Friday, September 30, 2005

DeLay's defense

The indicted Tom DeLay has a choice. Play to the jury, or play to the public. Think selfishly about his own hide, or try to staunch the political wound cut deep into the Washington establishment he helped to build.

It's clear that he's pursuing the latter.

In fact, he's treating this as a diversion, a fait accompli. He told the New York Times, and I'm sure lots of other news organizations, "When this is over, I go back to being majority leader automatically."

He went on to make some as of yet unsubstantiated claims, saying:

Mr. DeLay said in an interview on CNN that he had evidence to show that the House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, and other prominent Democrats had pressured the Travis County district attorney, Ronnie Earle, also a Democrat, to pursue the indictment.

"I'm sure that they worked closely with Ronnie Earle on this strategy," he said, adding that he would make the evidence public "when it's timely."

Now, I'm not privy to what conversations Earle or Pelosi have. But I can't imagine this so-called "evidence" is anything more than public statements Pelosi has issued consistently on DeLay's corruption. If she has done more to try to influence Earle or the grand jury, that's worthy of criticism, investigation, etc. I don't know what the law is around trying to influence a grand jury investigation.

The bigger point is this: DeLay, as the Times' Shenon points out, is "usually far more reluctant than some of his Congressional colleagues to submit to broadcast interviews" and that's because he has a combative, caustic public presence. He doesn't know how to give an inch. He knows no humility in political matters. It is not in his nature to act the least bit contrite.

A court date in October is set for DeLay to enter his plea. They're pushing for a quick trial or dismissal. He's got a few months to figure out how to relate to a jury who hold far more power over his political future than the Republican caucus in Washington. The more he plays to exonerate himself in the press by smearing his opponents, the less he defends himself. Is a jury going to look at Tom DeLay and see a victim or a sympathetic figure? No way. That doesn't mean automatic conviction. But DeLay isn't helping himself.

UPDATE: The trial date isn't set, I've been told... my mistake. The October date is for his plea. I've fixed the error in the post above.


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