As the voters turn
Lo! there were chickens. And they did come home to roost.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's footing among his constituents has slipped drastically during the past year and a majority of his district disapproves of how he handled the Terri Schiavo case, according to a Houston Chronicle poll.
Nearly 40 percent of the 501 voters questioned Wednesday through Friday said their opinion of the powerful Sugar Land Republican is less favorable than last year, compared with 11 percent who said their view of him has improved.
Half of the respondents gave DeLay a somewhat or very favorable rating.
Yet 49 percent said they would vote for someone other than DeLay if a congressional election in the 22nd District were at hand; 39 percent said they would stick with him.
"There seems to be no question that there has been an erosion in support for the congressman," said John Zogby, whose polling company, Zogby International, performed the survey. "He is posting numbers that one would have to consider in the dangerous territory for an incumbent. And he isn't just an incumbent, he is a longtime incumbent."
If this were an episode of "Behind the Music", it would be at the point of the show where the bandmembers talked about how their boozing and womanizing were starting to catch up to them.
Seventy-eight percent of those Republican voters said they picked DeLay in 2004, and 63 percent said they would do so again. "He hasn't lost a majority of conservatives, but he has lost enough of them to pull him down,"said Zogby, who has conducted public opinion polls since 1984. "These are not good re-election numbers."
The "Poll Results" PDF in the sidebar unfortunately does not give a breakdown of individual poll questions by party ID. It seems pretty clear to me, though, that just about all of the slippage DeLay is experiencing is a result of Republican voters losing faith in him, since for sure he had nowhere further down to go with Democrats, and probably not that much to lose with independents. This is obviously an opportunity for Richard Morrison
, but also a danger, since these voters will be harder to convince to push the button for someone with a D next to his name, and also since they ought to be open to DeLay's argument about this all being an evil partisan plot against him.
One thing the poll notes is that the Schiavo grandstanding has hurt DeLay. Not that he's noticed, mind you.
On the Schiavo issue, DeLay consistently has stated that his constituents backed his decision to lead Congress into the dispute over whether to continue nourishment to the severely brain-damaged Florida woman.
"Everywhere I went (in the district) people were ... very supportive of the efforts to try and save her," DeLay said Wednesday at Sugar Land Regional Airport.
Yes, well, everywhere I went last year I found lots of people who were voting for John Kerry. Of course, I spent a lot of time in my Democratic district, among my Democratic friends, and at Democratic campaign events. Funny how that works.
But nearly 69 percent of people in the poll, including substantial majorities of Democrats and Republicans, said they opposed the government's intervention in the longstanding family battle.
Respondents in the Chronicle survey also were critical of DeLay's individual role. Nearly 58 percent disapproved of his decision to get Congress involved.
Slightly more Republicans approved of DeLay's personal action on Schiavo than opposed it, however, while Democrats overwhelmingly opposed his efforts to involve Congress.
Maybe you need to get out a bit more, Tom.
"The congressman is in trouble, but the burden will be on the Democrats to find a candidate, fund the candidate and make a case," Zogby said. "It's not a slam dunk against DeLay."
We have the candidate
. The funding, we're working on that. You know how you can help
UPDATE: You can find a copy of the poll results here (PDF). The Stakeholder has more.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 03, 2005 to Scandalized!
DFW Dailies Part Ways with DeLay
From the Sunday Dallas Morning News:
GOP must decide where it stands
04:32 PM CST on Saturday, April 2, 2005
In pop parlance, a television program "jumps the shark" when it features a stunt or plot twist so ludicrous that the show has nowhere to go but down.
If House Majority Leader Tom DeLay fails to pull out of the downward ethics spiral he's caught in, history will note that the powerful Republican jumped the shark on the day in March he blamed a vast left-wing conspiracy for his woes.
What kind of mess is Mr. DeLay in? For starters, there's that ongoing money-laundering probe in Travis County, in connection with the DeLay-driven congressional redistricting effort.
Next, there's the ugly business with the House Ethics Committee, which after admonishing Mr. DeLay three times for ethics violations, had its Republican chairman sacked and replaced with a DeLay loyalist. The GOP majority also changed the rules to defang the committee.
