November 19, 2004
The DeLay Rule

I'd noticed Tom DeLay's use of the phrase "politics of personal destruction" in his defense of the newly adopted Tom DeLay Scoundrel Protection Act (which has been simply designated the Tom DeLay Rule in the blogs), but I hadn't twigged to its significance. EJ Dionne explains.

Recall how Republicans dismissed any and all who charged that the investigations of President Bill Clinton by special prosecutor Ken Starr were politically motivated. Ah, but those were investigations of a shady Democrat by a distinguished Republican. When a Democrat is investigating a Republican, it can only be about politics. Is that clear?

Rep. Henry Bonilla, the Texas Republican who sponsored the resolution to protect DeLay, said it was designed to protect against "crackpot" prosecutors whose indictments might get in the way of the ability of House Republicans to choose their own leaders. Can't let a little thing like an indictment get in the way of the sovereignty of House Republicans, can we?

"Attorneys tell me you can be indicted for just about anything in this country," said Bonilla. Remember the old days during the Clinton impeachment when Republicans went on and on about the importance of "the rule of law?" Oh, well.

DeLay's response to the whole thing came, almost word for word, from Clinton's old talking points. "We must stop the politics of personal destruction," Clinton said in December 1998 after the House impeachment vote that DeLay had rammed through. On Wednesday, DeLay said that Democrats "announced years ago that they were going to engage in the politics of personal destruction and had me as a target." Maybe it's time for Bill and Tom to sit down at that big new library in Little Rock for a friendly drink.

It always comes back to the Big Dog, doesn't it? In one form or another, everything the modern GOP has done in the last twelve years has been influenced by him.

Josh Marshall has been all over this. The Daily DeLay is keeping track of the public statements and responses to constituent inquiries by individual Republican representatives on how they voted on this rule. Marshall has some red state paper editorials which give the thumbs-down to the DeLay rule (here and here), while Daily DeLay urges writing letters to the editor. Three anti-DeLay letters appear in the Chron today.

Kos diarist Kagro X suggests stealing a few pages from Newt Gingrich's 1993 playbook to keep this story in the news. I like the way he thinks.

One more Texas editorial: The Star Telegram says "That anyone would consider it appropriate for an indicted House member to remain in a leadership post is a slap at the people, who are entitled to have their elected representatives act legally, ethically and in the best interests of the country, not their own ambitions."

Tangentially, The Stakeholder has a few questions about some unexplained matters in the Abramoff/Scanlon affair.

Finally, the House Ethics Committee, in a display of timing which I'm sure had nothing whatsoever to do with the current news cycle, sent a letter to Chris Bell regarding what they called "innuendo, speculative assertions or conclusory statements" in his complaint against DeLay.

The committee's Republican chairman and senior Democrat used the letter to Bell to warn lawmakers that making exaggerated allegations of wrongdoing could result in disciplinary action against the accuser.

Bell was not disciplined. He lost in a primary earlier this year because of a DeLay-engineered redistricting plan.

In the future, exaggerations and misstatements also could lead to dismissal of a complaint, said the letter from Chairman Joel Hefley, R-Colo., and senior Democrat Alan Mollohan of West Virginia. The panel they lead is formally called the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

Bell's complaint was not dismissed, the letter said, because it contained allegations against DeLay, R-Sugar Land, that warranted consideration.

The committee concluded in October that DeLay appeared to link political donations to a legislative favor and improperly persuaded U.S. aviation authorities to intervene in a Texas political dispute.

The ethics panel is expected to outline new guidelines on fund raising and proper uses of political power in the wake of the DeLay admonishment.

Make of that what you will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 19, 2004 to Scandalized! | TrackBack