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No Tom DeLays in House GOP leadership

Shortly after last month’s elections when Republicans recaptured Congress, I had planned a post, urging Republicans not to repeat the mistake they made just after the 1994 elections when, in the race for House Majority Whip, they rejected the principled Bob Walker for the opportunistic Tom DeLay.  That one-time Republican leader was back in the news as I prepared to travel to San Francisco to celebrate Thanksgiving with the most important person in the state (my now 2-year-old nephew); the Texan “was convicted [last] Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002“.

While I believe it’s likely the conviction will be overturned on appeal, I did not shed a tear for DeLay.  More than any other Republican leader in the House, he was responsible for abandoning “The Spirit of ’94” and focusing on building a permanent Republican majority, not on conservative principles, but on lobbyist connections (and financing).  Had he not led the Republicans away from the small-government principles which secured their election in 1994, they may well have had a more lasting majority.

For Tom Delay Republicans, politics was about power not principles.  And in a republic, you can’t hold onto power very long unless you stand for something beyond its maintenance.

Fortunately, the incoming majority party’s slate lacked any Tom DeLays, with its leadership representing a diverse array of conservative opinion.  While incoming Speaker John Boehner supported the TARP bailouts, incoming House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling,  in the words of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey,  having “the best voice in opposition” to TARP.

There will be no Tom DeLays in the Republican leadership of the 112th Congress.  And that’s a good thing for the GOP.

FROM THE COMMENTS: DaveP reminds us, “The other thing to remember about Tom DeLay is what an abject failure his ‘K-Street’ program actually turned out to be in practice. Never forget that.” Good point.



  1. Tom Delay is far more representative of the Republican party in general than you would like to admit. The handful of new faces that rode the tea party wave will be wined and dined into shilling for corporations just like the rest of the GOP. Why don’t you let them get sworn in before you start heaping praise on them?

    Comment by Levi — December 1, 2010 @ 1:38 am - December 1, 2010

  2. Please provide your evidence for that assertion, Levi. Thanks.

    And if he’s so representative of the GOP, how come no one in the leadership resembles him, with most having strong conservative pedigree (as per the post). I mean, even Boehner (no favorite of the Tea Party movement) has never taken an earmark during his tenure in Congress.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — December 1, 2010 @ 1:56 am - December 1, 2010

  3. The other thing to remember about Tom DeLay is what an abject failure his “K-Street” program actually turned out to be in practice. Never forget that.

    Levi, Tom DeLay is less a “representative” of the Republican Party than Teddy Kennedy was of the Democrats: we no longer support DeLay- many of us never did- but the drunken rapist, murderer, and traitor to his nation (he tried to get the KGB’s support against the ‘warmonger’ Reagan) is hallowed and revered as a saint in yours.

    Comment by DaveP. — December 1, 2010 @ 2:07 am - December 1, 2010

  4. Levi, been a week now since you promised to get back on AGW, and ran with your tail between your legs. I’m pretty sure there’s a consensus you have no clue about global warming, and you must agree since there’s “widespread, expert consensus” on the matter.

    So now you decide to spread your ignorance to legal matters? Hush Levi, adults are talking.

    Comment by The_Livewire — December 1, 2010 @ 6:36 am - December 1, 2010

  5. I don’t care for Tom DeLay’s brand of politics, but he has done a lot of good work with foster kids; something that people tend to overlook in the rush to demonize everyone who doesn’t agree with them.

    Comment by V the K — December 1, 2010 @ 9:47 am - December 1, 2010

  6. Levi, been a week now since you promised to get back on AGW, and ran with your tail between your legs.

    Indeed 🙂

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 1, 2010 @ 11:52 am - December 1, 2010

  7. Now that Tom De Lay has been tried and found guilty, when will it be Charlie Rangel´s turn? He has a long and egregious laundry list. And what ever happeend to former Congressman Jefferson from Louisiana and the $90,000. in cold hard cash?


    Don´t Democratic legislators get wined and dined? Who are they shilling for? Certainly not for the common man.

    Comment by Roberto — December 1, 2010 @ 12:09 pm - December 1, 2010

  8. Dan, I think you miss a far greater lesson in the fall of Tom Delay than the one noted in your thoughtful piece… it’s that Delay took the GOP far astray from its traditions of political diversity and deep into the dark, brooding, hate-filled dungeon of the social conservative political arena.

    Delay made being a moderate an evil and the moral equivalent of being a traitor to our Country. He pushed farRight social conservatism and the Agenda of Hate to a point that America, in part, rebelled and he literally ruined the GOP brand for a time.

    When Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can take the moral high ground and credibly lecture the GOP about corruption and radical social ideals, you just gotta know Delay’s downfall has a far greater lesson to teach.

    There are, of course, other lessons in his story… but none as important to the GOP leaders of today. Stay away from making social conservative issues the mainstay of the agenda… right size govt, restore fiscal sanity, cut spending, reduce taxes, keep America strong –in military terms and diplomatic or commerical terms as well.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — December 1, 2010 @ 1:11 pm - December 1, 2010

  9. V, he may have done so- and if so, more power to him. But we’re not judging him on that basis but on his actions as a professional politician (which were in fact pretty destructive).

