[Paleopsych] WP: Turning on DeLay

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Fri Apr 1 14:59:35 UTC 2005

Turning on DeLay

    By Howard Kurtz
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, March 29, 2005; 8:37 AM

    In media terms, it's an earthquake almost as loud as Walter Cronkite
    turning against the Vietnam War.

    Tom DeLay has got to be thinking: Et tu, Wall Street Journal?

    Let's be clear: The Journal's editorial page, champion of
    conservatives and scourge of liberals, has a biblical quality for many
    on the right. They look to it for guidance, if not divine inspiration.

    And the page, run by Paul Gigot after the long reign of Robert
    Bartley, does not come from the
    we-believe-this-but-the-other-side-has-a-good-point school. In sharp,
    sometimes caustic language, it almost always backs conservatives and
    Republicans over liberals and Democrats. The Journal ran so many
    anti-Clinton editorials on Whitewater that they were turned into
    several books.

    Which is why yesterday's editorial slapping the Texas congressman is
    likely to reverberate for some time to come, and perhaps embolden
    DeLay's critics. The Republican Party has been solidly behind DeLay
    (except for the likes of the former House ethics chairman who got
    bounced by the leadership after the panel admonished the majority
    leader three times last year). The Washington Post, New York Times and
    Los Angeles Times have written numerous pieces about ethics
    allegations involving DeLay, from fundraising questions (three of his
    associates are under indictment back home) to lobbyist-financed
    foreign junkets. But it hasn't been much of a television story--too
    complicated and all that--and conservative commentators haven't really
    broken ranks, until now.

    The Journal editorial summarizes what it calls the "rap sheet" against
    DeLay: The earlier citations, such as offering to endorse
    then-congressman Nick Smith's son for office if Smith would vote for
    the Medicare prescription drug bill. The fundraising probe by a Texas
    prosecutor (a "partisan Democrat"). The junkets, such as one to the
    Northern Marianas Islands with lobbyist-under-investigation Jack
    Abramoff, who represented the garment industry there. And guess what?
    DeLay later led an effort to extend the Islands' exemption from U.S.
    immigration and labor laws.

    "By now," says the Journal, "you have surely read about House Majority
    Leader Tom DeLay's ethics troubles. Probably, too, you aren't entirely
    clear as to what those troubles are--something to do with questionable
    junkets, Indian casino money, funny business on the House Ethics
    Committee, stuff down in Texas. In Beltway-speak, what this means is
    that Mr. DeLay has an 'odor': nothing too incriminating, nothing
    actually criminal, just an unsavory whiff that could have GOP
    loyalists reaching for the political Glade if it gets any worse.

    "The Beltway wisdom is right. Mr. DeLay does have odor issues.
    Increasingly, he smells just like the Beltway itself."

    It gets more pungent as it goes on:

    "The problem, rather, is that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on
    a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become
    the living exemplar of some of its worst habits. Mr. DeLay's ties to
    Mr. Abramoff might be innocent, in a strictly legal sense, but it
    strains credulity to believe that Mr. DeLay found nothing strange with
    being included in Mr. Abramoff's lavish junkets.

    "Nor does it seem very plausible that Mr. DeLay never considered the
    possibility that the mega-lucrative careers his former staffers
    Michael Scanlon and [Ed] Buckham achieved after leaving his office had
    something to do with their perceived proximity to him. These people
    became rich as influence-peddlers in a government in which legislators
    like Mr. DeLay could make or break fortunes by tinkering with obscure
    rules and dispensing scads of money to this or that constituency.
    Rather than buck this system as he promised to do while in the
    minority, Mr. DeLay has become its undisputed and unapologetic master
    as Majority Leader.

    "Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or
    campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real
    fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him
    into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later
    will sweep him out."

    Hmmm. Maybe I mixed things up and this was actually a New York Times

    DeLay emerged as a champion of keeping Terri Schiavo alive, in what
    some critics said was an attempt to deflect attention from his own
    problems. Here's a [3]NYT report on the latest strange twist in that

    "The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative
    direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters,
    making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will
    receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and
    conservative groups.

    "'These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler's legal
    battle to keep Terri's estranged husband from removing the feeding
    tube from Terri,' says a description of the list on the Web site of
    the firm, Response Unlimited, which is asking $150 a month for 6,000
    names and $500 a month for 4,000 e-mail addresses of people who
    responded last month to an e-mail plea from Ms. Schiavo's father.
    'These individuals are passionate about the way they value human life,
    adamantly oppose euthanasia and are pro-life in every sense of the

    "Privacy experts said the sale of the list was legal and even
    predictable, if ghoulish."

