Democrats can choose their own path, but Republicans better not be too anxious to throw House Republican Leader Tom DeLay under the bus.
I am not saying DeLay should be exempt from scrutiny, House rules or the law. But he is certainly entitled to a presumption of innocence, which should remain until a credible case for his misconduct has been proven.
But that's not how certain Democratic leaders have things sized up. Congressman Charles Rangel said, essentially, that DeLay has the burden of demonstrating he did nothing wrong. Now, this is certainly an interesting standard to be invoked by a man who considers himself a champion of civil rights.
Some argue that DeLay should step down as Leader because allegations of unethical behavior against someone in such an important position set a bad example and poison the governmental waters.
I think DeLay's powerful position happens to cut the other way. That is, I think he has been so important to advancing the conservative agenda that he ought not bow out unless he has actually done something wrong. If the opposition party's miracle antidote for an effective majority agenda is to lodge allegations against a majority party's leader, the majority party should never hope to accomplish much of anything.
It is important that we separate the issue of DeLay's conduct from the conduct, motivations and hypocrisy of his accusers. If he has done something that warrants his expulsion, he should resign -- regardless of whether the whole lot of his detractors are guilty as sin.
But separating the issues does not mean focusing on one (the allegations against DeLay) and ignoring the other. We do need to inquire into the conduct, motivations and hypocrisy of his accusers, especially when they might bear on the credibility of those accusers.
I believe the reason politicians like Charles Rangel, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are willing to condemn DeLay on the strength of the charges alone, is that their mindset is that he is inherently guilty by virtue of his ideology.
In their view, conservatives -- especially ones who believe in their principles with every fiber of their being and, worse, are effective at advancing the right-wing policy agenda -- are already evil. To discover ethical or legal infractions by such people is merely confirmation of what is already true in nature -- conservatives are guilty: of religious zealotry, favoring the rich, exploiting the poor, racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. (And DeLay is even worse than most evil conservatives, because he is arrogant, meaning he is not intimidated by their liberal "Highnesses.")