Tom DeLay and the Politics of Power

Tom DeLay is now fighting two indictments. Welcome to Washington — Washington via Travis County, Texas, but Washington nonetheless.

Let us not get caught up in the details here — they are meaningless. Just as the details of previous ethics charges leveled at DeLay are meaningless. This is the deal: DeLay wields power. He uses that power to change the system to fit his conservative political principles. He is unapologetic about it. People hate that.

DeLay is an abomination to most of official Washington, including the mainstream media. DeLay is a guy who has gathered power in a tireless and methodical way over the course of years. He does the work. He then uses that power to change the world as he sees it. He is successful. The mainstream media have dubbed him “The Hammer.” They may have it right. Exercise of power is the essence of politics. DeLay gets the essence; he just does not seem to have much time for subtleties. There is nothing subtle about a hammer.

In Washington, we are accustomed to people exercising power and then softening it with manipulation, obfuscation, dissembling and, sometimes, outright lying. It is the job of political journalism to untangle it if possible. For most Washington players, using power transparently is just not done. There is something faintly embarrassing about it. DeLay obviously does not see it that way. He thinks there is a job to be done and he is confident he can do it.

There is a code of conduct in Washington. It is common for highly partisan power players to be best friends, drink together and commiserate with each other — then blast each other in public. As they see it, they are just doing their jobs. If there is actual dislike among political combatants, it is even more likely that they will refer to each other as distinguished friends and colleagues. When someone breaks this code — says what he means, uses his power with transparency — there is only one option. Bury him.

This is most often done with manipulation, obfuscation and dissembling — something the mainstream media probably should but won’t label “The Shovel.” Opponents cannot bring themselves to trust the democratic process to work. In DeLay’s case, his constituents have obviously been unreliable in removing him from office. Clearly help is needed in the form of ongoing ethics charges and an indictment.

No one can reliably predict whether “The Hammer” will prevail or be shoveled into oblivion. I would say it depends on the American people getting the facts, and then deciding which exercise of power they prefer.

Kim Hume is Vice President, Bureau Chief of FOX News, Washington.