Tom DeLay's decision to abandon his long-held congressional seat is the inevitable finale in a career in which power he created through spreading fear in others finally turned on him.
DeLay's Washington office was a snake pit of corruption, arrogance and extortion. Several former aides have been indicted on criminal charges, and the poisonous venality spread through the congressional blood stream has others in Congress in the crosshairs of a wide-ranging federal criminal probe.
Despite DeLay's brave Texas big talk that he's clean, investigators are sniffing uncomfortably close to DeLay and his celebrated tactic, which rightly earned him the name of "The Hammer," of squeezing lobbyists for money in exchange for Republican favors.
Admonished three times by the House ethics committee for his abuses, indicted in Texas for campaign violations and forever stigmatized as mentor to indicted aides, DeLay smelled defeat for himself in November. He either (a) was told by the White House to quit now to remove his blackened name from the 2006 election debate and/or (b) has been informed of pending criminal charges.
Late-night comics will find delicious irony in DeLay, a onetime small-town pest exterminator, now being politically exterminated after 21 years in Congress.
Americans can give thanks DeLay failed in his principle ambition -- to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, although Bush administration soul mates have turned EPA into a palsy-walsy friend of industrial polluters.
Ever ready with claims of religious faith and "family values," DeLay in fact conned the Religious Right: He was the spirit of corruption that Washington old-timers say is unequalled. He literally auctioned off the soul of the Republican House for campaign donations, convincing himself he was indestructible and above the rules, and always concealed his venality with alarms about "liberals."
One House colleague, Vietnam air hero Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, of California, has been sent to the slammer for eight years after confessing he raked in more than $2 million in bribes in the easy-come atmosphere created by DeLay. Cunningham shoveled in payoffs with such abandon that he even published a list of his going prices for votes on Defense contracts.
Trying to sanitize DeLay's shoddy politics, his successor as House majority whip, Rep. John Boehner, resorted to a tribute that was more pure hokum.
He called DeLay a "tireless advocate" to the "principles of smaller government, more freedom and family values."
The truth: DeLay consistently approved larger and costlier government under President Bush, watched while freedom was reduced by eavesdropping on Americans and preached family values for others, not himself.