When the going gets tough, the tough rationalize

One of the great political arts is to insist to bystanders that you’re leading a parade as the mob chases you out of town. Former House GOP leader Tom DeLay proved a master as he explained his decision to resign from Congress rather than face defeat in November.

He touched on every chapter in the book of rationalizations, some of which we’ve summarized here in various interviews he’s given. As always, don’t you kids try this at home. This should be attempted only by trained political professionals.

Blame Unnamed Others: “I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative, personal campaign.” Yeah, like there are a lot of liberal Democrats in a suburban Texas district that went two-thirds for President Bush in 2004.

I Did It for the Greater Good: “This had become a referendum on me. So it’s better for me to step aside and let it be a referendum on ideas, Republican values and what’s important for this district.” All elections in a sense are a referendum on the incumbent, and when was the last time a congressional election was a referendum on an idea?

I Am A Victim: “It shows you that the politics of personal destruction and character assassination takes its toll.” He also said, “All (the Democrats) have is the politics of personal destruction.” Coming from the man who relentlessly strove to drive President Bill Clinton from office and did succeed in getting him impeached, this caused whiplash within the Beltway.

At Bottom, This Is All Really Trivial: “The only reason I was indicted (was) the stupid rule that allows the Democrats to pick the Republican leadership.” DeLay was indicted by a Democratic prosecutor in Texas, but House Republicans adopted the rule requiring an indicted member to step down from the leadership, reportedly with DeLay in mind.

They Miss Me Already: “We (the House Republicans) don’t have an agreed agenda. Breaking up our leadership has taken its toll,” said the architect of a failed coup attempt against then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He will be missed, but for those qualities that got him in hot water in the first place.

It’s All Lies: The media and political pundists “will put forth their opinions and conclusions devoid of and unencumbered by accuracy, facts and truth.” This is a pre-emptive strike; in fact, the press-accessible DeLay announced he was giving up his congressional seat in an interview with Time magazine.

Really, This Is An Opportunity: “I can do more on the outside of the House than I can on the inside right now. I want to continue to fight for the conservative cause.”

Change the Subject: “Cynthia McKinney is a racist. She has a long history of racism. Everything is racism with her,” he said of the Georgia Democratic congresswoman’s scuffle with a Capitol police officer. He also announced that he might file a complaint against her with the House ethics committee. This was the sole lapse in an otherwise bravura performance because it brought up the matter of DeLay’s own frequent run-ins with the ethics panel, resulting in him being formally admonished three times.

The great ones make it look easy.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)