Tom DeLay (for a more comprehensive and less partisan biography, see Wikipedia‘s biographical entry) is a former exterminator who never saw a shady cockroach he didn’t love. So it’s no wonder that his fellow roaches in the House Republican caucus have given him his very own “Get Out of Jail” card in case he’s indicted in a brewing Texas political fundraising scandal (House GOP Acts to Protect Chief). Three of his cronies running his various PACs have been indicted and perhaps Tom is not far behind. At least that’s what Tom must be thinking otherwise why would he blackmail his caucus into overturning its own rule declaring that any Republican leader indicted for an offense carrying a penalty of two years of jail or more must step down?
Why did his House colleagues roll over and play dead for Tom? Certainly they know that a good exterminator knows how to squash bugs. Take Christopher Shays (Rep., CT) as an example. Shays is a long-term Congress member who came to Congress in the Gingrich landslide of 1994. He’s always been something of a maverick among the conservative bestiary in the House. Today, he eloquently denounced the caucus for its vote. He made clear that he knew that his chance to chair a powerful House committee was on the line. He understood that his statement against the vote could cost him this plum assignment. But he stated, I needed to weigh my political future against my ethical judgment. And my conscience is more important to me than political or personal gain. I’d say Chris is positioning himself to come out of this smelling like a rose when De Lay IS indicted and the rest of the country wakes up to the shenanigans his underlings are trying to pull on the rest of us. To continue our exterminator metaphor, Shays doesn’t want to be the last rat off the sinking ship–in fact he wants to be the first and that’s a credit to him.
What’s ironic about this development is that the original Republican rule dates back to the days of Democratic speaker Jim Wright, who himself faced ethics charges which eventually drove him from office. Newt Gingrich, in attempting to establish the ethical bona fides of House Republicans and to point out the Democrats shortcomings, championed this ethics rule.
How interesting that now that De Lay faces the same type of charges which toppled Jim Wright, Tony Coelho and Newt Gingrich, he decides to jettison the ethical niceties. This tells the world that House Republicans believe in ethics only when it’s convenient to them. The only bad behavior they ever see is on the part of Democrats. Certainly, no Republican could ever be guilty of such lapses, right?
Once De Lay is indicted (that phrase has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?), there will be a hue and cry from the entire nation ridiculing this vote and the House Republicans for thinking that they should be allowed to hold themselves to a lower standard than their predecessors. There’s already enough moral turpitude in Congress and the body is held in terribly low repute by the average American. Today’s vote only makes this impression stronger.