Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Timid Trio Tip-Toe Around Tom DeLay

by Kyle Michaelis
Congressional Kingpin Tom Delay is gone (for now), stepping down as House Republican leader after being indicted in connection with the illegal fundraising activities of his Political Action Committee. This turn of events has been a long time coming and is only one of numerous recent examples of Republicans' abuse of power from their position of preeminence in Washington D.C.

To date, the growing stench surrounding Republicans nationwide has yet to attach itself to the party and its elected representatives in Nebraska. This undoubtedly has quite a bit to do with the Republican registration advantage, not to mention a generally incurious and unmotivated local press that refuses to ask tough questions and force area Republicans to take a good hard look at their party's many failures of leadership and integrity on the national stage.

At long last, though, Nebraska's all-Republican Congressional delegation, has been compelled to address the ethics problems of the man they've followed so dutifully. From the pages of the Omaha World-Herald, Behold - the Timid Trio speaks:
On the day that DeLay, the hard-charging conservative known as "the Hammer," was indicted by a Texas grand jury, Midlands lawmakers had mixed reactions to the controversy and to the news that other members will take his place, at least for a while.

Nebraska Republican Tom Osborne said he shared (Iowa Rep. Steve) King's concern that the decisions of a prosecutor could determine who leads the House, but, he said, if allegations against DeLay turn out to be true "a change in leadership is very appropriate."

Republican leaders insisted that the elevation of Rep. Roy Blunt, a congenial Missourian, to majority leader would truly be temporary.

While few House members have recovered from indictments, Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry said, "If anyone will, it'll be Tom DeLay. The guy is just so much a pit bull he won't let this destroy and bring him down"....

Freshman Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said Blunt has helped him learn the ropes in Congress.

Fortenberry called the party's action to elevate Blunt "a prudent move." He said he hoped partisan politics would not play a part in determining DeLay's case.

Regardless of the outcome, he said, "an accusation can sometimes become very damaging. That's frankly a very sad part of politics."

Terry said that as a former trial lawyer he had faith in the legal process, saying it worked 99 percent of the time.

"We'll know if it's an overzealous prosecutor or an overzealous majority leader" when the final verdict is reached, he said.

King was solidly in DeLay's corner. "I haven't seen a single fact that would indicate he's done anything unethical or illegal," he said.

If nothing else, I have to grant this to Terry, Osborne, and Fortenberry - they're a hell of a lot better than Iowa's King, truly one of the most reactionary, "out-there" politicians in the country.

Other than that, it's plain to see they're leaving themselves plenty of wiggle room. Distancing themselves from DeLay may prove difficult, however, particularly for Terry and Fortenberry who have taken thousands of dollars from his Congressional PAC. Fortenberry has received the maximum amount that he could under law - $10,000 - each of the last two years, money he likely sees as well-deserved having voted with DeLay astonishingly and disturbingly close to 100% of the time in his 9 months in office.

For more on these Nebraska entanglements in DeLay's cloud of corruption, you may want to read this post on the Nebraska Democratic Party's blog calling for Terry and Fortenberry to follow a fellow Republicans lead in returning these tainted donations. Also, read that site's talking points for a pretty good overview of the scandal and Republican attempts at spinning it.

Meanwhile, this is Nebraska, so we won't hold our breath for Chuck Hagel's comment on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's increasingly suspicious stock sale, which is currently under SEC investigation. I mean, it's not like we can actually tell anything about our Republican representatives by those they choose to lead them.

If that were the case, just what would the election of these alternatingly corrupt and complicit politicians ultimately say about us?


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