My nomination for hot topic of the day in the blogosphere is the interesting "yes we did, no we didn't, maybe we sorta did" of House Republicans concerning rules of conduct for both the Republican Party and of the House. Instead of weakening them, as they were widely expected to do, House Republicans changed only one point of rules and in fact, re-stiffened others.
The response to this has been fairly predictable. Republicans are championing it as a triumph of ethics and taking a "bullet" for the team, Democrats are touting it as a triumph of their pressuring Republicans, and my blog ally Christian Grantham is taking the opportunity to do a little spleen-venting about Tom DeLay.
As invariably seems to happen, I think the truth can be found somewhere buried under the piles of posturing.
First off, the Democrats once again exhibited their talent for Pyrrhic victories. Previously, since the ethics committee is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, a simple party-line tie on whether or not to investigate a complaint automatically resulted in an investigation and all the associated negative publicity. Now, a tie is no longer good enough to warrant an investigation -- a majority of the committee will be required. Furthermore, the Ethics Committee recently served notice that it would dismiss complaints based on "exaggeration and innuendo", as found in preliminary review of the complaint, and take disciplinary action against the person who MADE the complaint. Under this new system, unless a Republican broke ranks and voted to investigate, Tom DeLay would have walked with a preliminary one -- but Chris Bell would have been disciplined severely and his complaint dismissed for exaggeration and innuendo. This is an IMPROVEMENT?
Second off, while this was hardly a PR triumph for the Republicans, it wasn't exactly a failure. Indeed, their reversal caught the Democrats flat-flooted, forcing the Dems to raise their OWN rules yesterday to prevent indicted individuals from serving in leadership roles, as had previously been allowed. The PR effect was neutral, the long-term threat of Democrats bashing them over it was removed, and the gamble on Ronnie Earle's "batting average" as a prosecutor remaining where it is now -- below that of an American League pitcher in the World Series -- is one well-worth taking.
Finally, for Christian, I promise you this....no one likes DeLay, not even myself. But "guilt by association" isn't the way this country plays, and I for one am quite sick of Ronnie Earle trying to grandstand his way into a indictment. The fact that he has been trying to get DeLay for two years and failed, despite only having to prove his point to a grand jury made up of people from the most hostile Democratic county in Texas, shows that his case isn't exactly airtight. While I disagree with PrecinctChair's prediction that Earle will ultimately get an indictment, I agree with his prognostication that Earle will be stripped of his power, with it being vested in the office of the Texas Attorney General.