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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ends and Means, Part II

What a buzzkill for the House GOP. Just when they were getting ready to pop the balloons and cut the cake in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the Contract With America, word came in that a Texas Grand Jury had indicted three of Tom DeLay’s closest political associates for a variety of campaign law violations.
I don’t have any specific dirt on The Hammer, but the indictments strike pretty close to DeLay’s big homestate project back in 2002: getting enough Republicans elected to the Texas legislature to give the GOP control, thus paving the way for the Great Texas Power Grab of 2003. In case you missed it, that was the DeLay-driven re-redistricting of Texas Congressional seats aimed at ginning up as many as six new Republican House members in 2004. It took a lot of cash, a lot of long-distance phone calls from Washington to Austin, a lot of scrambling around by Texas Rangers to track down Democratic legislators seeking to block the Grab by deyning a quorum. But by God, the Hammer got his new Congressional map. And it turns out some of his buddies may have gotten too zealous in shaking down Texas business people to put the plot into motion.
Now, of course, DeLay and his House colleagues are denouncing the indictments as a Democratic conspiracy, even as they deny he had any idea what his friends were up to. I know it’s hard to believe that a guy like DeLay is a detail hound or a control freak when it comes to achieving his most cherished political goals. I know he’s never raised any suspicions that he expects business groups to join “our team” and pony up dough if they want to play ball. And clearly, the Texas investigation is a lot more blatantly trumped up and partisan than, say, a vast multi-year hunt, employing hundreds of federal agents and costing tens of millions in taxpayer dollars, to find something illegal about an old Arkansas land deal.
But hypocrisy is not an indictable offense. If DeLay’s really clean on this one, he should stick to that story and lay off the demonization of anybody who dares suggest he might have gone over the line. And Republicans should not be so hasty to accept that anyone who serves the holy cause of controlling Congress forever is by definition righteous, while his critics are by definition corrupt.
In their recent tendency to confuse ends and means, today’s Republicans call to mind a Georgia governor of my early youth in the Jim Crow south, Marvin Griffin, who invariably attacked anyone questioning his frequent ethical lapses as a secret agent of the NAACP. Charlie Pou, who was then political editor of the Atlanta Journal, referred to Griffin’s argument as: “If you ain’t for stealing, you ain’t for segregation.” Just goes to show that dubious means are most often found in the service of dubious ends.

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