To coincide with the launch of his book, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American’s Fight , former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took questions from NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez this weekend about his past, the president, Nancy Pelosi, 2008, and more.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: “Wrath” and “angry” have been used to describe your book. Is Tom DeLay mad and if so what — or who — most is to blame for the anger?
Tom DeLay: Kathryn, sometimes people confuse passion and anger, it’s unfortunate. While I’m not an angry man, I am passionate about things and there are issues that deeply upset me, like when I see the Left telling our nation to cut and run from the war on terror; when I think of the 40 million babies killed in abortions; when I see marriage being redefined to meet the Left’s political purpose; when I see judges legislating from the bench; and when I think about tax day right around the corner and the code that’s stifling families and businesses. Ok, now you got me angry.
Lopez: Congressman DeLay, why the heck would you include your mugshot in the book?
DeLay: Because it’s one of the best pictures out there of me and it infuriates the Democrats!
Lopez: How much was the press image of you to blame for the Republican loss this past November?
DeLay: I wish I could say all of it, but it’s just as much our own fault as it is the Drive By Media’s (as my dear friend Rush refers to them). We know they are not on our side, yet day after day we read the New York Times or watch CNN and we just get ticked off instead of doing something about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard conservatives gripe and moan over how biased the media is, then turn around and criticize me or other Republicans for something the MSM reports that’s clearly inaccurate. We must practice what we preach if we hope to even make a dent in public perception. The only way to do that is to work around the media, and that’s what conservative talk radio and our friends in the blogosphere have provided.
Lopez: If I asked you what the worst lie circulating about you was, I imagine you might say anything about your family. Politically though, what was most outrageous to you — and most damaging?
DeLay: Well there’s a whole section of the top ten liberal lies in the book, which was tough to include because I hate repeating them, but really want my friends and foes alike to be armed with the truth. And I realized just how many lies are out there when I started getting asked this question repeatedly! I’d say the one that hurts me the most is that I’m in this for myself — whether for the power or a golf trip or whatever. I have never once made any decision or taken any action that was based on my own good. I stand up for my principles and for good politics and don’t worry about the critics. This may not be the most effective way to win the national media’s popularity contest, but in the battleground of ideas I’ve won more rounds than I’ve lost.
Lopez: When the Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets repeat the same misleading “news” repeatedly, what can be done? Is the Internet — and talk radio — an effective enough resource?
DeLay: In a word, yes. The real America — people out there running around all day to take their kids to school and karate practice and going to church and family barbecues — they don’t read the New York Times. That’s why I am so incredibly grateful for the work our friends in talk radio do every day to inform the public of what’s really happening. Now, when Republicans first took over the House in 1995, a top priority was to feed conservative radio every morsel of news we could get our hands on. Republicans became lazy and too busy running our own show, so now we’re not working as closely as we used to. That’s one of the things I’m working on now through CCM.
Lopez: What are you planning for your website?
DeLay: TomDeLay.com has been such a fun project for me because it gives me an outlet to vent my many frustrations with the Democrats, and a venue to converse with conservatives across the country. What I would like TomDeLay.com to be is something to supplement the wonderful conservative sites like RedState.com and TownHall and FreeRepublic with insider information on what’s happening in Congress. As it grows, I hope to educate activists on how a bill really becomes a law so they can look for ways to be involved in the political and legislative process. That’s also why I am working on the Coalition for a Conservative Majority — www.ccmajority.org. Conservatives are very quick to debate, but not as quick to unite and act, and I hope to change that.
Lopez: I was surprised you were as kind as you were to Abramoff and some former staffers of yours who have found themselves in trouble of late. Don’t some of them deserve less than loyalty from you?
DeLay: Well I get into that in the book but as mentioned above, I am not an angry man. Hearing reports of what a few members of my staff were doing years ago saddens me and disappoints me, sure. We can only learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. It’s also important to note that I’ve had literally hundreds of staffers work for me in my 20 years of serving, and the mistakes of a mere few doesn’t constitute the character of the rest of my staff, or myself for that matter.
Lopez: You don’t believe you created a culture of corruption in Washington, but is there one? If so, are Republicans a key part of it?
DeLay: “Culture of Corruption” is just another one of their buzz words that probably took multiple focus groups to come up with. It was a p.r. tactic that they announced years ago in The Hill newspaper, claiming they were going to “Newter” me. Classy. But it kind of stuck, at least in Democrat circles. And we know, without a doubt, the real corruption lies in their own Caucus.
