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On the day of his booking on conspiracy and money laundering charges five years ago, disgraced House Majority Leader Tom Delay proclaimed, "Let people see Christ through me."  Now a convicted felon, Delay isn't turning the other cheek but instead decrying "the criminalization of politics."

If that sounds familiar, it should.  For over a generation, Republicans and their conservative amen corner have routinely brushed off charges of their own corruption and lawlessness by accusing their opponents of "criminalizing politics." From Iran-Contra, Plamegate and Tom Delay to the U.S. attorneys purge and the Bush regime of detainee torture, Republicans survived their endless scandals by instead successfully politicizing crime.

As the New York Times reported, Delay responded to his conviction by an Austin jury by deploying the "criminalization of politics" defense:

A few minutes later, Mr. DeLay said outside the courtroom that he would appeal the decision. He called the prosecution a political vendetta by Democrats in the local district attorney's office, and revenge for his role in orchestrating the 2003 redrawing of Congressional districts to elect more Republicans.

"This is an abuse of power," he said. "It's a miscarriage of justice. I still maintain my innocence. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system."

As it turns out, he's been saying the same thing for years.

As early as April 2005, a furious Delay declared of the ethic charges swirling around him, "Democrats have made clear that their only agenda is the politics of personal destruction and the criminalization of politics."  Amazingly, that comment came before Delay's own October 2005 indictment in Texas for money laundering in association with his Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC).

Unsurprisingly, the conservative echo chamber rushed to Delay's defense and magnified his talking point.  Days after Delay's indictment by District Attorney Ronnie Earle, Robert Novak penned a column titled "Criminalizing Politics", concluding:

'Democrats are ecstatic. The criminalization of politics may work, even if the case against DeLay is as threadbare as it looks."

No discussion of Robert Novak and the Republican redefinition of GOP crime as everyday political disagreements could be complete without a look the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.  While neither Karl Rove nor others were ever charged with the technical and narrowly defined offense of revealing the identity of Valerie Plame to Robert Novak and others, Cheney chief-of-staff Scooter Libby was convicted by jury on four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.  But for the familiar goose-steppers of the conservative ascendancy, Libby the felon too was a victim of the criminalization of politics.

The usual cavalcade of apologists for Republican law-breaking swarmed to Libby's defense.  With his looming indictment in the fall of 2005, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison compared Libby to Martha Stewart, and offered a new variant of the Delay sound bite, the "perjury technicality." Hutchison said she hoped that:

"That if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."

Hutchison, of course, had plenty of company in offering the criminalization of politics canard in the CIA leak case.  On October 14, 2005, Bill Kristol complained, "I am worried about what happens to the administration if Rove is indicted," adding, "I think it's the criminalization of politics that's really gotten totally out of hand."  In succeeding days, Kristol's Fox News colleagues Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney and Chris Wallace joined the chorus singing from the RNC's criminalization of politics hymnal.  On October 24th, Kristol took to the pages of the Weekly Standard to denounce a supposed Democratic strategy of "criminalizing conservatives."  When Libby was later convicted, the Wall Street Journal editorial page called for a pardon.  The WSJ cited grave dangers if the Libby verdict were to stand: "perhaps the worst precedent would be normalizing the criminalization of policy differences."

But with the inauguration of President Obama, the Wall Street Journal, Powerline and other stars in the right-wing constellation took the gambit one step further.  Investigating potential war crimes by the Bush White House, they argue, is "criminalizing conservatism."

During his confirmation hearings in January 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder reassured Republican torture enthusiasts in the Senate when he declared "we don't want to criminalize policy differences that might exist" with the outgoing Bush White House.  But with prosecution of the Bush torture team still a possibility after the release of the OLC memos and reports from the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, the Republican echo chamber quickly circled the wagons in defense of the indefensible.

In a scathing April 2009 editorial titled, "Presidential Poison," the Wall Street Journal went on the attack using the GOP's tried and untrue criminalizing politics canard:

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret...

Above all, the exercise will only embitter Republicans, including the moderates and national-security hawks Mr. Obama may need in the next four years. As patriotic officials who acted in good faith are indicted, smeared, impeached from judgeships or stripped of their academic tenure, the partisan anger and backlash will grow...

Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, due in part to his personal charm and his seeming goodwill. By indulging his party's desire to criminalize policy advice, he has unleashed furies that will haunt his Presidency.

Of course, those furies were unleashed long before Barack Obama took the oath of office.  But just in case Americans needed a reminder, former "blog of the year" Power Line similarly  lashed out in a piece called "Criminalizing Conservatism."  Rather than advising conservatives to try the novel approach to governing which excludes committing crimes, John Hinderaker warned that his persecuted right-wing partisans are rapidly becoming an endangered species:

"Many liberals don't just want to defeat conservatives at the polls, they want to send them to jail. Toward that end, they have sometimes tried to criminalize what are essentially policy differences...

President Obama and his party may achieve another objective by publicly making this kind of threat: deterring Republicans from serving in public life. For many Republicans considering whether to accept an appointment to government office, the prospect that they may be subjected to criminal prosecution if the next administration is Democratic could well tip the balance in favor of remaining in private life."

Columnist and Fox News regular Fred Barnes has been making that same bogus case for years.  Whether the scandal involved Plamegate, federal prosecutors or even public broadcasting, Barnes played the same "criminalizing politics" card.  And with the prospect of torture prosecutions, he's sounding like a broken record:

"Pat Leahy, the senator from Vermont, is one of the most partisan people in the history of politics, and certainly in Congress today. And what he wants is to criminalize policy differences...I think that's exactly the wrong thing to do."

Sadly for the cause of justice and the rule of law, President Obama seems to agree, giving the Bush torture team the equivalent of a get-out-of-jail free card:

"In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution...

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

Of course, if this conservative chorus sounds like it's singing from the same old hymnal, that's because it is.  As it turns out, almost every episode of Bush administration wrong-doing has been rationalized using the same mantra.

Ironically, it was President Bush's father who introduced the criminalization of politics defense into the Republican strategic lexicon.  In justifying his Iran-Contra pardons, President George H.W. Bush used the talking point that would come to define the discourse of his son's 21st century amen corner. Much like his son's defenders, Bush 41 sought to recast rampant Republican White House criminality as mere political disagreement:

Mr. Bush said today that the Walsh prosecution reflected "a profoundly troubling development in the political and legal climate of our country: the criminalization of policy differences."

The "criminalizing politics" canard has been part of the Republican scandal survival kit ever since.

Even for a conservative miscreant who, like Tom Delay, compares himself to Jesus Christ.

(Meanwhile in Washington, the new Republican majority in Congress led by inquisitor Darrell Issa  is promising a perpetual witch hunt of the Obama administration.  As Michele Bachmann put it, "I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another, and expose all the nonsense that has gone on."  So much for decrying the criminalization of politics.)

** Crossposted at Perrspectives **

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 11:13 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Avenging Angel (0+ / 0-)

      I love this paragraph from your diary:

      During his confirmation hearings in January 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder reassured Republican torture enthusiasts in the Senate when he declared "we don't want to criminalize policy differences that might exist" with the outgoing Bush White House.  

      My Goodness, is it no wonder that the unanimous Republican choice for U.S. Attorney General was Mr. Eric Holder. Now we also know why the Rule of Law in America has been so cavalierly thrown under the bus, don't we?

      Often, cause and effect relationships can be very clearly seen; and so can complete sell-outs of important principle, folks.

      •  I Included Holder's Quote... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Major Tom, rainmanjr, Nailbanger

        ...precisely to show the extent to which the Obama administration adopted the GOP's talking point in order to avoid possible prosecutions which, for political reasons, it wanted to avoid at all costs.

        But U.S. law and international treaty obligations don't allow political expediency to excuse inaction on prosecuting war crimes.  As Professor Jonathan Turley lamented:

        Because it would have been politically unpopular to prosecute people for torture, the Obama Administration has allowed officials to downgrade torture from a war crime to a talking point."

        For more on this point, see:
        "George W. Bush, Unrepentant War Criminal."

