Wash. Post editorial asserted that DeLay exit made it "much tougher for Democrats" to attack GOP "culture of corruption" -- but cited only DeLay

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

An April 5 Washington Post editorial asserted that Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) departure from Congress will make it "much tougher for Democrats to flog their 'culture of corruption' message," offering only a quote from DeLay in support of the assertion -- but a Post article published the same day quoted a Democratic leader saying the opposite. The editorial then went on to undermine its own argument by noting that the political culture fostered by DeLay -- rather than the man himself -- represented the Republicans' "real problem."

An April 5 Washington Post editorial asserted that Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) departure from Congress will make it "much tougher for Democrats to flog their 'culture of corruption' message," offering only a quote from DeLay in support of the assertion. Moreover, not only did the editorial not cite any Democrats, but a Post article published the same day quoted a Democratic leader saying the opposite -- expressing confidence in the party's anti-corruption platform and noting, "When a person steps down, it inflates the severity of the situation." The Post editorial then went on to undermine its own argument by noting that the political culture fostered by DeLay -- rather than the man himself -- represented the Republicans' "real problem."

In the first paragraph of the April 5 editorial, "Exit Tom DeLay," the Post asserted that Democrats are "those most unhappy about his abandoning his House seat" because it is now "much harder" for them to rail against the so-called "culture of corruption" in the Republican ranks:

It's a measure of Tom DeLay's diminished political circumstances that those most unhappy about his abandoning his House seat are the Democrats who most revile him. "This is probably the worst day of his campaign," Mr. DeLay, speaking on Fox News yesterday, said with an air of grim satisfaction of his Democratic opponent, former representative Nick Lampson. The Texas Republican had been repeatedly admonished by the House ethics committee; he is under indictment in Texas on charges of funneling illegal corporate contributions to state legislators; and he is entangled in a federal probe that has produced guilty pleas from two of his former staffers. It's much tougher for Democrats to flog their "culture of corruption" message when they can no longer kick around "Representative #2," as he's been identified in the charges against his former aides.

But beyond DeLay's claim that the day he decided to withdraw was "probably the worst day" of his Democratic opponent's campaign, the Post editorial offered no support for these claims. Neither the editorial -- nor the Post's extensive article on the DeLay announcement in that same edition of the paper -- quoted any Democratic lawmakers or strategists expressing unhappiness over the news or voicing concern that this development would impede the party's anti-corruption platform in the buildup to the midterm elections in November.

The April 5 Post article by staff writers R. Jeffrey Smith and Jonathan Weisman noted Republican hopes that the party could soon move beyond the "burgeoning corruption scandal" which stems from GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and recently snared several former high-level DeLay aides. The article then contrasted these hopes with a quote from Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who -- rather than express concern that his party would soon lose traction on the issue of corruption -- noted that DeLay's decision to step down "inflates the severity of the situation." Emanuel went on to declare, in reference to the unfolding Abramoff investigation, that "[f]ederal prosecutors don't care about Republican spin":

DeLay's decision to resign from the chamber he once ruled with a clenched fist gave some Republicans hope that the party can move beyond a burgeoning corruption scandal as the congressional election season heats up. That scandal so far has led to guilty pleas to corruption charges by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, once a close ally of DeLay's, and former DeLay aides Michael Scanlon and Tony C. Rudy, who worked with Abramoff after leaving their Capitol Hill jobs.

But Democrats vowed that they would not let their opponents slip the noose of what they have labeled a "culture of corruption."

"When a person steps down, it inflates the severity of the situation, and if they think after Tony Rudy, Jack Abramoff and the other guys the country will stop debate on these issues, they've got another thing coming," Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said yesterday. "Federal prosecutors don't care about Republican spin."

Not only did the Post offer no support for its claim that DeLay's exit hurts the Democrats, the editorial went on to endorse an idea that essentially undermines that argument. This is the theory, which the editorial noted was recently put forth [subscription required] by New York Times columnist David Brooks, that the real ethics problem facing congressional Republicans "wasn't DeLay, it was DeLayism." From the April 5 Post editorial:

But his departure from the body in which he's served since 1985 offers a chance to reflect on Mr. DeLay's legacy for House Republicans -- and on the challenge that confronts them in the post-DeLay era. As New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks put it just before Mr. DeLay left the leadership, "the real problem wasn't DeLay, it was DeLayism." That was shorthand for a political culture that put a premium on bringing in campaign cash, that dismantled barriers between the Capitol and K Street lobbyists, and that disdained debate and dissent as the GOP entrenched itself as a would-be permanent majority.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Stories/Interests
Tom DeLay Scandal
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.