Friday, May 13, 2005

Conservatives Toast Their Hero, Tom DeLay

Word in Democratic circles and around the liberal blogosphere for weeks has been that the fear is not that Tom DeLay wouldn't be run out of town, but that he would be run out of town too soon.

Last night, many hundreds of conservatives gathered to pay loving tribute to House Leader Tom DeLay. The black-tie tribute (and a standing ovation) is airing right now on C-SPAN. I'm watching to see if my Congressman attended.....

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes one Bush-era celebrity spotted at the Tom DeLay male escort turned conservative White House pseudo-journalist, Jeff Gannon, AKA James Guckert.

Tom Paine.....

A Tribute To Right Power
Nick Penniman
May 13, 2005

(Nick Penniman is editor of and program director at the Campaign For America's Future.)

If last night’s tribute to Tom DeLay wasn’t so darkly hypocritical, it’d be more laughable. If you look at his record, DeLay has violated most of the principles conservatives claim to hold so dear. Conservatives say they believe in a return of morality to public life.

Yet three of DeLay’s close associates have been indicted by a grand jury for illegally raising political funds from corporations. DeLay himself has been rebuked three times by the bipartisan House ethics committee. Those transgressions haven’t stopped Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, who attended the dinner, from thinking of DeLay as saintly: "We don't believe Tom has done anything illegal or immoral.”

Conservatives say they believe in smaller government. Groups like Americans for Tax Reform and the Heritage Foundation were founded on the principle that big government is the enemy of the good. Grover Norquist (of ATR) and Ed Fuelner (of Heritage) helped plan the tribute. Yet federal spending has ballooned under DeLay’s leadership, as has pork-barreling.

DeLay was instrumental in passing the politically motivated Republican Medicare bill—giving pharmaceutical companies a windfall of $140 billion and resulting in one of the largest spikes in spending of any social program since the Great Society.

Conservatives say they believe in fiscal responsibility. Balanced budgets were a centerpiece of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” and of Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential race. DeLay even supported a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1995. Yet deficit spending has reached a historic high, and DeLay was one of the point people who both rammed President Bush’s budget-busting tax cuts through Congress and refused attempts to establish prudent pay-as-you-go rules for the budget process.

And then there’s gambling. Most of the right-wing evangelical base is vehemently opposed to the sinful practice. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who also helped cobble together last night’s event, spoke out against riverboat gambling in 2000: “You see, there’s no end when you begin to make deals with the devil.”

And Gary Bauer, head of American Values, also in attendance, has routinely chided the Republican Party for being so cozy with the gambling industry: "I don't see how you can be the party of conservative social values when you're actively courting the money of the gambling industry." Yet one of DeLay’s many ethics investigations involves favors he did for—and junkets he subsequently received from—notorious super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He and Abramoff colluded for years to further the interests of Indian tribes interested in expanding their gambling operations.

Once upon a time, during the heady days of Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley, conservatives were interested in principles. Now they’re just interested in power. That’s what DeLay represents to them—the power of the conservative movement, not the power of their principles. Unfortunately, power corrupts the weak. And all the power conservatives have amassed in recent years seems to have blown their principles right out the window.

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