    Have the Dems been ducking on Schiavo? That's a smart move, says the
    New Republic's [4]Michelle Cottle:

    "With public sentiment against religious conservatives and their GOP
    lapdogs, some prominent liberals--including columnists Maureen Dowd
    and Richard Cohen--have been grumbling about the Dems' failure to take
    a tough stand on this issue. Democrats are being urged to bash
    Republicans for exploiting a private tragedy, for hypocritically
    abandoning their typical obsession with states' rights, and for, as
    Dowd sees it, pushing to turn this great republic into an intolerant
    theocracy. If ever they hope to shed their image as quivering girly
    men, so the argument goes, the Democratic Party cannot stand around
    letting Republicans hog the spotlight on an issue where most Americans
    disagree with them.

    "Bad advice. Terrible. Political madness. Regardless of what the polls
    show, Terri Schiavo is a no-win issue for Democrats, and their best
    course of action is to lie low and wait for the media storm to pass.

    "For starters, this issue offers none of the emotional oomph for the
    Democrats' base that it does for Republicans'. As politically
    self-serving as they may look to you and me, Tom DeLay et al. are
    storing up major brownie points with social conservatives for this
    impassioned display of their commitment to the 'culture of life.'
    Unfortunately, Democrats, by contrast, are unlikely to set many
    moderate or liberal hearts aflutter by blathering on about spousal
    rights, the sanctity of the courts, or even privacy rights. Such talk
    comes across as too wonkish, too legalistic, too much like John Kerry.
    And while the right to die may be a worthy cause, is it really
    something to be championed at this particular moment by a party
    already freaked out about its morally relativistic if not downright
    godless image?

    "What's more, while the made-for-TV theatrics of the 'Save Terri'
    folks have made them an easy object of ridicule for non-conservatives,
    the reality is that there are enough questions about Michael Schiavo's
    behavior over the past decade to make you wonder if he's really the
    sort of hero a political party should hitch its wagon to."

    In Slate, [5]Michael Crowley says one group of Republicans are no
    longer superheroes:

    "To them, pay-as-you-go is a means of restoring sanity to the budget.
    They are the Senate's plucky band of Republican moderates: Lincoln
    Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and
    John McCain of Arizona.

    "In recent years these moderates have become heroes to Democrats --
    paragons of conscience and bravery -- and pariahs to conservatives --
    heretic "Daschle Republicans." As the GOP has moved to the right, the
    moderates have struggled valiantly to stand firm in the center, voting
    repeatedly with Democrats on key issues. I've heard some Democrats
    fawningly dub them the Fantastic Four, after the team of comic-book
    superheroes who unwittingly acquired supernatural powers from the
    cosmic ray of a solar flare. OK, McCain may not be much like the
    Thing, Chafee isn't as hot as the Human Torch, and neither Collins nor
    Snowe would want to be dubbed the Invisible Woman (crafty as she
    was!). But by the standards of hyper-partisan Washington, there has
    been something almost supernatural about the way these senators defy
    their party's aggressive right wing on behalf of their principles. In
    the recent past, the Fantastic Four have been a useful check on
    congressional GOP excesses. Of late, however, their powers are waning.

    "Hopes were high for last week's pay-as-you-go vote, because the
    moderates succeeded in pushing through just such a measure a year ago.
    Rather than accede then to pay-as-you-go rules, furious GOP leaders
    opted for the spectacle of passing no budget resolution at all. It was
    a significant moral and public-relations victory for the mod squad.
    But this year things were different. When pay-as-you-go came to a
    Senate vote again last week, it failed to pass despite the intense
    efforts of the Fantastic Four. That's one of several defeats the
    moderates have suffered recently. Last week, when the Senate defeated
    an effort to block oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife
    Refuge, the moderates voted with the Democrats once again, and once
    again it didn't matter. Most tellingly, perhaps, it looks increasingly
    likely that the mods won't be able to stop the most radical move the
    Senate has seen in years: the Republican push to deploy the 'nuclear
    option' that would rewrite Senate rules to end filibusters of judicial

    Here's what I consider a troubling court ruling, from the [6]Los
    Angeles Times. I'm the first to say that journalists shouldn't be able
    to quote Person A libeling Person B without proof, but what if it's
    said in a public proceeding?

