Texas DA Ronnie Earle's grand jury finally indicted Tom DeLay. Today was the last day of the grand jury's session. If I remember previous stories correctly, DeLay would have escaped charges under the statute of limitations for election crimes if Earle had failed to get an indictment by today.
The four-page indictment of DeLay, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee, reads:
The defendants entered into an agreement with each other or with TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee) to make a political contribution in violation of the Texas election code. The contribution was made directly to the Republican National Committee within 60 days of a general election.
Meanwhile, the House GOP rules that require any member of the leadership wh is indicted to step down are taking effect.
Rep. Tom DeLay said Wednesday he will step aside as House majority leader following his indictment by a Texas grand jury on conspiracy charges.
GOP congressional officials said Speaker Dennis Hastert will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into the duties relinquished by DeLay.
Some of the duties may go to the GOP whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. The Republican rank and file may meet as early as Wednesday night to act on Hastert's recommendation.
DeLay will keep his seat while the legal dram runs its course. No doubt he will continue to have influence. There are a couple of interesting dramas than will play out now.
The national GOP is going to try and get the troops to rally around DeLay. They might find some resistance. The spreading puddle of slime surrounding DeLay and Abramoff is causing many Republicans to take flight. While some will want to distance themselves from the corruption seeking no more than to protect what they already have, others will see and opportunity to advance their careers. DeLay's "temporary" abdication of his leadership posts creates an opening for others to move up. There are plenty of Republicans who will want to make their advances permanent.
The national Democrats have an amazing opportunity here. In the last few weeks, the national news media has finally begun to develop a narrative of corruption, cronyism, and incompitence for the Bush administration and Republicans in general. This is old news to most of and we have been beating our heads bloody waiting for them to catch on. Well, they're here. Now we need "our" party to do their part.
This is where all of that talk about messaging comes into play. Many people find the whole messaging meme to be annoying. It can be over emphasized. "Message" grates on many people's nerves as appearing to value image over substance. We also need good policies, smart candidates, and money. But these don't mean squat if we can't communicate them to the voters. The art of politics is just marketing with politicians and policy as the product. We need to convince people that our product is better than the conservative/Republican product.
In 1994, Newt Gingrich told Republicans to never use the name "Clinton" without getting the word "criminal" in the same sentence. With nothing specific to back it up, people began to feel that there was something slippery, something not quite right about the Clinton administration. They liked most of their policies and voted for them, but most people felt like they had to qualify their approval or apologize for it.
Gingrich managed to create that sense when there was nothing really wrong with the Clintons. Imagine how much easier it should be for us when there really is abundant corruption, cronyism, and incompetence in the ruling party. At this point we need message discipline. Our goal should not be to destroy DeLay, but rather to make every Republican in the country responsible for DeLay. When ever any Republican, right down to the dog-catcher and school-board level shows their face in public, they should be confronted with DeLay and Abramoff and made to defend their association with the party of corruption.
If we get tired of talking about DeLay and Abramoff, let's talk about the religious fringe. Let's talk about the party that believes in creationism and that hurricanes are caused by skimpy Mardi Gras costumes and gay pride parades. Let's hang Robertson and Dobson around their necks along with DeLay and Abramoff.
There is easily enough sleaze and craziness out there to carry us through the 2006 election season and beyond. If the Democrats fail to carry this through, they don't deserve to be a party any more.