Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Delay is History

The good conservative thing to do right now is to rally around Tom Delay. Many blogs are doing it; many politicians are doing it. But there is an ugly reality – and ignoring it only delays the inevitable on Tom Delay.

What’s happening right now is a retirement gathering where wonderful words of support are spoken, while people quietly begin maneuvering for that corner office once occupied by the soon to be fallen.

Yes, Tom Delay is powerful. Yes, Tom Delay is a political friend of many in the Republican Conference of the House.

But ….

There’s already turmoil and leadership jockeying. And there’s a mid term election coming up that has many House Republicans nervous. As much as Tom Delay is needed by the Republicans, the timing of this and the time that it will take to bring complete resolution means political limbo for far too many people for a temporary leadership arrangement to stand any time at all.

Delay’s biggest asset is his ability to raise money. His value to all of those Republicans, who need financial assurance for their next election, is zero today. He will not be able to raise money for his own Political Action Committees and who would want him dancing on their personal fund raising stage right now?

Anyone who received some of the Tom Delay PAC money instantly moves up on the Democrat target list. Their financial receipts automatically suspect.

This afternoon Tom Delay became politically worthless to the Republican cause. The bad news for Democrats is – he stepped down. If the rules had been changed and he had stayed as majority leader, Delay would have been an even bigger liability.

And for that reason, even IF Delay can get the charges dropped before trial, his return to the Majority Leader’s office will be greeted with hoots and hollers of glee from the Democrats marking the beginning of a very long and nasty campaign season with him at center stage.

Three months from now, the pragmatists will out number the loyalists and Tom Delay’s temporary exile from leadership will become permanent.

It will happen with a burst of loyal rallying followed by a “brave” Tom Delay doing the right thing for the party and the nation. Of course his focus will be on rebuilding his beloved Texas in wake of Rita.

What is stunning about all of this – the political jockeying for his leadership post began today. As reported in The Hill, Speaker Hastert laid out his suggestion for Delay’s temporary replacement --David Dreier –

“The Speaker is backing Dave because he is capable, non-confrontational and safe,” one knowledgeable GOP source said roughly an hour after the indictment was announced.The source also said GOP leaders were installing Dreier in the role to head off a ruthless scramble for the post that could further divide an already fractious conference.
That early discussion gave way later in the afternoon to Plan B:
By late afternoon, however, the conference had named Blunt to the post. After press reports shortly after the indictment that Dreier would assume the temporary position of majority leader, conservative activists from around the country flooded the Speaker’s office with phone calls protesting the selection of Dreier, according to one leadership aide. Many of the callers protested his vote on a controversial stem-cell measure earlier this year.Over the past few years, Dreier’s name has been mentioned among a handful of possible candidates to move up to the top leadership team, if a position should become available.

Ever since 1998 when DeLay backed former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) for GOP Conference Chairman and pushed Rep. John Boehner out of the job, Boehner has been waiting for a ripe opportunity to return to the leadership ranks. While Boehner has his eye on the Speakership, he is likely salivating at the No. 2 post as well.After the indictment was announced, Boehner met with several allies in the Speaker’s Lobby.

But even some Boehner allies, however, warn that the ambitious Ohioan and anyone else who may be mulling a run should keep his or her powder dry for now.
For now is the operative word. I am the last person you would consider a Democratic operative. The truth is Delay will not return to his post as Majority Leader, and the leadership battles – ugly and painful as they are – will color just about everything else that happens in Congress from now until it is clear that he is gone.