"I said something in an inartful way"

Tom DeLay apologizes.

Published April 14, 2005 12:11AM (EDT)

Stop the presses: Tom DeLay has apologized. "Sometimes I get a little more passionate, and particularly during the moment, and the day that Terri Schiavo was starved to death, emotions were flowing," he said to reporters on Wednesday. "I probably said -- I did, I didn't probably -- I said something in an inartful way, and I shouldn't have said it that way, and I apologize for saying it that way."

Perhaps the beleaguered House Majority Leader (undoubtedly an avid Salon reader) opted to take the strategic advice of public relations experts, who recommended an extreme makeover post haste.

Or perhaps DeLay got wind of his welcome wearing a bit thin at the Bush White House. Spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters at a separate press briefing that President Bush still thinks well of DeLay -- "he certainly is a friend," McClellan said -- but it doesn't sound so much like DeLay will be lunching in the West Wing tomorrow.

"I think there are different levels of friendship with anybody," McClellan noted.

According to the Associated Press, DeLay also said Wednesday that he was eager to appear before the leaders of the House ethics committee and give "everything I have" in connection with allegations of misconduct. That committee, meanwhile, remains locked in debate over a set of new rules that Republicans pushed through the House last winter in an effort to protect DeLay. (Rules which one of his allies defended with a ham sandwich.)

DeLay's maneuvering follows his recent suggestions that the numerous ethics charges levied against him will lose momentum. But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., kept the ball rolling Wednesday with a statement lambasting DeLay and the Republicans who defend him. Pelosi quoted the Wall Street Journal's assessment that DeLay "has become the living exemplar of some of [the government's] worst habits," and accused the House GOP of undermining the Ethics Committee to dodge the consequences of DeLay's "clear pattern of misbehavior."

Pelosi called for a restoration of the House's "bipartisan and effective ethics process," charging that "Republicans have created a democracy-free zone." And she took aim at a subject close to DeLay's heart: the GOP's Contract with America: "[House Republicans] pledged in their Contract with America to 'restore accountability to Congress' and to 'end its cycle of scandal and disgrace.' Instead of sticking to their word, they have broken their promises, betrayed the public trust, and abused their power. Specifically, they have undermined the ethics of the House, abandoned any principle of procedural fairness or democratic accountability, and overreached into private family matters and the federal judiciary."

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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