So, what exactly are the federal criminal allegations against Tom DeLay? Well, there aren’t any. He participated in a golf junket? He says that he thought a nonprofit paid for it, as they often do. He flew on private jets? Is that unique for members of Congress, let alone a crime? Well, he flew on private jets frequently! That may be bad policy, but it doesn’t make it a crime. Oh, his wife was employed by a nonprofit. So what? Many congressional families are two-income households. They work for nonprofits, companies, lobbying firms, and the government. And I’m sure I haven’t exhausted the list of inferences of impropriety–which is all they are right now.
We don’t know where the Abramoff investigation will lead. Clearly the guy was (is) a class-A crook, as evidenced by his own confessions. He gave lots of money and perks to lots of politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike. And if any congressmen sold their offices, they should be prosecuted. I admit I haven’t undertaken a statistical analysis to determine which party may have received more largesse–although I am repeatedly informed by the media that this is a Republican scandal.
It’s more than notable that the plea agreements in this case say nothing about DeLay, while they do implicate another congressman. The purpose of such agreements is to set in concrete key details of the defendants’ criminal conduct for use down the prosecutorial road. But no such testimony respecting DeLay has been secured. None of the inferences of impropriety in the New York Times, Washington Post, AP, and so forth, have made their way into the plea agreements.
As I say, we certainly don’t know where all this will lead.
As for the politics of this, I personally am not comfortable with urging House Republicans to abandon DeLay as a leader (or urging DeLay to simply step aside) based on the information that’s publicly known, which, at this time, amounts only to innuendo. Yes, it’s possible that after reinstalling DeLay as majority leader (once the Ronnie Earle farce falls of its own weight), Abramoff-related events will create a legal or political scenario requiring DeLay to step down. But that’s nothing more than speculation.
There’s also the issue of loyalty–not blind loyalty, but loyalty in which the benefit of the doubt is afforded to someone who has been targeted and demonized repeatedly by his political opponents, who’ve been agitating for his downfall for years. And why do they detest DeLay? Well, despite what even some conservative critics have said, and some of it warranted, DeLay has been a remarkably effective leader. The truth is that most conservative legislative initiatives have originated in the House, where conservatives hold a very thin majority.
While the Left rallies around their leaders, we on the right are often too quick to abandon ours. No, we’re not Clinton sycophants. He was actually held in contempt for lying to a federal judge. And no, we’re not like the Left in that we tolerate virtually any transgression by our leaders in hopes of retaining or pursuing power. However, there are in fact times when principle and loyalty are one and the same. Based on what is known, I believe DeLay deserves the benefit of the doubt.
–Mark R. Levin is author of the best-selling Men In Black, president of Landmark Legal Foundation, and a radio talk-show host on WABC in New York.