For people with a modicum of intelligence, the question has never been whether or not Tom Delay is a crook. Hell, anyone with an IQ above that of an average plant knows the Texas Republican is on the take. Always has been.

The only real question is how long it will take for brain-dead Republicans to finally admit their scandal-scarred House Majority Leader is a political liability who has to go.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert has spearheaded an appalling campaign to protect DeLay at all costs, even with mounting evidence that this typical, Texas good-old-boy politician is for sale to the highest bidder. By doing so, Hastert and his politics-above-honesty policies proves the GOP is just as corrupt as the look-the-other-way political machines that have controlled Congress since the horse-and-buggy days.

DeLay’s sordid reputation, already soiled by a grand jury investigation into his influence-peddling and money-laundering schemes, took another hit last week with revelations that he, his family, and staff, took a $70,000 payoff from Indian gambling interests for his help in killing legislation they didn’t like.

In typical DeLay style, the lobbyists laundered the money through the right-wing National Center for Public Policy Research which then used the funds to pay for a junket to Scotland for DeLay, his family and staff. Powerful Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, also under investigation for influence peddling, arranged the trip.

When confronted with the new allegations, DeLay pulled a Michael Jackson publicity-diverting stunt, checking himself in Bethesda Medical Center for what his staff called “minor fatigue” and a heart irregularity. That brought a lot of chuckles from Washington insiders. “Tom DeLay can’t have a heart condition,” joked one lobbyist, “because in order to have a heart condition one must first have a heart.”

Hastert and his minions have tried everything to protect Tom DeLay from the inevitable – ridding the House Ethics Committee of any Republican with enough balls to question the Majority Leader’s crimes and ramming through new “rules” that strip the committee of any power to take action even if they find wrongdoing,

Meanwhile, back in Texas, Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle has DeLay in his sights. With indictments of three DeLay confidants already in his pocket, Earle says he will “follow the truth…wherever it leads.”

“This isn’t about politics,” Earle says. “It isn’t about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about cops and robbers and the abuse of power.”

Unfortunately, it is all about politics and the abuse of power. The Republican leadership in the House will use all the politics it can to protect Tom DeLay and House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert will continue to use the power of his office to protect his chief henchman.

Tom Delay ain’t the only thing that stinks in the putrid cesspool called the Congress of the United States. He just happens to be the most current turd to bubble up to the surface.