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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Departing DeLay-priceless

ONE of the few Democrats who actually stayed to watch Tom DeLay's recent farewell rant on the floor of the House wryly observed, "bitter to the bitter end." That about captures the former majority leader's pathetic performance before a half-empty chamber.

The pugnacious partisan, who leaves a 22-year career in Congress under the cloud of criminal indictment, is clearly in denial about his legacy.

He doesn't get that his name will forever be synonymous with political graft, greed, and ethical misconduct unbecoming a congressman.

In his warped reality Mr. DeLay exits his empire on Capitol Hill not in disgrace but as a conquering hero who fought the good fight and won. "Given the chance to do it all again," said the delusional Mr. DeLay in his departing remarks, "there's only one thing I'd change. I'd fight even harder."

Aptly nicknamed "The Hammer" for ramming through Republican agendas without fail, Mr. DeLay also left no doubt about his disdain for colleagues who compromise.

"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."

Defiantly counting himself among "the true statesmen," he told assembled party admirers that leaders "are not defined by what they compromise, but what they don't."

He clearly does not grasp how his all-consuming partisanship led to his ultimate undoing.

In his zeal to strengthen GOP control and solidify its power over government decision-making, Mr. DeLay fervently seemed to believe the ends justified whatever means he could get away with.

For allegedly funneling corporate dollars into Texas legislative races in violation of campaign finance laws, Mr. DeLay was indicted in state court last September. His smiling mugshot was memorable.

But it wasn't until a top Washington lobbyist and two DeLay aides pleaded guilty to felony corruption that the combative GOP leader decided to step down and subsequently retire from politics.

Even as cases of alleged wrongdoing crowd the calender of the Texas Republican, he continues to scoff at the charges, insisting to the bitter end that he has conducted himself "at all times honorably and honestly."

His GOP pals may buy it, but can he convince a jury of his peers?

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