DeLay Leaves Congress, Nasty as Ever
Today marks Tom DeLay's last day in Congress, and, with any luck at all, the beginning of the end of the super-partisan atmosphere he has worked so hard to create during his years in the House of Representatives.
In a farewell speech unlike any I've ever read (I couldn't bring myself to watch it for fear my stomach wouldn't be able to take it), Tom DeLay delivered a paean to partisanship on the floor of the House yesterday, unrepentant and vicious to the last.
Here's a sample:
"In preparing for today, I found that it is customary in speeches such as these to reminisce about the good old days of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie, and to lament the bitter, divisive partisan rancor that supposedly now weakens our democracy.
Well, I can't do that because partisanship, Mr. Speaker, properly understood, is not a symptom of democracy's weakness but of its health and its strength, especially from the perspective of a political conservative.
...You show me a nation without partisanship, and I'll show you a tyranny. For all its faults, it is partisanship, based on core principles, that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream, and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.
Indeed, whatever role partisanship may have played in my own retirement today or in the unfriendliness heaped upon other leaders in other times, Republican or Democrat, however unjust, all we can say is that partisanship is the worst means of settling fundamental political differences -- except for all the others.
Now, politics demands compromise. And Mr. Speaker, and even the most partisan among us have to understand that, but we must never forget that compromise and bipartisanship are means, not ends, and are properly employed only in the service of higher principles.
It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first principle.
For the true statesman, Mr. Speaker, we are not defined by what they compromise, but by what they don't."
I could not disagree more. While compromise for the sake of compromise is not healthy for a government, neither is partisanship for the sake of partisanship ... in fact I'd argue it's worse. Some of the most effective and best pieces of legislation have emerged after compromise and long debate; that is how good laws are passed, not by shoving them through unread in the wee hours of the morning after a hours-long roll call votes. Debate, discussion, and yes, compromise with all those concerned, not just within the majority caucus, is what we should strive for in our representative government.
Tom DeLay has done more damage to the House of Representatives, the Republican Party, and the political climate of the United States than any other single person in recent memory. I am not sad to see him go, and I hope that his departure will signal the start of a reversal of the trends he perpetuated and exacerbated in recent years.
Good riddance, Mr. DeLay.