        •  Avenging Angel (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          By the same treaty you cite, it's also unlawful to fail to prosecute individuals who are guilty of alleged war crimes. For that reason, Obama and Holder had better watch out. I sure hope they don't plan to visit Spain any time soon.

        •  I like the link. (0+ / 0-)

          But I think we should prosecute only after the GOP House has begun their investigation on Obama.  We can hold our prosecutions as an "incentive" for them to drop their politically motivated b.s. or we can play the same game...and win because we have proof of an actual crime.

          "Only Democrats could lose in a popularity contest to someone MORE unpopular than themselves." - Bill Maher

          by rainmanjr on Fri Nov 26, 2010 at 05:12:33 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Picture of Tom (0+ / 0-)

      I found this on

      Plastic ocean: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

      by eeff on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 05:16:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "criminalization of politics..." (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Delay's presence in politics was certainly part of the criminalisation of Republican politics.

      I have never been able to figure out if Fox is the propaganda arm of the Republican party or is the Republican Party the political subsidiary of Fox.

      by Dave from Oregon on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 05:40:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What Tom DeLay REALLY wants (10+ / 0-)

    is to be above the law.

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 11:25:34 AM PST

  •  Tom Delay and Jesus: Compare and Contrast (15+ / 0-)

    As noted above, Tom Delay on more than one occasion has compared himself to Jesus.  Here's a quick side-by-side assessment:

  •  Ironic Isn't It (6+ / 0-)

    The GOP has been decriminalizing corporate crime since 1980, and now is whining about political crime.

    It's easy to be a criminal in the US today.  You just buy some Senators like Phil Gramm to change the law and then commit the crime.

    They want to do the same thing to political crimes, and they have the Supreme Court leading the way.

    •  Sadly, It's About to Get Much More Ironic... (10+ / 0-) the promised Republican Inquisition against the Obama administration gets underway.  As Politico reported earlier this year:

      Everything from the microscopic -- the New Black Panther party -- to the massive -- think bailouts -- is on the GOP to-do list, according to a half-dozen Republican aides interviewed by POLITICO...

      Issa would like Obama's cooperation, says Kurt Bardella, spokesman for the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But it's not essential.

      "How acrimonious things get really depend on how willing the administration is in accepting our findings [and] responding to our questions," adds Bardella, who refers to his boss as "questioner-in-chief.'

      •  Or how meekly Obama accepts impeachment (0+ / 0-)

        and leaves.  That's what will determine how acrimonious things get.  I think WH should threaten, and initiate, prosecutions of Dick/Shrub if GOP House file such an investigation.  We have a lot more proof of actual crime (torture and war-profiteering) being committed and punishable by death.  I think we ought to bring that up before they file and, then, actually launch those prosecutions after they file.  Tell JQP that public voted these people who have brought the people's business to a stand-still and, if nothing is to get done, then we will pursue long-overdue justice for real crimes.

        "Only Democrats could lose in a popularity contest to someone MORE unpopular than themselves." - Bill Maher

        by rainmanjr on Fri Nov 26, 2010 at 05:39:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It sumx up the priorities (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, ItsSimpleSimon, DRo

    of our rulers, that there are prosecutions for playing fast and loose with campaign contributions, but none whatsoever for ordering torture, war crimes, illegal spying  etc.  After all, war crimes and torture never threatened an incumbent pol's hold on his seat, and that's the only thing that matters to those guided by "pragmatism".

    American business is about maximizing shareholder value. You basically don't want workers. ~Allen Sinai

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 11:38:59 AM PST

  •  And I decry (4+ / 0-)

    the criminals in politics.

    Yesterday evening, I read DeLay's and his lawyer's responses to the decision out loud to John.  We both hesitated, looked at each other, and started laughing out loud, simultaneously.

  •  Any chance this dickhead will sit in jail (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, gsenski, DRo

    while his appeal drags on til doomsday? Texans? Anyone?
    Im sure his politically engaged roommates would be real impressed with his tuf nicknames, "The Hammer", and "The Exterminator".
    Maybe his buddy Chris Mathews can smuggle him a hacksaw hidden in a body cavity.

    •  He's out on bond (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      david78209, gsenski, Nailbanger

      has been for five years, $10,000. Sentencing in December.  Hope the judge hands him a stiff one.

