Saying Goodbye

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jun 08, 2006 1:33 PM

Rep. Tom Delay will deliver a farewell address on the floor of the House today, probably around 4:45 or 5 p.m. on C-SPAN.

UPDATE:
I didn't see it, but here are DeLay's comments.

In preparing for today, I found that it is customary in speeches such as these to reminisce about the "good old days" of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie, and to lament the bitter, divisive partisan rancor that supposedly now weakens our democracy.

I can't do that.

Because partisanship, Mr. Speaker - properly understood - is not a symptom of a democracy's weakness, but of its health and strength - especially from the perspective of a political conservative.

The point is: we disagree. On first principles, Mr. Speaker, we disagree.

And so we debate - often loudly, and often in vain - to convince our opponents and the American people of our point of view.

We debate here on the House floor. We debate in committees.

We debate on television, and on radio, and on the Internet, and in the newspapers. And then every two years, we have a HUGE debate... and then in November we see who won.

That is not rancor. That is democracy! You show me a nation without partisanship, and I'll show you a tyranny.

For all its faults, it is partisanship - based on core principles - that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream, and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.

Indeed, whatever role partisanship may have played in my own retirement today - or in the unfriendliness heaped upon other leaders in other times, Republican and Democrat, however unjust - all we can say is that partisanship is the worst means of settling fundamental political differences... except for all the others.

But we must never forget that compromise and bipartisanship are means, not ends, and are properly employed only in the service of higher principles.

It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first-principle.

For true statesmen, Mr. Speaker, are not defined by what they compromise, but what they don't.

Conservatism is often unfairly accused of being insensitive and mean-spirited... sometimes, unfortunately, even by other conservatives.

As a result, conservatives often attempt to "soften" that stereotype by over-funding broken programs or glossing over ruinous policies. But conservatism isn't about feeling people's pain... it's about curing it.

The catastrophe of America's child welfare and foster care systems is a national outrage, a government failure, and a bipartisan embarrassment.

Congresses, administrations, governors, and state legislatures of every party and ideological bent for almost one hundred years have thrown abused and neglected children into a vicious cycle of violence, fear, and instability.

Children are dying, Mr. Speaker, inside and out... and it's our fault.

That you listen to the stories these children tell and study the broken system we have created for them... and help them. For God's sake... help them!

But nothing - not this retirement, not tough losses or old wounds - can detract from the joy I feel and the blessings I offer to this House and its members.

Emphasis mine. I liked that sentiment.