Robert Novak

DeLay is angry that, under Democratic and news media pressure, Republicans retreated from a rule that an indicted House Republican need not resign from the leadership if indicted in a politically motivated prosecution. Gingrich and Armey (both out of Congress) opposed that rule. More significantly, to DeLay's dismay, so did his former lieutenant, Speaker Hastert.

The memoir ends DeLay's reticence in criticizing President Bush. Deriding Bush's self-identification as "a compassionate conservative," DeLay asserts "he has expanded government to suit his purpose, especially in the area of education. He may be compassionate, but he is certainly no conservative in the classic sense." He also charges that Bush has failed to stress the role of the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, adding, "typically . . . no one at the White House was listening" to his advice.

Prior to next week's publication of blunt comments in his memoir, DeLay has been a subject of controversy on the right. When American Conservative Union (ACU) chairman David Keene attempted to make DeLay the organization's Washington operative, four members of his board resigned. Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a leading conservative reformer, describes DeLay's leadership as concentrating on redistricting, fund-raising and distribution of pork.

Notwithstanding Flake's criticisms, DeLay was the most conservative congressional leader I have witnessed in 50 years covering Capitol Hill. I rate him with Lyndon B. Johnson as a dominant legislator. But his revelation that GOP leaders did not constitute a band of brothers helps explain why 12 years of control produced much less than was anticipated.


Correction: Monday's column incorrectly identified the bill that Barry Goldwater voted against in 1964 as the Voting Rights Act, when it actually was called the Civil Rights Act.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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