A brief moment of silence, please, for the political career of Tom DeLay. The Hammer has fallen. He's leaving Congress and abandoning his reelection bid. Time has the story.
DeLay makes the usual noises about how he's doing it for the good of his party. Time says: "He decided last Wednesday, after months of prayer and contemplation, to spare his suburban Houston district the mudfest to come."
Oh, come on. Tom DeLay has never been one to shun a mudfest. He lives for the mudfest. Le mudfest, c'est DeLay.
We're not supposed to pay any attention to those investigations behind the curtains -- the ones connected with Jack Abramoff, in which two of DeLay's key aides have already pleaded guilty to corruption charges. No, they don't have anything to do with this move. "It had nothing to do with any criminal investigation," DeLay's lawyer told the Times.
Right. Sure. If you believe that, you perhaps also believe that the mid-decade Texas redistricting plan DeLay rammed through was intended to make sure every Texan's vote counted -- rather than to grab a half-dozen seats for the Republican Party. If you believe that, maybe you believe that DeLay -- the man who single-mindedly transformed the last president's tawdry lies about adultery into an impeachment war -- is an easygoing innocent.
No, I think it will become obvious soon enough that this is the act of a cornered man. As Josh Marshall writes: "DeLay's lawyers must have sat him down over the last 72 hours and explained to him that he needs to focus on not spending most of the rest of his life in prison."
The Time piece, which gives DeLay plenty of space to defend himself, deny wrongdoing and talk of his profound love for God and golf, says the former House majority leader will rededicate himself to his conservative causes: "He said he feels 'liberated' and vowed to pursue an aggressive speaking and organizing campaign aimed at promoting foster care, Republican candidates and a closer connection between religion and government."
Well, we'll see how many Republican candidates want to share a podium with him. The GOP leadership may feel glad to have one fewer albatross around the party's neck. But something tells me this isn't the last DeLay headline we'll see in the months between now and the fall elections. It may not be so easy to forget the Hammer amid the sound of falling gavels.
DeLay specialized in party discipline, the harvesting of lobbyist money and creative innovation in the realm of political-machine funding. As I wrote a month ago, DeLay is no garden-variety bribe taker (like that clown Duke Cunningham); he is clearly a new-wave, Enron-style crook -- the Andy Fastow of the Republican Party. The K Street Project he spearheaded set out to make sure that lobbyists, formerly understood to have a need for bipartisanship, directed their largess strictly in the GOP direction. And his dream, seemingly delivered on by the grotesque Texas gerrymander, was to use the money and power he accumulated to cement a permanent Republican majority.
The only fitting epitaph for his political career will be for the American electorate to deliver a landslide rejection of that vision in November. But even if that doesn't happen, even if we're still stuck with a Republican House and Senate, at least Tom DeLay won't be hanging around the Capitol to sanctimoniously gloat.