Tom DeLay's ham sandwich defense

Published November 22, 2004 9:54PM (EST)

You gotta love it. House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay comes under threat of indictment in connection with campaign finance violations in Texas. Meanwhile, the Republican party has a rule -- ostensibly to safeguard ethical standards -- that any member of its leadership who is indicted must immediately, if only temporarily, step down. (DeLay hasn't been indicted, at least not yet.) So last week, DeLay's Republican allies, led by Rep. Henry Bonilla (also of Texas), make a new rule enabling a GOP steering committee to first review any indictment, and to decide whether it is politically motivated, or has any merit at all.

That may all sound perfectly reasonable -- but if you're not convinced, Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers justifies the ongoing Republican power play to shield DeLay, should he be indicted, by labeling it an effort to "raise the standard" and protect the "institution" from the perils posed by... a ham sandwich.

"You have to look at protecting the institution," Rep. Rogers told local paper the Anniston Star late last week. "I'm an attorney, and any attorney knows you can get an indictment with a ham sandwich. Were trying to raise the standard, to make it so that you don't allow what is purely a political indictment to make someone step aside from a leadership role."

War Room is wondering if that line of reasoning isn't a bit more like ham's helpful cousin, swiss cheese.

For more on the latest DeLay shenanigans, visit TPM's Josh Marshall, who's been all over the story.

Update: Not that we should dwell on the trivial hilarities here, but as Marshall notes in a later post, it turns out that "the standard line, true or not, is that grand juries are such pushovers that a good DA can get an indictment against a ham sandwich." So whereas Rogers may fear the legal firepower lurking inside the local deli case, it appears he inadvertently served up his House boss on a platter -- right where DeLay no doubt belongs.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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