Lopez: You wrote “It is now public knowledge that Newt Gingrich was having an affair with a staffer during the entire impeachment crisis. Clearly, men with such secrets are not likely to sound a high moral tone at a moment of national crisis.” There was Newt, you had been a hard partyer — was anyone in a position where they had nothing to worry about/ nothing to hide? One gets the impression most Republicans were living secret lives while talking family values.
DeLay: Everyone has a secret life, but in politics it doesn’t stay secret long. In this book, I admit for the first time to my own misdoings that almost destroyed my family, and in turn my career. In no way am I judging Newt — that’s not my role – and I can understand why he wouldn’t want to cast a light on Clinton’s problems while he was living in the shadows. At the time, you had Hustler’s Larry Flynt offering to pay a million bucks to anyone who would come forward with details of an affair with House leadership and Bob Livingston couldn’t take the gavel because of his own past. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting any details about his personal life to be known, but I knew we had to go forward on impeachment and didn’t want Newt to block the road.
Lopez: I take it there’s nothing from your time with him that would indicate that Gingrich might be a presidential prospect?
DeLay: I’m far from endorsing anyone for president, but what I do know is Newt has all the right ideas. He’s a true conservative (which is one of the highest compliments I can pay) but I did find fault in his leadership style. If I could create a perfect Republican presidential candidate, he or she would have Newt’s intellect, that’s for sure.
Lopez: You write “the Republican communication apparatus is so poor that people still think there was some kind of cover-up of Foley activities by the Republican leadership.” What’s so wrong that they couldn’t get it right?
DeLay: The Republicans didn’t appear to talk to each other and that’s usually the first communication mistake anyone makes. Instead of sticking together and sharing what happened with the public and pointing out the obvious (that in fact the Democrats were sitting on this information until election eve) they pointed fingers and played the blame game. What could have been a shameful flap became a shameful national scandal.
Lopez: How do you think this new House minority is doing? Anyone among the younger members you’d like to see rise to the top?
DeLay: They are accomplishing some amazing things that the media really hasn’t picked up on, like getting Democrats to vote with them on motions to recommit and side railing their agenda. I wish they had come out swinging with an alternative to the Democrats agenda, but if they can sabotage it that’s just as good in my book.
Lopez: How bad has Speaker Pelosi been so far?
DeLay: Well since the only thing better than a conservative Republican majority is an ineffective Democrat majority, she’s doing fine in my book. It amazes me that the media reported I won votes through threats and intimidation (which couldn’t be further from the truth — check out the “Hammer” lie in my book for the backstory) while Nancy Pelosi makes it known any Democrats who don’t vote her way risk losing committee assignments and no one blinks an eye. Her own Members not only fear her, but they don’t even like her, and I am looking forward to watching them derail under her leadership.
Lopez: You criticize a number of Republicans — including President Bush — in your book. Is there anyone out there today, and in recent years, who you think of and say “now there’s a real conservative”?
DeLay: My wife…she’s the conservative one in our family and every time she speaks up on an issue I know that is where the principled conservatives stand. Now since I can’t convince her to run for office, I can at least get her opinion and share it with others.
Lopez: Where did President Bush go wrong? Or has he been wrong — not a conservative — from the beginning?
DeLay: Well I was never a fan of compassionate conservatism in the first place…I still don’t really know what it means. But he’s been right on the most important things — building a coalition and raising the funds to win two national elections, leading our country through a war unlike any the world has ever seen, and holding the line on spending. But I am disappointed with him on issues like stem-cell research and education and how he has generally handled problems, like this AG flap. It’s always difficult to communicate in this environment, and I hope he uses his time as a “lame duck” to show the country how conservative he really can be.
Lopez: Do you see anyone you like for the presidency in 2008? Is anyone a conservative?
DeLay: Yes we do have some true conservatives — Sam Brownback is a dyed in the wool, and Duncan Hunter is a mastermind when it comes to our national security. Mitt Romney is shaping up to be a true conservative, but that still needs some time to show us that. I really like Mike Huckabee, too. And of course Newt. But frontloading these primaries is giving us all the time in the world to pick apart these candidates on the issues when we should be focused on uniting behind one and going after the bad guys.
Lopez: Did Barry Goldwater’s 1964 convention speech really change your life?
DeLay: Hearing that speech still sends chills up my spine and fans the fire in my belly. What conservatives need more than anything right now is that great communicator who will unite us through our principles. Know anyone?