    Why the sore head?

    Comment by DaveP. — December 1, 2010 @ 1:41 pm - December 1, 2010

  10. ruined the GOP brand for a time

    Actually MM, George W. Bush did that.

    At the end of the day, with his Big Government, so-called moderate / “compassionate” conservatism, Bush signed all those massive domestic spending increases which caused those deficits. And he signed a lot of other bad Big Government, moderate / “compassionate” legislation. I’m thinking here of prescription entitlements, No Child Left Undamaged, Sarbox, McCain-Feingold, etc… not least, the TARP / Wall Street bailouts. That ruined the Republican brand, restored only by (1) Obama’s over-reaching, and correspondingly (2) the Tea Party. While DeLay was there, he was only Bush’s lieutenant on some of those things.

    Long story short: DeLay, for all his misplaced focus on pork and lobbying, ultimately had a lesser share of the problem.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 1, 2010 @ 2:22 pm - December 1, 2010

  11. P.S. As always, I give Bush credit for large parts of his performance on national security (excluding border security where he was weak), and for generally not being as bad as Obama.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 1, 2010 @ 2:24 pm - December 1, 2010

  12. And for being a personally decent human being.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 1, 2010 @ 2:26 pm - December 1, 2010

  13. wait, isn’t Delay a Professional Politician?

    Comment by The_Livewire — December 1, 2010 @ 2:44 pm - December 1, 2010

  14. Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 1, 2010 @ 2:22 pm – December 1, 2010

    Well said. I would be curious to read how social conservatives in New York, California, and Illinois are responsible for steering those states into bankruptcy; social conservatism being the unmitigated evil that it is.

    Comment by V the K — December 1, 2010 @ 3:44 pm - December 1, 2010

  15. What destroyed the Spirit of ’94 was the Republican Congressmen elected in ’94, more than half of whom have been involved in either financial or sex scandals (or both).

    Comment by Apollo — December 1, 2010 @ 4:34 pm - December 1, 2010

  16. Please provide the evidence for your allegation, Apollo, i.e., at least 37 members of the Republican class of ’94 (there were 73 freshmen elected that year) involved in financial or sex scandals. Thanks!

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — December 1, 2010 @ 5:56 pm - December 1, 2010

  17. Now, this gives me major wood for the GOP leadership if they follow through.

    GOP lawmakers say they want to upend a host of Environmental Protection Agency rules by whatever means possible, including the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used legislative tool that allows Congress to essentially veto recently completed agency regulations.

    The law lets sponsors skip Senate filibusters, meaning Republicans don’t have to negotiate with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for a floor vote or secure the tricky 60 votes typically needed to do anything in the Senate.

    The House doesn’t have the same expedited procedures, but it’s assumed the GOP majority would have little trouble mustering the votes needed to pass disapproval resolutions.

    Comment by V the K — December 1, 2010 @ 6:39 pm - December 1, 2010

  18. V da K> “major wood”?

    You definitely need to get out more, dude.

    A much stiffer and bigger story (no pun) was Sen GOP Leader McConnell’s end-run of Harry Reid on the Lame Duck Agenda –locking up all 42 GOP Senators on the issue of moving first on the Bush Tax Cuts for all and the govt operating issues before touching any Dem-empathy issues like DADT, Dream Act, Unemployment extensions, new school lunch program funding, etc.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — December 2, 2010 @ 9:47 am - December 2, 2010

  19. #10> “Actually MM, George W. Bush did that.”

    Wrong on the “ruining the GOP brand” spinfest, my ax grinding friend. You just can’t seem to get modern history right anymore than you can get early American history correct or Presidential quotes accurate.

    Bush didn’t ruin the GOP brand –that was Delay and soc cons with their uncompromising, unyielding, in-ur-face agenda… it’s why the GOP lost in 2006 midterms… turning over the House, the Senate and a majority of the state legislatures and governorships.

    It was so bad, you may recall, Delay resigned in June 2006 after the scandals had taken their toll.

    I always enjoy your attempt to smear Bush 43 –directly or even with the smudge-pot stink of “but Bush was a decent man…” cliched and insincere tripe.

    You just don’t know history –and you like to make it up to suit your latest ax grinding nonsense. Put down the ax and try learning.

    For getting it wrong on who ruined the GOP brand, your punishment is to write 500 times “Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee in 2012 and he’ll help the GOP win back the WH and Senate”. Got a pencil?

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — December 2, 2010 @ 10:06 am - December 2, 2010

  20. (social conservatives are) why the GOP lost in 2006 midterms

    Yeah, the 2006 losses had nothing to do with the unpopularity of the Iraq War, profligate social spending, or moderate Republican Mark Foley’s naughty text messages.

    Comment by V the K — December 2, 2010 @ 10:22 am - December 2, 2010

  21. I’m just confused by MM though. Isn’t Delay a ‘professional politician’? The kind that he’s always extoling over the ‘amature politicians’?

