Yesterday, President Bush publicly stated that he thinks Tom DeLay is innocent of all charges and the White House has defended his comments. The Democrats are upset because they think that this amounts to a form of jury tampering. Sitting presidents usually do not make statements in regards to elected officials in other branches of the government, or in criminal prosecutions in general.
But, I think this is also a tactical mistake by the president. Right or wrong, Tom DeLay has become synonymous with corruption in the US political realm. 76% of Americans as a whole believe that Tom DeLay is either guilty of a crime, or guilty of unethical behavior. In DaLay's own district, he is only polling at a 36% approval rating. With Bush suffering his own ethics crisis, the last thing he needs to do is pin himself to the man that Americans are coming to see as the symbol of all things wrong in Washington. With DeLay indicted, Libby indicted, Rove still under investigation, Abramoff indicted, two of Abramoffs associates pleading guilty, a top GOP officel guilty of election tampering, other Republicans tied to Abramoff, etc. Now was poor timing of the president to back DeLay.
While it is true that without Tom DeLay at the helm in the House, the Republican agenda has suffered. But the Republican agenda will suffer even more if is loses the House in 2006. With Democrats mobilizing a concerted efforts to nationalize what the Republicans would like to call "local" and/or "localized" ethics issues, Bush has played into a political pitfall by nationalizing the issue for the Democrats. Bush is the national face of the Republican party, and now, he has endorsed the man who most Americans see as the most corrupt influence in DC.
The situation has gone from "Tom DeLay is one of hundreds of GOP lawmakers" to "Tom DeLay embodies the GOP." Bush failed to remember - what you say is not always what people hear. What was heard was that Bush does not care about ethics as long as his agenda is passed, or he is unable to recognized unethical behavior.
This has got to be the political gaffe of the week. Luckily for the President, Iraq elections went well and his statements won't get too much press.
Democrats Criticize Bush For Saying DeLay's Innocent
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 16, 2005; Page A04
Democratic leaders sternly criticized President Bush yesterday for saying former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is innocent of felonious campaign finance abuses, suggesting his comments virtually amounted to jury tampering before DeLay stands trial.
"The president of the United States said a jury does not need to assemble, that Tom DeLay is innocent," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "To have someone of his stature, the president of the United States, prejudge a case is something I've never seen before."