Friday, November 19, 2004

Too big for ethics rule

Critics and admirers alike don't utter Tom DeLay's nickname of "The Hammer" lightly. He earned it: Since coming to Congress 20 years ago, tough-guy DeLay has ruthlessly acquired power to keep Republican colleagues in line to do his bidding.

So, notwithstanding the catchy new slogan of "moral values" in Republican circles, it was no surprise that GOP congressmen struck down their ethics code to relieve the Majority Leader of standing down if he's indicted in a widening Texas campaign fundraising scandal that has led to charges against three DeLay aides.

House Republicans adopted the step-aside rule in 1994 during Democratic scandals as a GOP way of embarrassing Democrats and declaring themselves to be ethically superior.

DeLay is hardly a model of ethical superiority. The Republican-controlled House Ethics Committee disciplined DeLay last month for blatantly seeking political contributions in exchange for legislative favors, and using the Federal Aviation Administration to track an airplane with Democrats aboard during a Texas redistricting dispute. Lesser mortals would've lost their jobs over such breeches.

Now, in this crisis, wherein DeLay's callously developed political power and career are threatened, House colleagues don't dare cross him. They understand the political revenge "The Hammer" can visit on disloyalty in the ranks.

By exempting Delay from their own ethics rule, House Republicans abandoned the high moral ground they claim to hold and also opened the way for the onetime small town exterminator to glorify his moniker even further.

Like, "The Sledge Hammer."

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