How Tom DeLay Creates a Problem for Bush and the GOP
Paul Krugman points out today the threat and sleaze that Tom DeLay represents. The column, as usual, does a good job of portraying the threat that is Tom DeLay, and it is high time that DeLay is called to account for his behavior. The moderate GOP members in the House will not begin to stand up to DeLay until they see that he is damaging their own survival. And that will only happen if the Democrats in both the House and Senate are willing to call DeLay for what he is: a corrupt thug who represents George W. Bush’s GOP. Yet there is an upside to this problem.
One of the consequences of all the efforts the GOP and Democrats made after the 2000 reapportionments is that in their efforts to cut deals with each other, both parties drew districts with as many safe seats as possible for themselves. The manifestation of such moves is that the GOP has a hammerlock on the House for the next several cycles, and this was part of the reason for the 2002 debacle. There were few really competitive seats in play, and that, mixed with a “lambs led to slaughter” approach by Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt ensured that the Democrats had an uphill climb to gain seats.
But while Tom DeLay and his henchmen can crow about how the redistricting has locked them into their majorities for the foreseeable future, it has also presented problems for Bush. Because of all the safe GOP seats, filled to a large degree with no-need-to-compromise nutcases like DeLay, these members can dig their heels in on a range of issues like the child tax credit fiasco and Medicare drug privatization. Because of their safe seats, they can even resist presidential pressure, assuming that Bush would really expend the effort on something other than war and tax cuts. And this is where it gets sticky for Bush and Rove, and becomes a possible area of exploitation for Nancy Pelosi.
Bush and Rove desperately want some domestic issues taken off the table before November 2004, without pissing off the nutcase rightwing base of the GOP. This is what is behind the latent surge towards compromise in the Senate on a Medicare drug package. But when it appeared that even moderate GOP Senators wouldn’t go along with forcing seniors into managed care in order to get a decent drug benefit, Bush and Rove backed away from their convictions and signaled their willingness to go along with the bipartisan Senate package. However, his commitment to this will not be apparent until the package goes to the House and he is seen as willing to fight for the bipartisan Senate approach over the objections of the DeLay nutcases. And if the child tax exemption fiasco is any indication, then Bush is lying to the Senate or getting rolled by DeLay based on his waffling comments about which package he can support. Add to this the shot in the ass he got from the Congress yesterday about his criticisms of Israel’s reaction to recent attacks and how quickly Bush then muted his remarks, and it appears that it is the House and the right-wing nutcases led by DeLay that are running roughshod over Karl’s efforts to take issues off the table by next year.
Which means that Bush has a real balancing act between Rove-orchestrated successes and pleasing his nutcase base. This would be a cause for alarm, as Krugman points out, but the truth is that the redistricting monster that Rove helped create with a fascist thug like DeLay at its head gives the GOP reason to think that they are in the driver’s seat for the rest of the decade, and in no need to compromise from their far-right, destroy government approach. Yet when the GOP steps so far away from what mainstream America finds important like fiscal responsibility, tax fairness, fair treatment of seniors, and peace in the Middle East, it creates opportunities like Blanche Lincoln demonstrated to point out that their right-wing dogma runs contrary to the economic and other interests of their own constituents.
Rove’s monster has no reason to go along with Bush’s needs for occasional compromise to take issues off the table. In these areas Bush and DeLay’s political agendas diverge, and thanks to Rove’s grand redistricting plans, the nutcase wing of the GOP has no incentive to fear Bush due to their safe seats. It creates abundant opportunity for the Dems to court GOP moderates in both houses, and perhaps to pick off a few. By forming alliances with the moderates and digging in their heels, the Dems follow the script used by the GOP itself with the Boll Weevils from Reagan’s era. Bush would have two choices. He would have to seek compromises with the moderates for his own political needs and end up running against his own GOP majorities in both houses (and thereby undercutting the GOP rationale for single-party control of government.) Or he would show his true colors by choice or DeLay’s threats and have to placate his right-wing base, gradually changing the Rovian misimpression of Bush away from his trustworthy, nonthreatening image towards the right-wing slug he really is.