    •  It is unlikely he'll (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nailbanger, DrTerwilliker

      ever see the inside of a cell. This case was tried in Austin and the jury is therefore taken relatively fairly from across all demographics, and the jury pool is relatively politically liberal on matters of criminal justice (although there is a lot of underlying elitism and the system is ultimately one of fiscal conservatives who wear cool clothes and smoke pot -- a sort of libertarian construction). Austin is still the best place in Texas to get tried by a jury, though, unless you are a corrupt Republican! Most Austin elections go to Democrats. It is a tiny island of blue in a sea of red.

      DeLay couldn't beat the jury because the jury was made up of real people who don't share his ideology. But the jury is out of the picture now. Their job is finished and they have no power over the remaining parts of the process. The corrupt political and judicial system can now take over for the actual sentencing and disposition. They will gut the verdict and the sentencing from every available angle and basically let him go. It is largely a symbolic conviction, which is all Ronnie Earle probably ever hoped for (The case was brought by Earle, a Democratic former D.A. in Travis county where Austin is).

      The point is that the likes of DeLay would not be expected fare well with the jury pool in Austin, but he and Deguerin will have complete control of the process once the case gets out from under the jury and into the administrative phase. They can't win before the people, but they own the rest of the system. I've heard the judge is fair and won't voluntarily give any breaks. In fact, I think they tried to get the judge removed for donating to the Democratic party. But that doesn't matter here with someone like DeLay and a lawyer like DeGuerin. DeLay will walk.

      Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.
      Mark Twain

      by phaktor on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 04:33:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh who cares if it was done before (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    You're a republican.

    Your policies like trickle down economics and love for corporations while pissing on the middle class are dangerous to the country.

    The more of you that end up in prison, or who leave us by life's great attrition, the better.

    Get in the bar box asshole.

  •  I hate it when they criminalize illegal stuff (11+ / 0-)

    PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

    by RumsfeldResign on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 11:56:41 AM PST

  •  A great write-up (5+ / 0-)

    What is amazing is that this guy got by with what he did for so long.

    For anyone interested in background into other scams he has been involved in Wiki is a good place to start. It also gives a rundown into the legislation he has sponsored and voting ranks, i.e. Sierra club and ACLU both give him a 0 while National Rifle Association gives him an A+.

    Interesting related to his conviction is his position on Crime. Check out Tom DeLay on CrimeHERE to see that top of the list is:

    Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons, more enforcement, effective death penalty.

    May his prison time match his compassion and voting record.

    •  DeLay and privatization of prisons... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, rainmanjr, gsenski, DRo, Eric Nelson

      I Googled the subject and found a reprint of this excerpted article from the Fort Worth Weekly.  I'm not sure of the site, but this is a horrendous account of the Reeves County Detention Center along with many links of interest:

      PRIVATE PRISONS, PUBLIC PAINIn prisons run by private companies, the bottom line is the only thing that matters.

      by Peter Gorman, Fort Worth Weekly


      Times change, and these days, a newer prison sits in the southwest corner of town. The Reeves County Detention Center is bigger than Bean's, with a capacity of 3,700 inmates, most of them non-violent illegal immigrants. The facility is owned by the county and run by the GEO Group, formerly a division of Wackenhut—the giant security firm—a company that runs more than a dozen prisons in Texas, nearly four dozen in the US, and another 10 in Australia, England, South Africa and Cuba. All told, they are in control of over 60,000 inmates worldwide. They're also a company that has one of the worst track records imaginable in inmate care: the horror stories range from prison rapes to suicides to murder to death because of inadequate medical care.

      And GEO's work in Texas has been the company at its worst.

      "They have simply been horrendous," said said Bob Libal, coordinator of the Texas division of Grassroots Leadership, an organization aiming to eliminate privatized prisons.


      The politically connected roots of GEO also run into lobbying and local political connections. Wackenhut was a contributor to both George and Jeb Bush (the company's headquarters are in Boca Raton, FL), and former Sen. Phil Gramm, who urged prisons to be privatized and the inmates put to work "so that we can produce component parts in being produced in places like Mexico, China, Taiwan and Korea."

