Thursday, January 13, 2011

Then there is Tom Delay (and poorly reported polls)

In November, Tom DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives and whose strong-armed behavior earned him the nickname "the Hammer," was convicted of money laundering by using his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.

DeLay was on "The Today Show" this morning with his lawyer Dick DeGuerin and the performance was highly amusing.

First, DeLay said he was convicted because the trial was held in Austin, TX, the most liberal district in the United States. Gee, I thought conservatives believed San Francisco -- home of Nancy Pelosi -- held that distinction. Not only was the trial held in a liberal district, the jury foreman was a "Greenpeace activist." So, I guess being a "Greenpeace activist" disqualifies one from being a fair juror. I guess the prosecution's more than 30 witnesses (compared to DeLay's five) and volumes of e-mails and other documents had nothing to do with the verdict.

Second, DeLay believes he was "Tea Partied" out of office -- that the anti-government atmosphere created by the conservative Tea Partiers created a climate that made the jury not like people associated with Washington. I find that to be a great irony -- a Tea Partier before being a Tea Partier was cool being "Tea Partied" into a conviction.

Third, DeGuerin argued that the Supreme Court last year ruled that corporations could contribute to political campaigns. Unfortunately, the crime was committed in 2002, years before the Supreme Court decision.

But the best was DeLay criticizing those who want more gun control in the wake of the shootings in AZ. He is even against the legislation being proposed to re-institute the ban on extended gun clips used by the shooter in Tuscon. DeLay further claimed that he would welcome people coming to his meetings carrying guns because that way a crazy person would not be the only person with a gun. News flash, Tom. A number of folks at the meeting in AZ had carry permits. None of them used their guns on the shooter, so how does that make anyone safer when a crazy person decides to open fire?

DeLay also said that states with carry permits have lower crime rates. Despite the discredited research of author John Lott, the evidence on this is mixed. Vermont has carry permits, and has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation. Alaska also allows carry permits, and has a very high murder rate, higher than Illinois (which contains Chicago).

It really is fun to watch the clueless. I wonder what nickname DeLay will go by when he is in prison and meets a fellow inmate who comes up to him and says, "You're my little princess now." "Screamer" comes to mind. Maybe "Bug" -- in reference to DeLay's occupation as a pest exterminator before becoming a corrupt Congressperson -- is another possibility.

Enjoy your eventual stay, Tom.

** An tangentially related note: the media have been misreporting a poll by USA Today/Gallup that suggest the majority of Americans reject the notion that hateful political language by conservatives was a factor behind the Arizona shooting. In the poll 53% of those surveyed call the link between inflammatory political rhetoric and the shooting mostly an attempt to use the tragedy to make conservatives look bad. Over a third, 35%, say it is a legitimate point about how dangerous language can be.

But that is not the real finding in the poll, which showed the public is precisely evenly divided on whether the heated language generally used in politics today was a factor in the shooting: 42% say yes, 42% say no. Another 15% have no opinion. That's the major news takeaway from the poll. While the half that see a link between hateful speech and the shooting do see politicians using the tragedy for their own gain, the fact is that they do see the link. That's the story that should be reported.


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