Newsweek's Alter: "Corrupt Zealot" DeLay, "Fringe" Running House
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter launched a vicious attack, on Congressman Tom DeLay's ideology, in this week's magazine. Promoting it, on Monday's Imus in the Morning on MSNBC, he charged that "it's the first time in 200 years that the House of Representatives has been run for a whole decade, or almost a decade, by a corrupt zealot." That matched the language in his one-page piece, "Tom DeLay's House of Shame," in which he contended: "I have no idea if DeLay has technically broken the law. What interests me is how this moderate, evenly divided nation came to be ruled on at least one side of Capitol Hill by a zealot." The pull-out quote in the hard copy edition, and the subhead online, read: "Congress has always had its share of extremists. But the DeLay era is the first time the fringe has ever been in charge." Alter maintained that "the only reason the House hasn't done even more damage is that the Senate often sands down the most noxious ideas, making the bills merely bad, not disastrous."
Full MRC CyberAlert article follows.
In another story in the cover story package for the October 10 magazine, Newsweek's writers credited a tax hike for the "prosperity" of the 1990s. In a profile of DeLay, "The Exterminator Expelled. Born again. Tom DeLay's rise -- and the risks that could end it," Evan Thomas, Holly Bailey and Michael Isikof included this paragraph:
"Republican moderates, in DeLay's book, were moral compromisers. Chief offender was President George H.W. Bush, who showed his alleged lack of fiber by raising taxes in 1990 (which set the stage for the decade of prosperity to follow, but ideologues see only what they want to see, and they wanted to see the senior Bush as an un-True Believer)."
"With Eleanor Clift" appeared at the end of the article, prompting one to wonder if that was a line Clift snuck in.
The MRC's Brian Boyd caught this comment from Alter in a 6:30am EDT half hour appearance by phone on Monday's Imus in the Morning on MSNBC: "I don't have a clue as to whether DeLay violated the law or not, this very old Texas statute that he's been indicted on, but I do know it's the first time in 200 years that the House of Representatives has been run for a whole decade, or almost a decade, by a corrupt zealot. You know, we normally have people who are more in the middle of the road who run the major chambers of Congress. And this is, I think historians will look back and say this is about as bad as it's gotten in the whole history, long and colorful history of the House."
An excerpt from Alter's October 10 Newsweek article:
A decade ago, I paid a call on Tom DeLay in his ornate office in the Capitol. I had heard a rumor about him that I figured could not possibly be true. The rumor was that after the GOP took control of the House that year, DeLay had begun keeping a little black book with the names of Washington lobbyists who wanted to come see him. If the lobbyists were not Republicans and contributors to his power base, they didn't get into "the people's House." DeLay not only confirmed the story, he showed me the book. His time was limited, DeLay explained with a genial smile. Why should he open his door to people who were not on the team?
Thus began what historians will regard as the single most corrupt decade in the long and colorful history of the House of Representatives. Come on, you say. How about all those years when congressmen accepted cash in the House chamber and then staggered onto the floor drunk? Yes, special interests have bought off members of Congress at least since Daniel Webster took his seat while on the payroll of a bank. And yes, Congress over the years has seen dozens of sex scandals and dozens of members brought low by financial improprieties. But never before has the leadership of the House been hijacked by a small band of extremists bent on building a ruthless shakedown machine, lining the pockets of their richest constituents and rolling back popular protections for ordinary people. These folks borrow like banana republics and spend like Tip O'Neill on speed.
I have no idea if DeLay has technically broken the law. What interests me is how this moderate, evenly divided nation came to be ruled on at least one side of Capitol Hill by a zealot. This is a man who calls the Environmental Protection Agency "the Gestapo of government" and favors repealing the Clean Air Act because "it's never been proven that air toxins are hazardous to people"; who insists repeatedly that judges on the other side of issues "need to be intimidated" and rejects the idea of a separation of church and state; who claims there are no parents trying to raise families on the minimum wage -- that "fortunately, such families do not exist" (at least Newt Gingrich was intrigued by the challenges of poverty); who once said: "A woman can't take care of the family. It takes a man to provide structure." I could go on all day. Congress has always had its share of extremists. But the DeLay era is the first time the fringe has ever been in charge....
A new book, "Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy," by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, explains how the GOP is simply better than the Democratic Party at the basic blocking and tackling of politics, including the exploitation of cultural and religious issues. The authors argue that even if DeLay goes down, the zealotry and corporate shilling will continue as long as the GOP controls the House. Consider DeLay's temporary replacement, Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt. The Washington Post reported last week that Blunt is respected by Republican members in part because he has "strong ties to the Washington lobbying community." That's a qualification for office?
The only reason the House hasn't done even more damage is that the Senate often sands down the most noxious ideas, making the bills merely bad, not disastrous. What next for the House of Shame? If DeLay's acquitted, he'll be back in power. If he's convicted, his proteges will continue his work. Reform efforts by fiscal conservatives determined to curb their borrow-and-spend colleagues are probably doomed. The only way to get rid of the termites eating away the people's House is to stamp them out at the next election.
END of Excerpt