Three Cheers for DeLay

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 5, 2006; 10:54 AM

They are doing the rain dance, whooping it up, high-fiving, backslapping, spiking the ball in the end zone.

For liberals, Tom DeLay's announced departure from Congress is practically a national holiday.

It's not hard to understand why. Whether you like or detest DeLay, it's beyond debate that he is a tough partisan brawler who wasn't nicknamed the Hammer for nothing. He used slashing rhetoric against the other party, engineered a power-play redistricting in Texas, pressured K Street lobbies to hire Republicans, smacked around the media and otherwise played the Sugar Land version of hardball.

Still, DeLay seemed to have nine political lives. He managed to get himself admonished by the House ethics committee three times, two of his former top aides have pleaded guilty in the Abramoff probe, and even when Delay got indicted in a campaign-finance case and stepped aside as majority leader, he was still a behind-the-scenes player.

So it's hardly surprising that the left is in a celebratory mood; DeLay just stirs up emotions in a way that Denny Hastert, for example, doesn't. In surfing around, I don't find many conservatives defending DeLay outright. Some blame the press or the Texas prosecutor in his case; others spin it as good news for the Republican Party.

At least DeLay was candid enough to acknowledge that he'd have trouble winning reelection.

I must say, I found this sentence in yesterday's WashPost piece quite jarring: "Under Texas law DeLay must either die, be convicted of a felony, or move out of his district to be removed from the November ballot." Doesn't it sound like the first one is being offered as an option?

DeLay, meanwhile, says he's "excited" at being "liberated" from the House--who exactly kept him in the prison all these years--and that he'll still play a role in national politics. (Does that mean he'll become a Fox commentator like Newt?)

"Some said DeLay, a formidable fundraiser and self-described born-again Christian who still enjoys broad support within the religious right community, could quickly become a force to be reckoned with," says the Los Angeles Times . "Others predicted that DeLay will find it hard to shape a new role as long as he remains under the legal and ethical cloud created by his indictment last year by a Texas grand jury on money-laundering charges."

The New York Times does the professional obit:

"For 11 tumultuous years, Mr. DeLay proved remarkably effective in pushing the Republican agenda through the House -- tax cuts, budget cuts, an overhaul of Medicare and energy bills -- pulling the necessary 218 votes together from often narrow and fractious Republican majorities.

"But he was also a man who, perhaps more than any other, embodied the fierce partisanship of his era -- a prime mover behind the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, a practitioner of take-no-prisoners electoral politics and a legislative strategist who many Democrats asserted saw no real role for the minority in the legislative process.


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