My Dear Mr. DeLay:
I have been waiting two weeks for one Republican to leap to your defense and express outrage at a grand jury so callous as to indict a virtuous man, and nobody has. They've all been coy and cautious and whispering to the press that you are not their favorite guy in the whole world, so I am going to stand with you, sir, and cover your back. I don't like to see a man abandoned that way. When you're a Jet and the spit hits the fan, you've got brothers around. You're a family man. I am an old liberal and if we had a Hammer, we would support him in the morning, and in the evening, all over this land. You are the greatest political fundraiser since William Marcy Tweed, sir, and that Texas grand jury is trying to referee a football game by the rules of badminton.
Corporate money not used for political campaigns? The thought is preposterous on its face. Any schoolchild knows that politics is not about highfalutin debates and policy papers; it is about putting the screws to the fat cats and squeezing them until they squeak and then hiring agents to level your hapless opponent with a barrage of rotten fruit and dead cats as you yourself stand above the fray, Bible in hand, your arm around some orphans, eyes upraised to Old Glory, your face nicely lit. And you win the race and go to work flogging your timid colleagues and raising truckloads of dough and building your war chest and scaring the bejeebers out of people. That's how it's done.
This country was not built by nervous Nellies and Sunday school teachers but by bold marauders, dodgers, Sooners, buffalo hunters, forty-niners -- people who saw what they wanted and took it. You're one of them. Politics is about power. You grabbed hold of it and became King of the Republican Hill, a majority leader who knows that one can never have too much majority. I am disappointed by your attempts to beautify yourself. It's pitiful, sir, and demeaning to blow-dry your hair and try to project warmth through those drill-sergeant eyes and belt-sander voice. You're the man, sir, who redrew the map of Texas to squeeze more Republican congressmen out of it, and got Indian tribes to pay for you and yours to fly to Scotland first class and play golf, and who paid his wife as a consultant, etc., etc., etc. Personal warmth was not what got you to the dance. The rest of us tiptoe through the tulips, fearful of giving offense, but you, sir, are one brass monkey.
But politics is treacherous. Those Republicans who kiss your ring at prayer breakfasts and wave the flies away from your plate -- if they should sense that you are a wounded elephant, they will throw you out the window without blinking. Count on it, Mr. Leader. Behind those bland faces are neural synapses making intricate calculations. Don't worry about the Democrats, they are harmless, shaking their pointy heads and waving their small, plump hands. It's your friends who will do you in. Look at Julius Caesar. Look at Richard Nixon.
Nixon was done in by the ginks who forgot to burn the tapes, and so a great statesman suffered the ultimate humiliation of being quoted accurately when he was talking like a drunken bus driver about Jews and liberals. You, too, could be sandbagged by your pals, who may suddenly find it convenient to distance themselves from you as if you were not their daddy but just some stranger who came around every month and paid the bills and petted the dog.
Your best strategy is to Instill Fear Among the Flock. Yes, you've done certain things that don't look good to grand juries and Unitarian schoolmarms and amateur bird-watchers, but so have your fellow Republicans. They have shoved old ladies down the stairs and feathered their own nests, and you know it, and they know that you know it, and now you need to demonstrate that you will not bend one iota, no mea culpas and don't weep for me Argentina. You did not have sex with that woman, and you intend to go on Hammering, and if they let you down, you will sing like a canary and take those clowns with you.
Meanwhile, sir, I am at your side, your loyal pal and obedient servant.
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(Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)
) 2005 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.