Anyone who fondly remembers the 1994 elections will remember that the Republicans spent two years working up to them. A case was made to the American people, and persuasively so, that the Democrats had been in power too long and that they had abused that power, as evidenced by various ethical scandals within the House of Representatives. The check kiting scandal, the House post office scandal, the personal campaign issues of Dan Rostenkowski, the leadership weaknesses of Tom Foley, the failure to deal properly with ethical failures, and the overreaching of the Clintons on the Health Care plan. It was a shellacking at both the federal and state levels.
And the reason it was so, was because the Republicans promised to clean up the act in the House and Senate. And they did a decent job of it. The Clinton impeachment, whatever one thought of it, showed that the Republicans remained true to their values. During that time, Newt Gingrich was accused of ethical shortcomings and of having an affair. The charges were just that (charges), but they carried enough weight that Newt resigned his post and his House seat. His Speaker replacement, Bob Livingston, couldn't bear the guilt of past indiscretions about which almost nobody knew. Plenty of folks knew after he made a public confession a day or so later. He followed Newt, resigning post and seat. And Bob Packwood. Decent Senator, dirty old man. He left the Senate (under threat of removal, of course), and went about his life after evidence-heavy allegations that he was a womanizer and harasser.
But now, Abigail Adams' words about absolute power corrupting absolutely are coming back to knock on the door of the current House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay. DeLay has been indicted back in Texas on what appear to be politically motivated, trumped-up charges by a malicious prosecutor who may have picked the wrong battle. So, in response, DeLay arranged for the abrogation of a House rule which requires leadership members to be stripped of their roles upon an indictment. It was a good rule. But just when it first was going to see use, the majority leader squashes it. Smell a little funny to you?
Jonathan Last posted this article on Galley Slaves today which I had missed on the topic.
But the greater point in the matter is that regardless of the merit of the charges, or the motivation of some Democrat prosecutor, the honorable thing to do would have been to lay aside the leadership office and wait for the smoke to clear. But excepting a very reasonable rule designed to police the party just because it has become "inconvenient" is unacceptable. And it's is the very kind of thing that made the Democrats the minority party 10 years ago. Political arrogance.
The Republican majority is not about one man. It's about a set of ideals. The moment--the instant--that we weaken them for one person is the moment we start accepting even more deviant behavior. We will have lost our mandate and on a cold night in November at some point in the future, we'll be looking to rent moving trucks before January.
Note to my Republican brethren: It can and will happen to you too if you don't take personal discipline seriously. So it comes down to whether Republicans would rather have a tarnished Majority Leader DeLay or a Speaker Pelosi? To quote Bill Murray/Bob Wiley from "What About Bob?", "It makes my lips numb!"