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Pundit Roundtable

Hello, this is NOT George Stuffinenvelopes, but Ken McCracken, bringing you PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, your blog alternative to the Sunday morning talking head shows.

Our classy pundits this week have been asked these questions: Tom Delay was indicted and arrested this week - is this a real prosecution or political payback? Did Delay make himself a target? Is this really bad for the Republicans, or could it backfire on Democrats? Will there be any long-term effects from this going into the 2006 elections?


Our first guest is Rick Moran from Rightwing Nuthouse. Rick, what do you think?

I'm not sure that DeLay is entirely innocent in the matter. He's certainly guilty of violating the spirit of the law if not the letter.

That said, Ronnie Earle is a tool. He reminds me of New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison who absolutely destroyed the life of Clay Shaw by indicting him for the murder of President Kennedy. Oliver Stone has obscured the prosecutorial misconduct of Garrison who publicly declared on more than one occasion that the murder of Kennedy was a homosexual thrill killing. Garrison was a threat to the justice system because he sought to use the prosecution of an innocent man to achieve high office; he wanted to run for governor. Earle is a threat to the justice system precisely because he has abused the process to achieve a desired political end. DeLay may be guilty - but Earle should be disbarred.

I don't think the effect in '06 will be quite what Democrats hope. The feeling of revulsion that swept the Democrats from power in 1994 built up over many years. But unless Bush can find a way to energize the base, I believe there is an outside chance that the Democrats can win the Senate. Several Republican candidates with state-wide name recognition and access to funds could have challenged incumbent Democrats but decided against it. I take this to mean internal polling for these candidates show that 2006 could in fact be a Democratic year.

They may be right.

illinois.gif Home State: Illinois.


Our next guest is Rob Port of Say Anything. Rob?

Tom Delay was indicted and arrested this week - is this a real prosecution or political payback?

I'm no legal expert, but from what I've heard of the situation it took Earle three separate grand juries to finally get DeLay booked on a crime. The first grand jury refused to indict. The second indicted him for violating a 2003 law in 2002. The third grand jury was presented evidence that the prosecutor has now "lost." Is this a weak indictment? It sure looks that way to me. Is it politically motivated? Given what we know about Earle, it sure sounds like it. Unless there is evidence presented during the trial that isn't public now I can't see DeLay getting convicted of anything. I think this all had more to do with Earle getting DeLay in front of a mugshot camera. Its all about muddying the waters.

Is this really bad for the Republicans, or could it backfire on Democrats?

I'm not sure anyone can say right now. The way DeLay handled that mugshot was a master stroke. He hasn't backed down one bit, and I think that will have some people taking a long, hard look at what Earle is doing. On the flip side, a lot of people who aren't paying close attention are just going to read the "DeLay Indicted" headlines and jump to the conclusion that he's guilty. We Americans have a way of doing that to big-name defendants. Once somebody is indicted, as far as most Americans are concerned, its up to that person to prove their innocence. If DeLay gets a quick acquittal I think it will end up looking the Democrats look stupid. But really only to the people who are paying attention. To everybody else DeLay will just be "that guy who got indicted." Which was probably Earle's point to begin with.

Will there be any long-term effects from this going into the 2006 elections?

DeLay is up in 2006. If it impacts anybody it will hurt him. I don't see this really playing into any other Congressional races.

northdakota.gif Home State: North Dakota.


Next is Laurence Simon, who I bet has an opinion on this -

Tom Delay recently said that there was no more room for cuts in the federal budget. I don't care if he's a saint that makes campaign money fall from the sky or if he rapes and murders puppies to raise money from perverted psychopaths with big checkbooks - it takes a special kind of asshole to say such a thing and that kind of asshole doesn't need to be in Washington representing any portion of this country.

texasredpic.gif Home State: Texas


Now we turn to Hoodlumman of File It Under, what do you think?

This is a pretty solid case of political payback. Between the lack of evidence and the fact that it took a few grand juries to get an indictment, I can't imagine anything will come of this. I can see Delay emerging from this even stronger in the scenario where he is exonerated and Earle's gets the tables turned on him with his witch hunt.

I don't think it'll backfire on the Dems for the same reason I don't think it'll affect the 2006 elections: people will forget. I think the only people paying attention to this are the ones that can't be swayed one way or another.

texasredpic.gif Home State: Texas.


Dean Esmay is our next guest. Dean, whaddya say?

I have no idea whether the charges against DeLay are legitimate or political payback or not and to be honest with you I'm not entirely sure whether I or anyone should care at this point. I'll make my judgements once both sides have had their day in court.

Politics in this country has been blood sport since about the late 1980s from what I've seen. So would I be surprised if DeLay were guilty? No. Would I be surprised if he were innocent and it were a partisan set-up job? No. Both look plausible to me. Yes, the prosecutor's defenders say he's prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans, and that's true, but it's also true that most of those prosecutions were from a time when Texas was a one-party solidly Democratic state and the conservative Democrats hated the liberal Democrats.

