"Just another day at the office," Tom DeLay cracked before making his statement, saying the charge was "one of the weakest" indictments ever returned in criminal history. "This act is the product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution." And then he called Ronnie Earle, the Travis County, Tex., district attorney, a "fanatic." Nice guy.
Basically, DeLay is accused of conspiring to funnel about $190,000 in campaign money into the campaigns of more than a half-dozen statehouse candidates. Texas state law prohibits corporations from contributing to state candidates.
The indictment against the majority leader of the House of Representatives may not result in prison time for DeLay (even though he does face up to two years in state prison if convicted of conspiracy). But it has already created the impression among many conservatives that politically, DeLay is toast.
DeLay's ideological allies are fleeing his ship. "Ethical overload," decreed Pat Buchanan, a guy who worked for Nixon and who thus knows a little something about ethics or the lack thereof.
DeLay's statement, issued just before 2 p.m. Central time, attacked Earle by name several times and then went on to accuse Earle of conspiring with Democratic leaders in the house. Like the cockroaches he used to kill for a living, the pest exterminator from Texas scrabbled and made himself look as ugly as possible. But we think we heard his exoskeleton crack.