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Tuesday, December 23, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 5/29/2003

The lies of Texas

Some ardent defenders of Richard Nixon argued that he might have saved his presidency 30 years ago by creating a big bonfire with the incriminating Watergate tape recordings.

Now, Texas Republicans seem to have employed a similar tactic to fend off questions about improper involvement of a federal anti-terrorism agency in connection with the Lone Star State's latest political dust-up.

To recap, 51 Democratic legislators fled the state capital to prevent Republican lawmakers from ramming through a partisan congressional redistricting plan.

GOP leaders, through the Texas Department of Public Safety, turned to a federal agency in California that is part of the Department of Homeland Security, hoping to track down an airplane owned by one of the Democrats. To lend urgency to the request, the feds were told - falsely - that the plane might have crashed.

But the plane had not crashed, and the Democrats returned from their hideout in Oklahoma after a couple of days, during which the redistricting plan died for lack of a legislative quorum.

The story might have been over had not the Fort Worth Star-Telegram turned up an e-mail in which an official of the Texas Department of Public Safety ordered immediate destruction of all documents related to the incident.

Smack in the middle of all this is Tom DeLay, GOP leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, who practices bare-knuckle politics in his home state by remote control from Washington.

It was Mr. DeLay's redistricting plan that prompted the state legislators to flee Austin. He admits to having contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and the Justice Department to help track down the legislators, but denies calling Homeland Security. Democrats suspect he's lying.

A couple of state and federal inquiries are under way to answer Watergate-style questions of who knew what and when. Tom Ridge, Homeland Security director, says a criminal investigation is possible.

The search for Texas' “Killer Ds” may be comical, but its aftermath is decidedly serious. Dispatching federal personnel on a petty political mission is bad enough, but obstruction of justice - destroying the evidence - is criminal.

As Richard Nixon learned many years ago in the aftermath of a “third-rate burglary,” it's the cover-up that gets you.



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