By William Rivers Pitt
Tuesday 04 April 2006
Rat in a drain ditch,
Caught on a limb,
You know better
But I know him.
Like I told you,
What I said,
Steal your face
Right off your head.
Now he's gone, gone,
Lord he's gone, he's gone.
Like a steam locomotive,
Rollin' down the track
He's gone, gone,
Nothing's gonna bring him back.
- The Grateful Dead, "He's Gone"
Stone the crows. Tom DeLay is checking out.
"I'm going to announce tomorrow that I'm not running for reelection and that I'm going to leave Congress," said DeLay on Monday. "I'm very much at peace with it."
Never thought I'd live to see the day.
In 1988, DeLay gave a press conference in Texas to defend the military record of Dan Quayle, who had been tapped to accompany George H. W. Bush on the Republican presidential ticket. Quayle was under fire for having allegedly used family influence to secure him a safe spot in the Indiana National Guard, thus keeping him out of Vietnam. DeLay argued that Quayle's failure to serve in Vietnam was not his fault; he wanted to go, but minorities had taken all the available slots.
Seriously, he said that.
This is the man who once said, in a debate about the minimum wage, "Emotional appeals about working families trying to get by on $4.25 an hour are hard to resist. Fortunately, such families do not exist."
This is the man who once said, in a speech to bankers delivered eight days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes."
This is the man who once said, to a government employee who was trying to stop him from smoking on government property, "I am the federal government."
This man is gone now. After being indicted in Texas for campaign finance violations arising from his redistricting scheme, after surviving a tight primary challenge while staring down the barrel of a well-financed Democratic challenger, after watching his press secretary Michael Scanlon and his deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy cop pleas in the Jack Abramoff scandal investigation, after watching Rudy specifically accuse his chief of staff Ed Buckham of being neck-deep in the scandal in his plea confession, after sitting up nights wondering if the Abramoff scandal was going to land him in prison, DeLay decided enough was enough.
Time Magazine, which carried one of the first reports of his decision to step down, has DeLay adamantly denying any wrongdoing. "Asked if he had done anything illegal or immoral in public office," read the report by Mike Allen, "DeLay replied curtly, 'No.' Asked if he'd done anything immoral, he said with a laugh, 'We're all sinners.'"
It was the Democratic party that did this to him, of course. Wait, sorry. It was the "Democrat" party.
"I guarantee you," continued DeLay in the report, "if other offices were under the scrutiny I've been under in the last 10 years, with the Democrat Party announcing that they're going to destroy me, destroy my reputation, and that's how they're going to get rid of me, I guarantee you you're going to find, out of hundreds of people, somebody that's probably done something wrong."
That's right, Tom. It was the Democrat party, that awesome juggernaut of competence, which has shown time and again lo these past few years its Zeus-like ability to hurl devastating political lightning bolts from its lofty position, that took you down. They can stand up next to a mountain, so I hear, and chop it down with the edge of their hand.
Or maybe, Tom, just maybe, all this happened because you are the living embodiment of absolutely everything wrong in American politics. Forget your ideology, and your hateful divisiveness, and your shameless canoodling with the Taliban wing of fundamentalist Christianity. One cannot swing a cat by the tail in Washington DC these days without smacking someone who thinks the way you do. This doesn't make you unique, sadly.
No, your criminal misuse of the campaign funding laws, your outright disdain for the rules if they keep you from assuming absolute control, your almost Zen-like ability to operate beyond the confines of conscience and dignity, is why your presence has been a cancer on the body politic since the day you put down your bug extermination gear and tried a power tie on for size, and is why you're finished now. How deeply were you in the pocket of your contributors? You took an R.J. Reynolds corporate jet to get to your arraignment. There has to be some kind of award somewhere for behavior so brazenly craven.
It is hard to avoid a sense that something like justice, true justice, real justice, has been well served by the manner in which Tom DeLay has been laid low. Politics is a little cleaner today. Not a lot, maybe not even enough for folks to notice, but it is indeed just a little bit cleaner, now that he's gone.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.