    Comment by The_Livewire — December 2, 2010 @ 11:25 am - December 2, 2010

  22. V the K, you are correct; there were many factors that converged to tarnish the Republican label. If memory serves me correctly, didn´t the Senator Vitter daliance with a prostitute come to light in 2006? Let´s trust and hope that the Tea Party Class of 2010 and the freshmen that will be elected to the class of 2012 will restore the image of the Republican Party and when they leave office it will be with honor.

    Comment by Roberto — December 2, 2010 @ 12:11 pm - December 2, 2010

  23. Agree with V. The GOP lost in 2006 because Iraq was going badly and (at that point) George W. Bush had so thoroughly violated the “GOP brand” in his Big Government domestic policies that national security was the only “GOP brand” element left. So that, if the GOP couldn’t deliver on national security (and at that point, pre-Surge, it seemed like they couldn’t), then why even have a GOP?

    *In that context*, the Foley meme took off and did further damage – somewhat unfairly as Foley’s text messages, though reprehensible, were nothing to the actual corrupt conduct of some Democrats.

    DeLay was part of the Iron Rectangle of pork / lobbying / Bush / Big Government, and as such, he was part of the problem… a lesser part.

    As no one on this Earth is perfect, there was also some nonsense that was either “from” social conservatives or intended to pander to them – I am thinking here of Federal / Congressional interference in the Terry Schiavo matter – which, yes, contributed to GOP problems. But again, in a lesser role.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 2, 2010 @ 1:12 pm - December 2, 2010

  24. P.S. MM, once more I am greatly impressed by your ability to offer (misplaced, inane) personal attacks as a refutation of the people who disagree with you… rather than, say, facts. MM, you are truly *THE KING* in that area and a wonderful elevation of the discourse at the GP blog.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 2, 2010 @ 1:15 pm - December 2, 2010

  25. Instead of trying to rewrite history to justify animus toward a particular group of people (social conservatives), it’s much more productive to look at the totality of circumstances in 2006.

    In addition to the aforementioned Foley scandal, Iraq war fatigue, and the profligate spending promoted by the likes of Tom “We don’t need to cut the Government” DeLay… there were a number of other factors in play.

    – McCain’s Gang of 14 in 2005 was widely viewed as one-sided sell-out to Democrats, that sh-tcanned at least three dozen judicial appointments for the purpose of preserving an anti-Democratic senate privilege. The result was a depressed conservative base that sat out the election.

    – The McCain/Kennedy/Bush Amnesty push similarly depressed conservative turnout.

    – Libby Dole’s utterly incompetent management of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee; spending millions to bail Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chaffee out of contested primaries (further depressing the conservative base) while depriving senate candidates in Virginia, Montana, and Missouri of campaign funds that might have made the difference in close races.

    – On that note, Macaca.

    – In contrast, the Democrat liberal base was energized, and its House and Senate campaigns were run by the ruthlessly competent Rahm Emmanuel and Chuck Schumer. (Vile people, but brutally effective at getting Democrats elected.)

    And I am probably missing a few. I guess one could argue that conservatives “betrayed the party” by not turning out in 2006 and 2008, but isn’t it at least equally true to say the party betrayed the conservative base by kicking them in the teeth over and over again in the preceding years of the Bush administration?

    Comment by V the K — December 2, 2010 @ 1:51 pm - December 2, 2010

  26. Correction, Specter was elected in 2004, not 2006. My point about wasting money on Lincoln Chaffee and the role of Dole’s general incompetence still stands.

    Comment by V the K — December 2, 2010 @ 1:55 pm - December 2, 2010

  27. I remember a GP commentor who was pretty sane in 2006 – but who was sort of in-denial about the coming GOP loss – and who, in 2007 i.e. after that loss, sort of went nuts and has ever since been only a poo-flinging shadow of his former self.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 2, 2010 @ 2:46 pm - December 2, 2010

  28. Michigan-Matt amuses on this one.

    He insists that Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 because they gave in and followed the “social conservative agenda”.

    Then he insists that the Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 because social conservatives stayed home, since Republicans weren’t following their “agenda”.

    In other words, he claims Republicans lost due to following an agenda that he then insists they weren’t following.

    M-M’s problem is the same as all the other delusional Romneybots; they don’t want to acknowledge that the 2006 and 2008 elections handily exploded their belief that they can out-Obama the Obama Party. When given a choice between an Obama Party candidate and a Republican candidate who agrees with the Obama Party candidate on everything, voters pick the Obama Party candidate.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — December 2, 2010 @ 3:01 pm - December 2, 2010

  29. What MM and the rest of the GOP establishment really wants is for social conservatives to turn out and support the party on election day, but then shut up and not expect anything in return on issues that matter to them; and indeed, good naturedly accept repeated betrayals for “the good of the party.”

    Comment by V the K — December 2, 2010 @ 3:18 pm - December 2, 2010

  30. NDT, spot-on.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 2, 2010 @ 10:11 pm - December 2, 2010

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