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Tom DeLay officially made clear what the House Republican caucus had already begun to realize -- that current political conditions make it impossible for him to return to his leadership position regardless what happens with his legal issues in Texas. In a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who may also be replaced soon, DeLay officially and permanently resigned from GOP leadership:
"During my time in Congress, I have always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land," the Texas lawmaker told fellow Republicans in a letter informing them of his decision.
Still, referring to criminal charges he faces in his home state, he added, "I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention."
DeLay temporarily have given up his leadership post after he was charged, but always insisted he would reclaim his duties after clearing his name.
His turnabout cleared the way for leadership elections among Republicans buffeted by poor polls and by lobbyist Jack Abramoff's confessions of guilt on corruption charges in connection with congressional wining and dining.
Most Republicans, including me, had readily stood by DeLay while Ronnie Earle pursued one of the most partisan public kneecappings of all time. However, the sudden plea deal from Jack Abramoff makes DeLay's position untenable. DeLay and Hastert share responsibility for the access given to Abramoff as part of their K Street makeover plan, a good idea gone bad with Abramoff's admitted offenses creating a crisis for the party. That, more than anything else, justified ending DeLay's run at the helm; he rightly took responsibility for putting the Republicans in their current position.
As much as the resignation might annoy us because of the delight it will cause Earle, the GOP needed DeLay to leave the field open for new blood. Dafydd disagrees with me, and writes about how regional considerations might play a role in the sudden welcome of DeLay's resignation. Others may protest that DeLay has not been found guilty of anything and should not need to resign at all. However, leadership positions are all about politics, not legal status; if one is reduced to saying "I haven't been convicted", there's already a problem, especially when the power broker that politico introduced to everyone as his good buddy suddenly pleads out to numerous felonies regarding corruption in multiple courts.
The AP says that Hastert's grip on power is secure, but I wouldn't take that bet. Not too many people have been impressed with Hastert's run as Speaker, and the K Street project involved him almost as much as DeLay. The GOP should be focusing on cleaning house and electing legislative leadership that Americans can trust to do so. I don't think Bill Frist and Denny Hastert have household names for anti-corruption efforts. We need a Giuliani of the House and Senate to lead by example and bring ethics back to the forefront of GOP legislative reform.Sphere It View blog reactions
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