Thursday, November 18, 2004

AchPundit asks a good question, one that seems to be left behind in some of the process coverage of the DeLay debacle.
DeLay and the others deserve their day in court, but trying to dismiss this as politically motivated is nothing more than ignoring his many ethical lapses in the past.

If DeLay is never indicted, then this was unnecessary, though telling act. If he is, why do Republicans want him as their Leader?

This whole debate stinks of the worst sort of corruption, that of the corrupting influence of power. This isn't about money, although it is certainly one of the tools of the trade, but its importance is its ability to wield power. Those who control the money can control the future of the local politicians trying to make it in state and local elections (the Democratic anger at the discovery that Kerry has $15 million in unspent funds in the bank and made no effort to use it to help down-ticket races is a perfect example).

DeLay is one of the most powerful politicians in memory, not for his power or his ability to write essential legislation, but for his ability to wield his power. Something he does often and with little concern for the mess he makes. His control over the party machine, his expertise in reworking house rules for his advantage and his power over the purse give him almost unchecked reign.

The evidence of this is the rather timid nature in which House Republicans who have objected to the rules change have stated their opposition. Josh Marshall has been documenting some of the ways in which House Republicans have "stood up" to DeLay. Who's talking and who's not(scroll up). Some have announced their opposition, some say they will only respond to questions from constituents, many have simply tried not to answer the phone or have been "indisposed" since before the vote.

The Republicans know this looks bad. There is almost no way they can spin this as being an attempt to avoid, "criminalizing politics," as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) has claimed. The vote was taken in secret so as to give the members denyability. Fortunately thanks to Josh Marshall and others, this is very thin cover. There have been numerous claims that the rules change is hypocrisy at its finest. It was put in place to try and shame the Democrats in the mid-90's who had such corrupt House Leaders as Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Il). Now, with the potential of a DeLay indictment (no one knows if it will happen or not, but the fact that the Republicans would make such a change may indicate that something is coming down the pike) the Republicans have abandoned their own moral high ground.

Which brings us back to our original point, if he is indicted and he maintains his leadership position, what does that say about the Republicans? It makes one wonder if this obviously self-preservationist move may cause DeLay to lose support. Certainly he has enormous power, but at what point does he simply become a liability? The corrupt politician meme is hard to battle when your leadership is under indictment.

Voters often expect a certain amount of self-serving from their politicians, even accusations of corruption and illegal activities are sometimes overlooked for one reason or another. Two famous examples were Gov. Huey "The Kingfish of Louisiana" Long and Massachusetts politician James Curley who was re-elected while in jail for fraud. Recently Marion Barry, former mayor of the District of Columbia was elected to the D.C. district council even after being indicted for possession of crack cocaine. Many of these politicians were colorful characters who, although corrupt, provided something to the voters that they were unable to get otherwise. They were tolerated if not sometimes celebrated.

Yet the kind of hubris and shamelessness exhibited by DeLay and some of his former aides and associates is verging on the incredible. Two of DeLay's former aides were recently indicted for, in essence, bribery. They managed to help close some Indian casinos and then approached the tribe involved offering to try and get their casinos re-opened for the low price of $4 million bucks. That is a shakedown.

DeLay himself has received several ethics admonishments in the House for his actions in the redistricting effort in Texas, which is also the focus of the DA's investigation.

For a party that ran on a platform of moral values, a consistent pattern of corruption and hubris is not likely to fly well for long. There are numerous good Republicans serving in Congress at the moment. Moderate Republicans who are working to help their constituents, not simply establish a permanent majority, whatever the cost. These Republicans need to stand up and denounce the actions of the few among the leadership who will, if unchecked, run their party into the ground.

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