When it comes to Tom DeLay, the clichés
runneth over. “When an incumbent loses, he usually beats
himself.” That could certainly apply to the former U.S.
House majority leader, who announced several days ago that
he would resign and move his residence to Virginia.
That way, he can get off the ballot as
the Republican congressional candidate in District 22, and
maybe give his Republican Party a chance to hang onto it.
“The bigger they are, the harder they
fall.” DeLay had built a power machine in Washington,
demonstrating that his well-earned nickname of “The Hammer”
could be used to make not only the lobbying firms of K
Street toe his line, but also his party members to whom he
funneled campaign cash and other perks.
“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts
absolutely.” That saying demonstrated what a lot of
observers have been saying for years: that DeLay was so
hell-bent on his goal of achieving and keeping power that he
forgot where the boundaries were – if he ever knew in the
About three years ago, when he was told
in a steak house in Washington that he couldn’t smoke his
cigar because it was against federal rules, he replied, “I
am the federal government.”
While wrapping himself in a Christian
cloak and spouting holy names, DeLay was also the kingpin in
a money machine that, among other things, sent him on posh
trips paid for by lobbyists, and channeled hundreds of
thousands of dollars to his own family.
In a column almost exactly a year ago,
before former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had ever been
indicted, I predicted he would become so hot that every
Democrat running in 2006, for any office, would be running
I also predicted that even members of his
own party –the party that he had built up in Congress by
iron fisted redistricting, rock-hard voting discipline, by
the K Street Project– would abandon him in droves.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie
Earle and a grand jury later helped that along, by indicting
DeLay for his role in funneling corporate money into Texas
legislative elections. The indictment, after some stops and
starts while DeLay’s minions tried to change the rules, made
it so DeLay had to step aside from the majority leader post
while he was under indictment.
But what was not predicted was that DeLay
would become so hot that even he had to distance himself
from himself. After winning the Republican primary with
considerably less of a margin than he would have hoped,
after a house-to-house search for voters, DeLay realized –
perhaps with help from his fellow GOP partisans – that if
his party had a good chance to hang onto his congressional
seat, it would have to be with someone other than him as the
It should be pointed out that DeLay had
other incentives as well. He has well over a million dollars
in campaign funds. He could choose to spend that on what
even he began to realize could be a losing campaign. Or, he
could carry that money with him out of office, and spend it
on legal fees, on travel to promote causes, or to give to
other politicians – to curry favor for whatever his next
move may be.
However, he leaves a legacy: he was the
major catalyst in bringing to the once amicably bipartisan
Texas Legislature the type of party division that he had
hammered into place in Washington.
Perhaps someday it can be undone. But as
often happens in the wake of a scorched-earth war, the
bitterness, distrust and division last for not just years,
There have been thoughts about bringing
American-style democracy to Iraq. But if DeLay’s is the
lesson, his operational method isn’t much better than what’s
going on between the Shiites and the Sunnis.
It may never be possible to return to the
point, in Texas and in Washington, where legislators
candisagree without being disagreeable. But it’s a
worthwhile goal. And it’ll be easier without DeLay.
# # #
And So On. . . . Former Texas Gov. Ann
Richards was honored Tuesday by having a planned Austin
Independent School District girls’ school named for her.
The Ann Richards School for Young Women
Leaders, aimed at helping predominantly lower-income girls
become prepared for college, will begin in the fall of 2007,
with 230 students in the sixth and seventh grades. It will
grow a grade a year until it reaches grades 6 through 12 in
2013, with a few over 800 students.
Richards, 72, recently diagnosed with
cancer of the esophagus, said she is doing fine and feels
fine, while undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatments at
M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston.
Richards also had this thought for
legislators, ready to assemble in Austin April 17 to deal
with the school finance system: “I’m very distrustful of
glib talk about cutting taxes.”
“The children of Texas deserve the best”
when it comes to schools, Richards said. Without the best
schools, the Texas economy will suffer, she added.