Joe Conason's Journal

Tom DeLay -- and fellow Republicans -- are worried about the midterm elections. And it's beginning to show.

By Joe Conason
Published July 25, 2002 6:30PM (EDT)

I understand why Tom DeLay is mad. The House leader descended upon Washington long ago as a disgruntled extremist, determined to undo the kind of gummint regulation that had hampered his extermination business. He got quite far with that project over the past decade, thanks to his blatant commerce with lobbyists, trade associations and other interests willing to pay for the opportunity to write legislation affecting them and their clients. And now he is embarrassed by the fact that nobody cares what he thinks about the single largest regulatory bill passed by Congress in decades. The House bully could scarcely slow, let alone stop, the stampede of his colleagues to support the version of corporate reform sponsored by Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., that he tried to kill only weeks ago. The bill approved in conference and sent to Bush only bears the name of House Banking Committee chairman Michael Oxley as an ironic courtesy.

DeLay vented his anger Wednesday by blaming the steep market decline on his Democratic adversaries - a clumsy attempt at propaganda that shows he is not only furious but frightened. He should be. When the Washington Times acknowledges that Republicans are worried about November, they are very, very worried about November.

In their panic, Republicans and their allies in the press are trying out a variety of implausible arguments to shield themselves from responsibility for voters' economic distress. It's Bill Clinton's fault., they say. It's Bob Rubin's fault. It's the fault of the stupid investors themselves, who inflated and then exploded the financial bubble. But soon the GOP leadership will have to face reality. To save themselves they will turn on the party's old friends in the business community - the ones who are waiting for the cops to read them the Miranda warning. Marty Ryall, the Arkansas Republican chairman, blurted out to the Moonie daily what he and his colleagues hope will save them. "The Democrats are saying it's the fault of Bush and Republican policies, but people are not buying it here. They blame corporate executives," he said.
[Posted: 4 p.m. PDT, July 25, 2002]

You've got mail - from the SEC
As the handpicked co-chair of the president's Commission on Social Security, Richard Parsons, the AOL Time Warner chief executive, pushed privatization. With his own company suddenly under investigation by the SEC for the "unconventional" bookkeeping used to boost its ad revenues, that burning urge to put retiree benefits in play on Wall Street should cool down for a while. (Since the commission began to perfect its plans last summer, AOL Time Warner's shares have fallen about 75 percent, an unfortunate coincidence.) According to Ari Fleischer, the president thinks privatizing Social Security is still a swell idea anyway. Undoubtedly it is -- if you happen to be a corporate director who knows when to sell, with an anonymous buyer conveniently showing up to purchase your shares. That kind of bold, entrepreneurial risk-taking isn't for everyone, though.

Vegetating with Ralph's vegans
Now that I've read Micah Sifry's dispatch from the Green Party convention, it's clear that the Boston Globe coverage cited here Monday was too kind. Sympathetic though he is to third-party aspirations, Sifry acidly portrays a gathering of dilettantes too dim to notice what is actually going on in the country they presume to save. According to him, the crashing financial markets and the corporate crime wave were barely mentioned in Philadelphia amid all the excited babble about solar rooftop panels. He describes these Nader acolytes as placid "vegans," munching enthusiastically on a diet of "politically correct pablum," and illustrates the point by reference to their candidate for Governor of New Mexico. "I drive a Volkswagen that runs on pure vegetable oil," boasted that gentleman as he introduced himself to the press.

The dogged author tries to close on a hopeful note - "there's still plenty of time," etc. -- but it sounds forced. (An expanded version of his report will soon appear on the Nation Web site. For an articulate explanation of Sifry's attraction to third parties, see his recent book "Spoiling for a Fight." .) Last week Micah was hoping for Jesse Ventura, and he got Elsie the Cow.
[Posted: 11 a.m. PDT, July 25, 2002]

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Joe Conason

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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