    "The Supreme Court refused Monday to shield the news media from being
    sued for accurately reporting a politician's false charges against a
    rival. Instead, the justices let stand a Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    ruling that a newspaper can be forced to pay damages for having
    reported that a city councilman called the mayor and the council
    president 'liars,' 'queers' and 'child molesters.'

    "The case turned on whether the 1st Amendment's protection for the
    freedom of the press includes a 'neutral reporting privilege.' Most
    judges around the nation have said the press does not enjoy this
    privilege. . . .

    "The case that reached the high court began 10 years ago when the
    Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa. printed a story entitled,
    'Slurs, Insults drag town into controversy.' It reported that the City
    Council in nearby Parkesburg had been torn apart by shouting matches
    and fistfights. The most outspoken councilman was William T. Glenn Sr.
    In comments during the meeting and in an interview with a news
    reporter, Glenn referred to Mayor Alan Wolfe and Councilman James
    Norton as 'liars' and a 'bunch of draft dodgers.'"

    Glenn "also strongly suggested that they were homosexuals who had put
    themselves 'in a position that gave them an opportunity to have access
    to children.' When asked to respond, Norton was quoted as saying: 'If
    Mr. Glenn has made comments as bizarre as that, then I feel very sad
    for him, and I hope he can get the help he needs.'"

    The Supreme Court set no precedent by declining the case.

    Ah, but which part was during the interview, when the reporter should
    have exercised some restraint? And what do they put in the water in
    West Chester, Pa.?

    John Hinderaker of Powerline has a new piece up, this one in the
    [7]Weekly Standard, challenging the media reports that Schiavo talking
    points were distributed to Republican senators. He says I erred in
    saying that he posted on his blog some comments from an anonymous ABC
    staffer; Hinderaker says he simply promised not to use the person's

    If you're a tabloid editor, your heart is racing over the latest turn
    in the Michael Jackson case, as the [8]New York Post reports:

    "The judge in Michael Jackson's child-molestation trial yesterday
    dropped a "nuclear bomb" on the star's stunned defense -- allowing
    evidence that would allegedly link Jacko to sexual acts involving five
    boys, including actor Macaulay Culkin.

    "One of the five purported victims -- the son of Jacko's ex-maid -- is
    set to testify that the Gloved One laid more than a friendly glove on
    him, twice fondling him outside his clothing and once thrusting his
    hands down the boy's pants, prosecutors said.

    "Culkin, however, the former child star of 'Home Alone' fame, has
    repeatedly denied that he was ever molested by Jackson."

    Jackson would have been well advised to stay home alone.

    How much do you want to know about the personal lives of your friendly
    neighborhood bloggers? The Washington Monthly's [9]Kevin Drum reveals
    a bit of himself with this post:

    "I've long felt that occasionally mixing in personal blogging with
    purely news-driven blogging is useful because it provides my readers
    with a better perspective of who I am and whether or not they should
    care what I have to say. It's also fun. This why you get catblogging
    here, as well as random pet peeve blogging, TV blogging, and
    linguistic blogging. These posts almost always provoke a few comments
    from people who want to know why I'm wasting their time with this
    -- but that's the whole point. If this kind of thing makes you think
    I'm not a serious person, then this probably isn't a blog you should
    bother reading.

    "On the other hand, we all draw different limits around our lives --
    and that includes limits around the amount of rage and frustration
    we're willing to expose. Like Prof B, I suffer from chronic
    depression, though, also like Prof B, it's obviously not debilitating.
    It just sucks. And while I'm not sure what choices she's made in her
    non-anonymous life, I chose long ago to mention this very seldom and
    to very few people. (If you're not sure why, go ahead and let your
    boss know that you're a chronic depressive and see what happens. For
    many people, their careers would be over.) I know from experience that
    my moods change, and while my mood is never what you'd call ebullient,
    the depressive cycles always eventually give way to something that's
    at least neutral. While I'm in a down cycle, though, I'm very
    conscious that I'm in the grip of bad brain chemistry, and my way of
    coping is to keep myself under very tight control. Don't react.
    Minimize human contact. Under no circumstances lose control of my

    "Is this the right choice? I don't know. But it's the one I've made.
    And it does affect my blogging. For the most part, I keep an even tone
    because that's just what comes naturally to me, but other times it's a

    Speaking of which, I didn't get much sleep last night and am feeling
    cranky. . . .

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