How will you remember Tom DeLay?

The right wing recalls a martyr, the left remembers an architect. Memories of the former House majority leader.

By Farhad Manjoo
April 4, 2006 7:41PM (UTC)
main article image, the right-wing blog co-founded by noted plagiarist Ben Domenech, offers the most fawning remembrance of DeLay I can find this morning -- an image of the former exterminator as martyr to the cause of conservatism. "He fought the Democrats with every tool at his disposal, with parliamentary maneuvering, with political brinksmanship, and with redistricting, just as the other side had done for decades," writes RedState contributor the Directors. "We owe Tom DeLay thanks in large part for the fact that this IS a Republican Congress, and we should treat him with the respect of an old warrior who, in the end, took the honorable road home -- shunning the egotistical course and doing one last service for his party." At Power Line, the mood is much the same: "As far as we can tell at the moment, DeLay appears to be yet another victim of the Democrats' politics of personal destruction -- the only politics they know."

For all their well-meaning effusiveness, though, I can't quite picture DeLay as the martyr these righties describe -- and though he played up the martyrdom angle in his Time interview (see the transcript here), I'm betting that deep down, Tom DeLay would like to be remembered as something more.


For instance, maybe he'd appreciate the thoughts of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which credits him for the plausible destruction of the Republican Congress: "The Abramoff story still has a long way to run this election year, and one way or another the Members themselves will not emerge unscathed," the paper writes. "If Republicans lose their House majority because GOP voters stay home in disgust, Team DeLay will be one of the reasons." Glenn Reynolds, another right-wing luminary, will remember DeLay for contributing to pork-barrel spending. "I'm not sorry," Reynolds writes of the resignation news; he's most critical of DeLay's unbelievable comment last year that there was no "fat" in the federal budget left to trim.

Chris Bell, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor, will remember Tom DeLay in the same way many on the left will -- as the architect of a toxic new brand of Republican corporate politics. "Tom DeLay's resignation is a great victory in the fight to clean up corruption in politics, but the war is far from over," Bell writes on his blog. "The culture of corruption is about a heck of a lot more than Tom DeLay." Bell adds: "A friend of mine joked that if God has a sense of humor, Tom DeLay will leave Congress and return to a Texas where Chris Bell is Governor. After DeLay's surprising news, it's looking like my friend might not be too far off the mark."

My own memory of Tom DeLay would probably bring a smile to the Hammer's face. When I think of the former majority leader, I picture the man as he was at the height of his powers. It was almost exactly one year ago, but it seems like decades: In Pinellas Park, Fla., despite DeLay's heroic efforts to bend the federal judiciary his way, a woman named Terri Schiavo was allowed to die. The exterminator was not happy. "This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change," he thundered. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."


Today, DeLay -- and not any federal judge connected with the Schiavo case -- is under indictment, under investigation, without his leadership post and soon without his seat.

But we'll always have memories. How will you remember him?

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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