The Left's Campaign Against Tom DeLay
-- On March 24, former Congressman Bob Livingston was sent an
e-mail by a New York Times editorial page staffer suggesting he
write an op-ed essay. Would Livingston, who in 1998 gave up certain
elevation to be House speaker because of a sexual affair, write
about how Majority Leader Tom DeLay should now act under fire?
In a subsequent conversation, it was made clear the Times wanted
the prominent Republican to say DeLay should step aside for the
good of the party.
in effect declined by responding that if he wrote anything for
the Times, it would be pro-DeLay. But this remarkable case of
that august newspaper fishing for an op-ed piece makes it appear
part of a calculated campaign to bring down the single most powerful
Republican in Congress. The Democratic establishment and left-wing
activists have targeted DeLay as the way to end a decade of Republican
control of the House.
this campaign's intensity may protect DeLay from Republicans who
in their secret hearts would like to see the sometimes-overbearing
Texan fall. No GOP politician wants to be the handmaiden of DeLay's
Democratic detractors. Last Wednesday's closed-door caucus of
House Republicans gave DeLay a standing ovation. Contrary to claims
on leftist websites, no Republican member has called for the majority
of DeLay going on junkets funded by private sources and putting
relatives on non-government payrolls reflect common congressional
practice. The assault on DeLay did not begin until he redistricted
Texas congressional seats, which changed the 2004 election from
a net loss to a net gain for House Republicans. That accomplishment,
however, makes it much harder to rip holes in DeLay's House GOP
18 news organizations now have assigned reporters to cover DeLay,
but the quest by The New York Times for a prominent Republican
to suggest his resignation may cross a line. Livingston, a Louisiana
congressman who was Appropriations Committee chairman, was set
to succeed Newt Gingrich as speaker in November 1998, when he
stunned Washington by announcing his resignation from Congress
after allegations of a sexual affair.
Times editorial page staffer Tobin Harshaw sent the March 24 e-mail
to Livingston, now a Washington lobbyist. Chris Terrell, a principal
in The Livingston Group, declined to give this column a copy of
the message but read it to us. Harshaw, reached in New York, confirmed
he had a conversation with Terrell, but added: "We don't comment
on assignments, written or unwritten."
to Terrell, Harshaw's e-mail suggested Livingston might want to
write "a short op-ed on DeLay's political future." Terrell said
he telephoned Harshaw, saying his boss would "write a favorable
piece," then asked: "Is that really what you're seeking or is
that what you would print?"
was not. While Harshaw asserted "we would welcome any thoughts"
by Livingston, Terrell quoted him as saying "we are seeking those
who would go on the record or state for the good of the party
he [DeLay] should step aside."
of such a column by so prestigious a Republican as Livingston
would break a solid GOP front supporting DeLay. Potential Republican
defectors have stayed loyal to DeLay because of Democratic leaders.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, abandoning traditions of at
least minimum courtesy between party leaders, has led the campaign
against her Republican counterpart. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the aggressive
new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,
has made this the cornerstone of efforts to recapture the House
crack in the pro-DeLay alliance was a March 28 editorial in The
Wall Street Journal charging the majority leader with "betraying
the broader set of principles that brought him into office." To
be accused of imitating the ethical standards of the Democrats
he deplored was viewed by DeLay as a "gut shot."
Would this editorial start a chain reaction of Republican House
members abandoning DeLay, much as Democrats turned against Speaker
Jim Wright in 1989? Those defections doomed Wright, whose fall
was followed in five years by the Republican capture of the House.
Since Bob Livingston would not get the ball rolling, the campaign
to get DeLay still needs a major anti-DeLay Republican to go public.
2005 Creators Syndicate
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