Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tom Delay & the Apostate GOP

When I worked in politics, one of the wise people who taught me how things worked had a saying that is both a little shocking and really funny:

They say you shouldn't kick a man when he's down; but I say--there's no better time!

Now, I'm not really kicking poor Tom Delay -- who, to my mind, is almost certainly neither the villain his liberal enemies paint him to be, nor the hero his allies assert he is -- but getting at part of the point of that witticism: that such times are opportunities for reappraisal and, one hopes, a change for the better, and therefore a time ripe for action.

And the present moment of GOP weakness and anxiety is a good moment for action. To speak spiritually: it is a conversion moment; let us hope the GOP takes advantage of it; and let us help the Republicans to do so.

Another thought on this Delay story: it's good to remember that, in politics, sometimes the situation is like the Iran-Iraq War from some years back--i.e., there are no good guys to root for.

Politically motivated charges of crime are sadly common enough that I discount this one, particularly when its the vague, "conspiracy" charge. And a lot of laws regulating political action, including political spending, are likewise vague and problematic; a lot of them should never have been enacted, and many of them deserve to be struck down. The law should be clear and easy to understand, and thus to obey.

But on the other side we have Tom Delay, who probably isn't the slimeball he's being painted to be--but he could be. There's a lot of slimy people slinking around in the lobbying business, and politicians do business with them. The pols may not merit any prosecution for crime -- because they may not have committed any specific crime -- but they do deserve moral censure. I don't know if that includes Tom Delay and Jack Abrahamoff; but the whole thing looks bad--it could be just what it looks like.

Also, the sad thing is that Tom Delay has been very effective; and at various times, he has used his effectiveness for the right causes. A lot of this is explained, I believe, as retribution for that effectiveness. Yet it is also true that Delay and the rest of the GOP leadership has lost their way and their credibility. The result is a lot fewer people care about this than might have otherwise -- if the GOP had kept faith with its constituencies.

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