Representative Tom DeLay gave his farewell address in the United States Congress yesterday. Here's an excerpt:
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.
Liberalism, after all, whatever you may think of its merits, is a political philosophy and a proud one with a great tradition in this country, with a voracious appetite for growth.
In any place or any time on any issue, what does liberalism ever seek, Mr. Speaker? More -- more government, more taxation, more control over people's lives and decisions and wallets. If conservatives don't stand up to liberalism, no one will. And for a long time around here, almost no one did.
Indeed, the common lament over the recent rise in political partisanship is often nothing more than a veiled complaint instead about the recent rise of political conservatism.
I should add here that I do not begrudge liberals their nostalgia for the days of a timid, docile and permanent Republican minority.
If we Republicans had ever enjoyed that same luxury over the last 12 years, heck, I'd be nostalgic too.
Had liberals not fought us tooth and nail over tax cuts and budget cuts and energy and Iraq, and partial-birth abortion, those of us on this side of the aisle could only imagine all the additional things we could have accomplished.
But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, they didn't agree with us. So to their credit, they stood up to us, they argued with us, and they did so honorably, on behalf of more than 100 million people, just like we did against President Clinton and they did against President Reagan.
Now it goes without saying, Mr. Speaker, that by my count, our friends on the other side of the aisle lost every one of those arguments over the last 22 years, but that's beside the point.
The point is, we disagree. On first principles, Mr. Speaker, we disagree. And so we debate, often loudly, and often in vain, to convince our opponents and the American people of our point of view.
We debate here on the House floor, we debate in committees, we debate on television and on radio and on the Internet and in the newspapers and then every two years, we have a huge debate. And then in November, we see who won. That is not rancor, that is democracy.
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.
Conservatives, especially less enamored of government's lust for growth, must remember that our principles must always drive our agenda and not the other way around. For us, conservatives, there are two such principles that can never be honorably compromised: human freedom and human dignity.
Now, our agenda over the last 12 years has been an outgrowth of these first principles.
We lowered taxes to increase freedom.
We reformed welfare programs that however well intentioned undermined the dignity of work and personal responsibility and perpetuated poverty.
We have opposed abortion, cloning and euthanasia, because such procedures fundamentally deny the unique dignity of the human person.
And we have supported the spread of democracy and the ongoing war against terror, because those policies protect and affirm the inalienable human right of all men and women and children to live in freedom.
Conservatism is often unfairly accused of being insensitive and mean-spirited, sometimes unfortunately even by other conservatives. As a result, conservatives often attempt to soften that stereotype by overfunding broken programs or glossing over ruinous policies.
But conservatism isn't about feeling people's pain, it's about curing it.
And the results since the first great conservative victory in 1980 speak for themselves: millions of new jobs, new homes and new businesses created thanks to conservative economic reforms; millions of families intact and enriched by the move from welfare to work; hundreds of millions of people around the world liberated by a conservative foreign policy's victory over Soviet communism; and more than 50 million Iraqis and Afghanis liberated from tyranny since September the 11th, 2001.
To all the critics of the supposedly mean-spirited conservative policies that brought about these results, I say only this: Compassionate is as compassionate does.