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Thursday, April 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Froma Harrop / Syndicated columnist

Exit stage right, without DeLay

Tom DeLay's good pal Jack Abramoff is crooning to investigators. His former aide, Michael Scanlon, has pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is singing harmony with the Justice Department. Ditto DeLay's former chief of staff, Tony Rudy. And a third aide, Emily Miller, is now doing an aria on the crimes of Scanlon, her ex-fiancé. Scanlon had bought Miller a $4.7 million beach mansion as a wedding present, then jilted her for a 24-year-old waitress. Bad move. There's now more singing from DeLay's former associates than in the tavern scene from "Carmen."

And so the former House majority leader could not have chosen a more opportune time to exit the national stage. He has told the media that rather than waste his precious energies seeking re-election in his Houston district, he will work to "grow the Republican majority."

He didn't mention this, but his poll numbers are lousy. And despite then being a powerful Republican in Republican Washington, the voters in his district gave DeLay a mere 55-percent victory last time against a little-known Democrat who received no help from House Democrats.

DeLay will not lack for activity. For one thing, he can use his freed-up time to deal with a federal money-laundering charge. He can also defend himself against charges in Texas that he conspired to violate that state's campaign-finance laws.

Like crooked lobbyist Abramoff, disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and other colorful inmates from Newt Gingrich's Republican Revolution, DeLay could be counted on to say bizarre things — for example, that the Environmental Protection Agency is "the Gestapo of government."

The whole DeLay troupe had a soft spot for violent language. During the Clinton impeachment, Scanlon reportedly wrote an e-mail saying, "Not only do you kick him (Clinton) — you kick him until he passes out — then beat him over the head with a baseball bat," and so on and so forth.

Even the scorned fiancée, Emily Miller, got into the spirit. She yelled at a reporter, "You lied!" and, "You are dead to us," according to a Washington Post story.

DeLay liked to fight wars. In his war against democracy, he led the battle to redraw congressional districts in Texas — in mid-decade, rather than wait for the next census as is normally done — for the benefit of Republicans. He allegedly participated in a scheme to launder campaign money in violation of Texas election laws. He helped engineer the "bourgeois riot" in Miami to stop the recount of votes in the 2000 presidential election.

DeLay's greatest effort to defeat American democracy was his role in establishing the "K Street Project." That was a pay-to-play setup whereby Washington lobbyists were told to hire Republicans and contribute to the party if they wanted their phone calls returned.

In the war over Terri Schiavo, he issued a thinly veiled threat to the judges who had ruled in her husband's favor: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

The only war DeLay didn't show up for was Vietnam.

The Almanac of American Politics says that DeLay's voting record was "very conservative." It seems odd that someone who pushes for massive new government spending and tax cuts at the same time would be called "conservative." Nor did DeLay take much care in how the money was spent. The pork-filled transportation bill was so outlandish that it amounts to taxpayer abuse.

DeLay said he'd support the campaign of Rep. Nick Smith's son, if the Michigan Republican agreed to vote for the Medicare drug benefit. This is a virtual bribe offer, for which the House ethics committee issued a warning. Smith voted against the drug benefit. DeLay's buddy Cunningham of California told Smith, "Your son is dead meat."

While DeLay vows to continue helping the Republican Party, Democrats should not get their hopes up. His pileup of ethical misdeeds have made DeLay unsuitable company, even by the lenient standards of the Republican leadership.

I earlier referred to "Carmen." This opera is more like "Pagliacci." It ends with clowns fighting clowns. In the final scene, the head clown stands in the village square and gasps, "La commedia e finita."

The Republican Revolution is "finita" for sure.

Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is fharrop@projo.com

2006, The Providence Journal Co.

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