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Tom DeLay – Nasty to the bitter end

I blogged previously that DeLay’s resignation from Congress this week was not an act of selfless devotion to his party or his supposed causes, but rather another example of "The Hammer" looking out for himself. Emerging news analysis would seem to support this bold contention, and they further paint the picture of DeLay as a, um… not terribly pleasant and cuddly individual.

The Washington Post reports in "DeLay Departing on Own Terms" that the former House majority leader has been considering resigning for months, but stayed on this long for two reasons: first, to defeat his challengers in the Republican primary (whom he considered "gadflies and traitors"), and second, to collect even more money for his legal defense fund, since the law allows members of Congress to use campaign funds for this purpose. As former DeLay aide John Feehery said: "He needed to raise money for the defense fund. That was the bottom line." (Indeed, isn’t money always the bottom line with Mr. DeLay?) So we can add possible deception of campaign donors to DeLay’s long list of ethical misconduct.

And in "DeLay shows defiance in defeat," the Post reports that combative defiance has been a constant for the "pugnacious Texan," from the big smile during his indictment booking photo (which Republican strategist Ed Rogers calls the equivalent of DeLay "giving his opponents the finger") to the videotaped resignation in which he managed to blame everyone else (Democrats, political pundits, the media) while taking no responsibility himself. Other people’s conclusions about his actions, he claims, will be "unencumbered by accuracy, facts and the truth." (When asked in a Time interview if he wished he’d done anything differently, the unrepentent indictee responded "Nothing." Although personally I’m guessing he wishes he’d gotten away with a few more lavish corporate-funded meals and golf junkets before coming under scrutiny.)

Not obnoxious enough? Check out today’s Huffington Post, where you can watch DeLay, in an "off air" exchange with MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, describe Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) by saying "there’s nothing worse than a know-it-all woman." (For his part, Matthews repeatedly tells DeLay that he "owes [him] one." Care to tell us how you will pay off that debt, Chris?)

In the end though, sources close to DeLay claim that he left because he was frustrated that he was no longer in leadership, and could not bear the thought of an election that he might actually lose. So the big tough guy picked up his marbles and went home. He is, in the brief but eloquent description of Jack Cafferty (on CNN’s "The Situation Room," scroll down a few screens to see it) "just another disgraced public servant who couldn’t take the heat… good riddance."

Of course DeLay is not quite gone – at least not as gone as we’d like. He’s still got the small matter of his indictment on money laundering in Texas to deal with, and he could get a couple more indictments from federal prosecutors before they finish their investigation of the Abramoff bribery scandal. (Remember that two of DeLay’s former top aides have pled guilty to running a criminal operation out of his leadership offices.) Keep your fingers crossed!

In the end, DeLay claims that he will stay involved in "grass-roots conservative causes," while friends and associates say he will have a prosperous future as – what else? – a corporate-paid legislative strategist (read "lobbyist").

OK, so I just have to ask: why is that so many conservative political leaders manage to get filthy rich while working for "grassroots" causes? Just wondering…

-Gordon Clark