In the diagram, House
Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican lobbyist Jack
Abramoff, Senior Adviser to President Bush Karl Rove,
Chief-of-Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney I. Lewis
Libby, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist are floating
heads, divorced from anything corporeal. I can’t
help but feel sorry for these gold-hearted men, clearly
wronged by a faulty judicial system.
I have a really warm place in my heart for Tom DeLay
because I once saw him in action. When I was eighteen,
I spent my summer as a Congressional Intern. Back
then, Tom DeLay was the majority whip and in my office,
his name came up daily. Being a Congressional Intern
meant an incalculable amount of busy work, but when
the Legislative Assistants were too busy to delegate
responsibility, they told me to look for votes that
interested me and to take the underground train to
the Capitol, where I could watch floor debates.
It had been an interesting summer. President Clinton
was in the process of being impeached, but there was
not yet a feeling of democratic impotence. I went
down to a vote one afternoon regarding some restriction
on late-term abortion. Representatives Smith and DeLay
had collaborated to make to the House a presentation
on the specifics of abortion. I watched Tom DeLay
preach goodness to all Americans as he pointed to
an enlarged picture of a fetus being extracted from
a woman’s birth canal.
He was a God-fearing moralist, that much was clear.
Where, oh where, did Tom DeLay go wrong?
I was so ready to believe the “I am a more
ethical human being than you” platitude that
he put forth on that July afternoon all those years
ago. And now Representative DeLay, God in his own
right, has been indicted for (gasp!) money laundering.
I also can’t help but feel like they should
have done a better job of not getting caught. Say
what you will about Bill Clinton’s White House
indiscretions. Certainly he, too, should have known
that his affair was doomed from the beginning. But
what I do not understand is how five men in the biggest
arena of American politics expected to get away with
Tom, how could you have been so stupid? Didn’t
you realize that corporate contributions managed by
your aides that were then passed down to political
action committees that were then passed down to Texas
state candidates would later be traceable to you?
Couldn’t you, the sympathetic and sharp mind
behind the elegant late-term abortion presentation,
have thought of a better plan?
I say this with the greatest compassion. Bill Frist’s
HCA stock debacle could have been avoided if he’d
just done his insider trading differently. Karl Rove’s
Plume drama could have been orchestrated so much less
obviously. Jack Abramoff could have maintained a bit
of distance from the Konstantinos Boulis murder he
may have helped plan.
Clearly these are not bad men, evildoers, sinners.
These are upstanding citizens who have made silly
mistakes. If it were the other way around, and Democrats
were now falling left and right, I know that these
men would express the same sentiment and find no humor
in the dismal defeat of one party.
These things don’t define character. Compassion
and goodness are defined by action. Obviously Tom
DeLay cares about the poor and about women’s
rights and about due process and about race relations
in the United States and about things that don’t
involve padding his own pockets. Obviously Karl Rove’s
involvement in the Valerie Plame case had nothing
to do with the fact that Plame’s husband, Joseph
C. Wilson IV, had voiced opposition to the administration’s
pro-war stance. Obviously Bill Frist never once talked
to his brother, Thomas Frist, Jr.—HCA’s
chairman emeritus and largest shareholder—about
buying or selling. Obviously.
This is defamation of character, is it not? Good
men behind bars, ridiculous accusations, a system
crumbling from within—this is the stuff of movies,
not American politics. Because a system like ours,
a fluid and well-functioning democracy, would never
permit foul and morally untethered men to rise to
Or would it?
Hannah Selinger is a weekly contributor to Raw