And then there's the ongoing FBI investigation into two Washington lobbyists closely tied to the lawmaker, an investigation involving possible illegal use of contributions to pay for junkets and other goodies for members of Congress – including Mr. DeLay, who enjoyed a $70,000 golfing trip to Scotland five years ago with one of the lobbyists, Jack Abramoff.
Once upon a time, Tom DeLay helped lead an insurrection that toppled a Democratic House regime grown fat and happy with power. What a difference a decade in power makes. Somehow, we doubt the Democrats will miss the opportunity to remind voters come 2006.
Anticipating the threat to the GOP majority, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which generally has been supportive of Mr. DeLay, warned last week: "Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out."
House Republicans should be asking themselves whether they really want to stake their careers defending the folly of a politician who, despite all he has done for the Republican cause, has forgotten where he came from.
These nxt two are from Sunday's Ft. Worth Star Telegram:
Posted on Sun, Apr. 03, 2005
Shame on Tom DeLay
Some day, Tom DeLay will be called to account by the American people.
Sooner would be better than later for the sake of the Constitution.
It's bad enough that vitriolic leaders of activist groups have been railing against "judicial tyranny" as though judges involved in the legal maelstrom surrounding Terri Schiavo had acted without any authority whatsoever in order to pursue a wicked personal agenda.
But DeLay, the Republican House majority leader, instead of showing true leadership and shifting the debate to sobering, legitimate questions about the role of government in end-of-life decisions, has fueled the furor by resuming his judiciary-bashing.
"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior," DeLay said in a statement issued by his office.
He's more than a little miffed that no federal court followed the pre-ordained script that Congress and President Bush thought they had written into hastily passed legislation designed to have Schiavo's feeding tube reattached over her husband's objections -- and contrary to a long string of state court decisions.
By ruling as they did, the courts thumbed their nose at Congress and the president, he said during public appearances and wouldn't rule out impeachment attempts.
For DeLay -- censured three times by the House ethics committee and under grand jury investigation in Austin -- to challenge the propriety with which a succession of judges performed the largely thankless task of weighing last-minute appeals from Schiavo's parents could be laughable.
If it weren't so disturbing.
It wasn't supposed liberal activists turning down the petitions of Schiavo's parents to undo earlier rulings, but a mixture of Republican and Democrat appointees who correctly understood their duty not as pursuing a political outcome but as applying the law to the record and facts before them.
They followed an array of state court judges, Republicans and Democrats, appointed and elected, who had found that the law favored Schiavo's husband over her parents.
U.S. District Judge James Whittemore, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, was the first federal judge to rule under the new federal law passed on Palm Sunday.
But then a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court
of Appeals affirmed on a 2-1 vote, with an appointee of President George H.W. Bush joining a Clinton appointee in the majority and another Clinton judge in dissent.
When the full 11th Circuit voted against a rehearing, the majority encompassed a Reagan appointee, a Carter appointee, four appointees by the first President Bush and three from Clinton. Those favoring a rehearing were a Clinton appointee and one from President Gerald Ford.
(Judge William Pryor Jr., appointed by the current President Bush, didn't participate because he was recovering from surgery.)
It was appellate Judge Stanley Birch Jr., a Bush I appointee, who wrote in a concurrence that "the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty."
Birch offered an eloquent commentary on the courts' difficult but essential role.
"Generally, the definition of an 'activist judge' is one who decides the outcome of a controversy before him according to personal conviction, even one sincerely held, as opposed to the dictates of the law as constrained by legal precedent and, ultimately, our Constitution. In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people -- our Constitution," he wrote.
"We must conscientiously guard the independence of our judiciary and safeguard the Constitution, even in the face of the unfathomable human tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo and her family and the recent events related to her plight which have troubled the consciences of many."
DeLay has rattled his impeachment saber at federal judges before, singling out those whose rulings he disliked.
The tactic is neither new nor surprising for a political leader who acts as though separation of powers means that he gets all the power.
Still, it's an implied threat to judicial independence and orderly government that should be taken seriously and thwarted in no uncertain terms.
Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution provides for judges and other federal officers to be removed from office for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Since 1789, only seven federal judges have been impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate.
Among the most recent, U.S. District Court Judge Harry E. Claiborne was removed in 1986 after he falsified federal income tax returns, and U.S. District Court Judge Walter Nixon in 1989 over statements he made about attempts to influence a pending case.
U.S. District Court Judge Alcee Hastings was removed in 1989 over allegations of bribery, perjury and other misbehavior, but he later was acquitted in a separate criminal trial and won a seat in Congress in 1992.
Federal judges should be held accountable. But our constitutional scheme doesn't work unless they're also independent. Politicians who don't appreciate that ought to be considered hazardous to our national health.
JR Labbe, the Startlegram's resident conservative:
Posted on Sun, Apr. 03, 2005
The duality of Tom DeLay
By J.R. Labbe
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Dethroned WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers attended a Baptist college in Mississippi, although he claimed during his unsuccessful legal defense that his grades "weren't too good."
Apparently he didn't spend much time cracking the Good Book either. The lesson in Matthew 16:25 -- "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" -- might have saved him from conviction on multiple fraud counts.
As he stressed during his trial, Ebbers donated generously to charity, contributing $100 million to causes including his church and college. He even taught Sunday school, ultimately becoming a living example of the non-Gospel "do as I say and not as I do."
Ebbers' ability to compartmentalize his life into a part in which the teachings of Christ mattered and a part in which guidance came from a much less enlightened source sadly is not unique, even for people who have been afforded exceptional blessings.
Four words: Bill Clinton, Tom DeLay.
The former president's experiences in this realm have been well documented. He even bragged about his uncanny knack for keeping his "worlds" separate, that his "personal" problems had no effect on his ability to govern.
Some career coaches actually have adopted this as advice to clients: "Do what Bill Clinton does" -- keep the personal out of the professional.
But what if the "personal" is the better nature of the being? You get a Tom DeLay, whose contradictory character is no less troubling than that of the former president's.
DeLay's work in assisting children in foster care, much of it done beyond the glare of the spotlight, has garnered him accolades from child advocacy organizations nationwide. The House majority leader and his wife, Christine, do more than just talk the talk: They were foster parents to three now grown children.
Dr. Kurt Senske, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the South Inc., which provides adoption, foster care and residential treatment for children in Texas and Louisiana, quotes DeLay in his book on how applying Christian values in the workplace supports long-term organization success.
"It is your Christian principles and values that provide you the foundation to do well," DeLay told Senske in an August 2001 interview for the book.
Executive Values was published in the spring of 2003, before the full litany of questions had been unveiled about DeLay's possible ethical lapses, which include collecting corporate donations for political action committee use and accepting international travel from an organization registered as a foreign agent -- a no-no under House rules.
I was curious as to how Senske, who, from my experience of watching his work with LSSS, brings his Christian faith to the office every day, can reconcile the Tom DeLay in the book with the Tom DeLay whose political practices have raised so many alarms.
"My relationship with Congressman DeLay is purely on children's issues," Senske said in a recent telephone interview. "He and his wife are so committed. It's good for children to have partnership on those issues. I can't comment on the politics."
Senske's avoidance of the question might cause one to ask whether he isn't participating in a little compartmentalizing himself. He would be the first to say that his organization has benefited greatly from DeLay's legislative work on behalf of abused and foster children. He lauds DeLay the humanitarian; he doesn't want to contemplate DeLay the politician.
He changes the direction of the discussion.
"All of us as leaders need to ask the question, whether it's about personal values or corporate values, 'Would your mother approve, would your pastor approve of what you are doing?'" Senske said.
Alas, all humans -- including mothers and pastors -- are sinners, subject to temptation and too often failing to resist. When the temptation is political power, worldly fame and wealth, often the most willing of spirits find the flesh is weak.
Perhaps the life lessons here come not from Ebbers' multi-count convictions or DeLay's crumbling political capital. They were taught by a carpenter who had no need to compartmentalize his "worlds" because he knew he was not of this one.
"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own?" -- Luke 6:41
"I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more." -- John 8:11