Karl, this is what happens when you deal with the devil

[Looooong overdue response to a commenter's request in the previous post for my take on the whole DeLay sitch.]

To sum up: I am gleeful. And not in a gracious way, either. Watching the self-immolation of one of the nastiest, most corrupt politicians in modern times is immensely satisfying. It certainly hasn't come soon enough, considering the damage he's done, but at least the time finally has come and his days of destruction to this nation's legislative and judicial process are finally coming to an end.

My main concern at this point is how quickly he goes down. Were it my choice, I'd like to see him circling the bowl for a good long time, well into the 2006 mid-terms, if possible. As it stands now, he's effectively quarantined -- his congressional toadies and lobbying cronies can't distance themselves fast enough and his corporate donors have all but disappeared -- so he's not wielding nearly the power through fear he did when the vast majority of the country didn't know who the hell he was. Plus, Jack Abramoff is clearly pissed that DeLay's betrayed him and is out to shiv the ol' Hammer in the back and that, coupled with the still ongoing criminal investigation by Ronnie Earle, it must be getting a little cramped on both sides over in Tommy's world.

That's not to say he still doesn't wield a considerable amount of power. The vast majority of the Republican Congress lives in fear of finding a horse head in their bed from Mr. DeLay, and though they would like nothing more than to get him off their backs so they can get on with their corrupting and/or meddling business, he's got too many of them by the nads for them to turn on him outright. He knows where too many of the bodies are buried at this point, so it's all a kind of psychotic Mexican standoff, which can be highly entertaining as long as you're not caught in the crossfire.

Which means that the longer he's still around and still in charge, the longer he hangs around their necks like lead anchors and sucks them further down to political oblivion. Some of them will remain taint free, but there are a lot that're mired almost as deep as he is. And that, my friends, is a recipe for a majority switch in the Congress.

Overly optimistic? Probably. For one thing, the Democrats need to get a whole lot better at using DeLay as a paintbrush for the entire Republican Party, to make him the face of the GOP, so that when people thing Republican Congress, they're put in mind of a slimy ex-exterminator from Texas who couldn't take a breath without doing something criminal. In other words, they need to make sure the American electorate understands that DeLay isn't an exception, but that he's representative of everything that's wrong with today's Republican Party.

At this point, I'm doubtful the Democrats are savvy enough to make the most of this opportunity. Reid's certainly been running circles around them politically over in the Senate, but Pelosi's wins haven't been as obvious (though I must say, she's been making some smart decisions of late). And anyway, Pelosi's got her hands full with the Blue Dog Democrats at the moment, so until she starts planting horse heads in a few beds, the job of painting the Republican Party with the color of DeLay is going to have to fall to other people.

I'm also intrigued how this power struggle will shake out between DeLay and Rove. Karl must surely have himself tied into a nasty snarl of a knot over this thing, because he knows DeLay is hurting them and will continue to hurt them. DeLay may be forgetting his history -- specifically, what happened to the Democrats in '94 -- but Rove got where he is by not forgetting his. Trouble is, he can't just get rid of the guy like he would anyone else, because DeLay wields as much power in the Party as Rove. The Administration may owe their political victories and survival to Rove, but the Congressional members owe their careers and fortunes (and their souls) to DeLay. And since DeLay isn't going quietly into that sweet goodnight, this thing could shape up into a right proper power struggle with lots of carnage and loud explosions. Heh. Looks like it's time to break out the popcorn.

Time will tell, of course. Anything that happens with DeLay at this point is a win for the Democrats, but whether he's gone in a month or a year, it's up to them to capitalize on it.

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