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January 9, 2006, 7:30 A.M.

Bye Bye Bug Man: Against a backdrop of the indictment of Jack Abramoff, and under pressure from his GOP colleagues, Tom DeLay has announced that he will abandon his bid to regain leadership of the house. The former majority leader told fellow Republicans that he was stepping aside to avoid becoming a liability. DeLay informed House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and the rest of the Republican conference of his decision not to seek reinstatement as Majority Leader in a letter that he sent on Saturday.

DeLay sent the letters to fellow Republicans informing them of his decision to support calls for leadership elections after his support rapidly dwindled in the House and in the party in general. Hastert announced that the Republicans will hold leadership elections after the House returns for the State of the Union address on January 31.

Even DeLay’s former supporters backed away from him this week as the Abramoff situation heated up. Abramoff and DeLay are long time friends and business associates, and Abramoff’s agreement to plead guilty to political corruption charges and, perhaps more significantly for DeLay, to cooperate in an ongoing investigation of corruption in the House and Senate, will not be good for DeLay or his party.

In announcing his decision, DeLay said: "The job of majority leader and the mandate of the Republican majority are too important to be hamstrung, even for a few months, by personal distractions." The term “personal distractions” will likely prove a gross understatement when the true nature of the business and personal relationship between DeLay and Abramoff is exposed in the weeks to come. The already pending State Court indictments of DeLay in Texas were not enough to make him abandon his bid to regain his House leadership position, so there must be some really good stuff coming from Abramoff. Despite these developments, in his letter to the Republican conference, DeLay said he had "always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land."

According to an article I heard on NPR this morning, DeLay also spoke with pride about the leadership and teamwork demonstrated by his party over the last 11 years. The timing of this leadership change is clearly intended to address the corruption scandals and indictments currently plaguing the House and the Senate, and to do so in time to avoid the disastrous effects the scandals could have on the Republican majority in November. Abramoff’s cooperation could spell disaster for Republicans if a substantial number of additional members of the House and Senate are implicated in wrongdoing associated with Abramoff. If that is the case, the legacy of the Delay/Rove/Cheney era will be less about teamwork and leadership than about the unbridled greed and corruption that have gone unchecked since the 1995 leadership change.

These recent developments have left me frustrated. I am really tired of hearing the “everybody does it” and “what about what Bill Clinton did” excuses and justifications from the Republican Party faithful. If you can’t see how corrupt and self serving our government has become you are simply not paying attention, you are not that bright, or you are morally bankrupt yourself. Party loyalty is one thing, blindly following and parroting the excuses, justifications or obfuscations of corrupt officials is simply a failure to meaningfully participate in government. I don’t care who gets caught up in this mess, or what party they belong to. I also don’t delude myself by thinking that there are no corrupt Democrats who will be caught up in this mess. I truly don’t care. I just want it to stop.

In response to the resignation, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, said, "the culture of corruption is so pervasive in the Republican conference that a single person stepping down is not nearly enough to clean up the Republican Congress." Pelosi and fellow democrats have vowed to continue their attacks on republicans over ethics. I don’t see much hope here however as long as there remains a self-imposed ban on filing ethics complaints in the House, and I’m not impressed that anyone is truly willing to reform the current system of lobbying or campaign financing.

Mr. DeLay intends to seek re-election to his seat in the House, and to reclaim his position on the Appropriations Committee. I hope that his constituents in the suburbs of Houston will toss him out on his ear. If DeLay's indictment in Texas on charges of money laundering, his aggressive support of the lobbying industry, and his numerous ethics scandals aren’t enough to get him out of office and into jail, his close ties to Abramoff, and the potential involvement in that case of others who had been close to DeLay ought to be. I can only hope that these recent developments finally end the reign of the bug man.

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Copyright 2006 Edward Philpot

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