Friday, September 30, 2005


Tom DeLay might have been the Hammer, but Roy Blunt is definitely the Knife. Slides in, does the dirty work, slides out. Silently.

It was true in November 2002, when Blunt tried to sneak a provision helping Philip Morris USA into a bill creating the Department of Homeland Security.

It was true this week in Washington, when Blunt defied early reports and took over as House majority leader when Tom DeLay was indicted. The Associated Press reported that House Speaker Dennis Hastert wanted Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) to step in for DeLay. Republicans gathered, closed the doors, and emerged with Blunt as Fearless Leader.

In a conference call with Missouri reporters on Friday, Blunt dismissed the Dreier news as wrong. Never happened. Misinformation. And then Blunt carefully noted that no one outside the speaker's office had even discussed the issue with Hastert, so of course it couldn't be true.

The AP report quoted "GOP congressional officials." In other words, people on Hastert's staff, who clearly wanted Dreier. Maybe they're still mad over Blunt's sneaky end-run around Hastert and DeLay. According to the Washington Post, this is what Blunt tried to do in 2002 with the Homeland Security Bill:
The provision would have made it harder to sell tobacco products over the Internet and would have cracked down on the sale of contraband cigarettes, two practices that cut into Philip Morris's profits. Blunt has received large campaign donations from Philip Morris, his son works for the company in Missouri and the House member has a close personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist for the firm.
The lobbyist, then his girlfriend, is now his wife.

Blunt isn't loyal to his bosses, or to the concept of, you know, open debate about issues like profiteering by a huge tobacco company. Blunt claimed the provision would have fought terrorism, because profits from contraband cigarette sales are used to fund terrorists. To that we say "bull," and even if it would fight terrorism, why not have an open debate about the issue, instead of slipping it into a bill in the middle of the night?

'Cause the Knife likes to sneak around.

We wonder what's going to happen if Tom DeLay is cleared of the conspiracy charge now lodged in his political throat. Will Roy Blunt step aside from his "temporary" duties? Given his track record on loyalty, we think the odds are slim.

By the way, Democrats on Friday called Blunt part of the "culture of corruption" in GOP leadership circles. The Dems raised the fact that Jim Ellis -- indicted with DeLay -- has been paid $88,000 by Blunt to be a consultant.

In his conference call with reporters, Blunt called Ellis a "capable analyst ... a person I like." But he denied knowing him very well, or seeing him very often.

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