It's also the case that our nation's campaign finance system is a horrible mess, and Texas laws have just confounded a horried mess further. It's entirely plausble for someone who doesn't even mean to do anything wrong to violate these oppressive, 1st amendment trashing laws. We won't get clean campaign finance laws until we do the right thing, stop limiting campaign contributions to parties or candidates, and merely require full disclosure over the internet of all donations made to any candidate or party, and end it there, allowing voters to make up their own minds over what seems dirty and what doesn't.

That said, if DeLay goes down I won't shed a tear because anyone who's been in Congress for more than 20 years is corrupt in some fashion anyway, morally if not legally.

michiganbluepic.gif Home State: Michigan.


Now we turn to Will Franklin to get his view, I know he has something to say on this -

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, and if we're really moving to a climate where we prosecute run-of-the-mill fundraising practices, you can bet that dozens of high level Congressional Democrats are now worrying, privately, that this thing may boomarang back on themselves. Think back to the silly ethics controversy over junkets. Turned out that Democrats were the kings of junkets. So, like clockwork, the story went away in a hurry.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: Tom DeLay didn't line his own pockets with these relatively minor amounts of campaign cash. He didn't change his mind or his position because of any individual or corporate or other contribution to his PAC. Tom DeLay is a conservative warrior, a true believer, who simply sought to raise as much money as possible, in a fashion that has been accepted as not only legal but expected, in order to advance his philosophy. Not only that, but the relatively small amount of money in question hardly could have influenced the 2002 election, especially as the Democrats outspent Republicans by leaps and bounds during that campaign cycle.

Everyone knew the stakes of the 2002 elections in Texas. Democrats pumped in millions upon millions of out-of-state money into the races. Democrats also leaned on tens upon tens of millions of self-financing from Tony Sanchez. Democrats believed they had a "dream team" assembled, with every demographic group and region of the state represented. How could they lose?

But Texans rejected the Democrats, yet again. Despite being outspent and outmanned and out-yard-signed and out-media'ed by Democrats, Republicans still won every statewide position in the state.

And that's what the American people need to realize here.

And ultimately, Americans like winners, especially in these sorts of prosecutions. DeLay can beat this and storm back onto the scene triumphantly, flaunting his success in beating the spiteful partisan prosecution against him.

texasredpic.gif Home State: Texas


Because I am the host, I get the last word. Tom Delay did make himself a target. He is an effective, very partisan member of Congress, who didn't exactly endear himself to the opposition. That doesn't make him a criminal.

This 'prosecution' is not about campaign financing violations, or any other wrongs committed by Tom Delay. It is about punishing Delay for house redistricting in Texas, which produced a seismic shift in Texas politics in favor of the Republicans. It is about demonizing an effective political enemy, and having a new whipping boy to enable the DNC and MoveOn.org to raise money for '06.

I gotta say though, that mugshot makes Delay look like a cuddly Sunday school teacher.

One who puts the interests of party ahead of fairness and the law is the very definition of a partisan hack, and this makes Ronnie Earle the ultimate party hack. When this is all over, I hope the Texas bar considers disbarring him.

As for the effect on the '06 elections, I think the Democrats will get as much out of this prosecution as the Republicans did for impeaching Bill Clinton - that is, not much. These scoundrels have a way of making themselves look lovable in their most dire hours.

illinois.gif Home State: Illinois


That's all for this week, thank you pundits for participating, and tune in again next Sunday for PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 23 October 2005 10:11 AM


Way better than Meet The Press.

Posted by: Will Franklin at October 23, 2005 12:18 PM

Excellent, Ken. Very enjoyable and informative. A great idea.

I hope you do it again.

Posted by: Rob at October 23, 2005 12:47 PM

I agree with Rob. FWIW, MT says I'm pinging one, lone, solitary Willisms trackback with no other sites included "too quickly." So MT may be having difficulties. Or it could be Haloscan... who knows?

Posted by: Hoodlumman at October 23, 2005 01:15 PM

This is way more interesting than Meet the Press! ...Although I haven't watched Meet the Press for quite some time now... My husband gets irritated when I watch liberal MSM shows!... Thanks guys! Very interesting thought provoking ideas!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at October 23, 2005 01:44 PM

I like the broad spectrum of answers. While there were certain concensus points, some of th eminor variences on the results were the most interesting parts of it. Overall, I hope you guys do ths again. It was a really good read.

Posted by: Rob B. at October 24, 2005 12:46 AM

Well, Rob, I think I might just invite YOU next week to be a guest pundit.

Unless you have to vacuum the cat or mop the ceiling or something like that.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at October 24, 2005 04:13 AM

I may have to hot wax the fridge, but I'm sure that I can squeze some time in between changing the spark plugs on the playstation and windexing drapes.

Posted by: Rob B. at October 24, 2005 11:01 AM