      While he was still in office, Tom DeLay was a major backer of GEO.

      There is just no end to the greed of these evil doers. Hopefully DeLay will be housed in one of these privately run facilities.

      May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house. George Carlin

      by msmacgyver on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 12:50:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Criminalizing politics? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, rainmanjr, Calamity Jean, DRo

    Isn't that what the Bush defenders say when they bring up the idea that he's a war criminal but prosecuting will lead down a slippery slope?

    Yep, it's only illegal when someone else does it...

    Yeah, the Hammer is going to have to come up with a new nickname soon....

    •  How about "The Hammered" (0+ / 0-)

      As in, his cell mate really hammered Tom.  You could hear those cheeks being smacked from across the hall!

      "Only Democrats could lose in a popularity contest to someone MORE unpopular than themselves." - Bill Maher

      by rainmanjr on Fri Nov 26, 2010 at 05:48:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I guess if they don't want politics to be (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    david78209, kurt, rainmanjr

    criminalized, they should resist the urge to commit acts that juries consider to be criminal...

    "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

    by Jack K on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 12:41:05 PM PST

  •  Somewhere, Don Siegelman is sitting with head (5+ / 0-)

    in hands. He doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.

    Criminalizing politics indeed.

    Just because you're not a drummer doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time. -- T. Monk

    by susanala on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 12:53:37 PM PST

  •  Tom DeLay decries... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xxdr zombiexx, kurt, Calamity Jean

    ...the criminalization of money-laundering.

    What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

    by mistersite on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 01:41:01 PM PST

  •  Criminalizing Politics = Whining about the rule (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of Law.

    America legalized torture before they legalized marijuana.
    Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!

    by xxdr zombiexx on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 01:42:43 PM PST

  •  Earle has more cojones than Obama and Holder (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And if the case was as "threadbare" as Robert Novak wrote, how did it lead to a conviction?  
    Is Novak still alive, or do we have to dig up his corpse to make him eat his words?

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 02:43:47 PM PST

  •  The most ridiculous aspect (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    of DeLay's comment is that it comes from the lips of a political ideologue who has worked tirelessly to create a police state that seeks to criminalize anything and everything except wealth and Republicans. There is a lot of overcriminalizing going on in the U.S., and Texas especially, but requiring Republicans to obey the laws which they think should only apply to Democrats and poor people is a not a very good example of the overcriminalizing problem.

    Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.
    Mark Twain

    by phaktor on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 04:44:36 PM PST

  •  Maybe prosecuting war crimes will lead to the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    top: Cheney & Bush, and keep the Republican War/Crime bosses busy

    Bush admitted to the world in writing and video that he personally ordered the torture of prisoners.

    What more is needed for justice?

    WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama said Tuesday April 2009 the United States lost "our moral bearings" with gruesome terror-suspect interrogations and he left the door open to  procecuting Bush administration officials who vouched for their legality

    It's an older story yet considering GWB's recent admissions of guilt...See if this keeps Issa distracted from his threatened witch hunt for a while.

    Criminalizing politics WTF? Politicizing/Practicing crime is more accurate

    Excellent reporting Avenging Angel t'd & r'd

    I don't want your country back..I want my country forward - Bill Maher

    by Eric Nelson on Thu Nov 25, 2010 at 10:32:21 PM PST

  •  Then... (0+ / 0-)

    Tom Delay Decries the Criminalization of Politics. Again.

    ...why the eff did he do it? Did somebody put a gun to his back and force him to commit criminal acts as a politician?

    The sort of honesty that led to that remark is why that little sleaze bag is now a convicted felon.

    The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool. George Santayana

    by Bobjack23 on Fri Nov 26, 2010 at 01:09:26 AM PST

  •  I disagree with GOP. Doh! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean
    Am I going to jail now?
    Pres Obama didn't prosecute so how can the Dem's be said to be "criminalizing politics"?  Neo-RW's are nuts.

    "Only Democrats could lose in a popularity contest to someone MORE unpopular than themselves." - Bill Maher

    by rainmanjr on Fri Nov 26, 2010 at 04:54:22 AM PST

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