The first thing that crossed my mind when ethics charges were lodged against Rep. Tom DeLay was, "I wish Mary McGrory were still alive."
McGrory, the pungent liberal columnist who died last April at the age of 85, was, improbably enough, a Tom DeLay fan. Why did this scourge of Nixon and Reagan appreciate "the Hammer" from Texas? She liked him because she was able to put aside partisan and philosophical differences in the name of a greater good. That greater good was a love of children. McGrory volunteered at St. Anne's Infant and Maternity Home and was a lifelong advocate of adoption and assistance to children in foster care.
McGrory knew, though few others in America do, that Tom DeLay is a forceful advocate for abused and neglected children, and that he and his wife raised three foster children in their own home.
Following the awful death of D.C. toddler Brianna Blackmond at the hands of her mentally impaired mother, DeLay used all of his considerable legislative skills to create a family court in the District of Columbia, so that children would not be pushed through the system like ciphers, but would be known to a judge who could follow their case over a period of years. I sat next to McGrory at a hearing about that effort and watched DeLay make the case to his colleagues.
Some conservatives recoil from any government involvement in family life and cite examples (sometimes accurate) of overzealous bureaucrats who have removed children from loving homes after a mere spanking. But while such miscarriages happen, they are rare and correctible. Failing to protect a child from an abusive or murderous parent is, alas, common and irreversible. In cases of parental drug abuse, sexual predation and cruelty, there is sometimes no alternative to the state stepping in to protect the children.
DeLay has also raised money to create a home for foster children who "age out" of the system. Once they reach 18, some are completely alone in the world. DeLay has created a center to which they can repair for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Glance at DeLay's website (http://tomdelay.house.gov/children), and see the passion the man brings to the subject.
So would Mary McGrory have defended DeLay now that Democrats are circling and hoping for blood? I don't know. But I do know that she would have given him the benefit of the doubt. The ethics charges against him were dismissed by the House Ethics Committee, and though DeLay was "admonished" about "appearances of impropriety," the House rule infractions are difficult to divine.