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Defending DeLay?

Last night another of my conservative friends excoriated me for refusing to rush to DeLay's defense. Here's why I don't think that's a good idea.

First of all, I understand that the indictment against him is weak, and that he well may be innocent. He also may be guilty, but end up acquitted due to lack of evidence. I found it rather unlikely that he'll actually serve time.

But that's beside the point. We have a Democratic opposition that will oppose us at every turn. We have to choose our battles carefully. There are some very important ones coming up -- the next Supreme Court pick, for example. It is not a good idea to waste time, energy and political capital to defend Tom DeLay.

Why? The guy is a liability. He is ultimately damaging to our party and our cause. He has become emblematic of everything that is wrong with the Republican Party and with politics in general.

Look, Charles Rangel can't hurt us. Dick Durbin can't hurt us. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and Howard Dean and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer can't hurt us. Every time they open their mouths, Karl Rove does the "happy dance."

But DeLay is a different story. Not only does he personify the political patronage system, and not only is he the primary author of the gerrymandering scheme that has turned 435 supposedly "elected" representatives into de facto tenureships, but he is openly hostile to the Republican ideals and principles that swept him into power in the first place. He is as careless and reckless a steward of the public fisc as we are ever likely to see. When principled fiscal conservatives (wherever such may still be found) dare to stand up for the taxpayer and oppose him, he browbeats, threatens and coerces them into compliance. And all the while, he has the stones to add insult to injury by claiming he and his Republican caucus have "trimmed" all the fat out of the federal budget.

Well screw that! He is not worth lifting out middle finger to defend. I'm sorry, but I can't see it any other way. And look, I'm not suggesting we roll over in the face of what may very well be a partisan political attack. But stay on the offensive. Don't let the Dems put us back on our heels, in the defensive posture we became accustomed to for so long -- and especially when the target in question is as indefensible as Tom DeLay.

Fight back. Stay on the offensive. Hell, start indicting their guys. Whatever. But don't get sucked into a draining political battle in which our side is guaranteed to lose even if we win.