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Larry Summers's Views on Harvard

On Tom DeLay

Ruth Marcus provides the coverage of Tom DeLay that you rarely, rarely got in the Washington Post's news pages--or on the editorial pages, for that matter. Kevin Drum says that he "will always remember [DeLay] best for his reaction to the Columbine shootings in 1999: 'Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills.'"

As Kevin says, the big lesson is that "the man who said this has been one of the most powerful leaders of the Republican Party for over a decade and was treated seriously by the DC press corps the entire time. Never forget that--about either the Republican Party or the press. All the rest is trivia."

Here's Ruth Marcus:

DeLay Exits, Stage (Hard) Right: No one who's seen Tom DeLay operate over the years could have expected the Texas Republican to go gently: The Hammer always comes down hard. But DeLay's farewell address on the House floor last week was nonetheless stunning for its sneering, belligerent partisanship.

This was not the case of a politician who happened to hit a jarring note at just the wrong time. DeLay made clear that he wanted to leave the way he behaved throughout his 22 years in Washington -- contemptuous of the opposition and unrepentant about his cutthroat tactics.

"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," DeLay said.

"Well, I can't do that," he said, and that statement had the ring of truth, as if his allergy to bipartisanship is an almost physical limitation. In DeLay's world, "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."

This is a man who -- now that he's had time to take in the monuments -- sees Lincoln's statue and fixates on the one hand clenched in a "perpetual fist."

I hadn't planned to write about DeLay's departure. He's under indictment in Texas and out of power in Washington; it seemed gratuitous to kick the man on his way out. But DeLay's speech cries out for, if nothing else, a review of the ethical and political wreckage left behind...