February:

With Republican campaign-spending practices under investigation in Austin, U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle on Tuesday for using his power for "vindictive" ends.

"This is nothing more than a vindictive, typical Ronnie Earle process. The district attorney has a long history of being vindictive and partisan," Mr. DeLay said at a weekly session with reporters, responding to a question about a grand jury investigation being run by Mr. Earle.

"This is so typical. This is criminalizing, or an attempt to criminalize politics. We have a runaway district attorney in Texas," Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. Earle said of the leader's comments: "Being called partisan and vindictive by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog."

Any questions?

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 19, 2004 7:07 AM

Ok, then, i think DeLay is off base with the partisan accusations. However, his other pejorative remarks about Ronnie Earle are precisely on target.

But if "partisan" means persecuting republicans rather than ratsocrats, that charge is clearly not supported by the facts.

Posted by: abelard on November 19, 2004 9:33 AM

Absolute power corrupts. It may be the beginning of the split of that oddball duo of blatant monetary greed/graft and religion... the New Republikkkan Party...
More like Neo-Dickensian...Neo- Dicks for short

Posted by: waggs on March 15, 2005 7:41 PM

Dear Mr. Earle, I wish you success in procecuting Tom Delay who is DELIGHTED with being able to hide his abuses. Then, to hoodwink the nation along with his colleagues in Congress, he is a happy man! Although that may not be hard to do for the power hungry, we are watching over here in Georgia! Good luck to you. Delay needs to return to dry cleaning or smoke screaning. Perhaps Bush will need another occasion to use his tailored flight suit? (I thought he would use it recently while speaking to the nation from New Orleans...) Good luck,

Posted by: Sandra Allen on September 29, 2005 2:32 PM