I have a small personal story to tell tonight, which I hope will lead to a larger point. My 12 year old daughter called from a friend's house, where she's having an overnight visit with some of her pals. It seems they'd gone out for dinner (with her friend's Dad in tow, mind you), and somewhere along the way she lost her cell phone. She was letting me know about it to prevent any confusion arising in case I tried to call her.
So, parents, how would you react to such a scenario? With anger over the kid's carelessness and the loss of a fairly expensive piece of high-tech gear? I bet you wouldn't—not, in any event, if you knew this kid. I, personally, was delighted: she had shown me the courage and honesty to admit a mistake rather than try to cover it up or put off the moment of reckoning. She showed me a strength of character, a self-confidence, and a pragmatism that I very rarely see in the grownups I deal with every day at work and elsewhere—and which I have never seen in the last five years of neocon hegemony on Capitol Hill and in the White House.
So now, let's read a little from Tom Delay's farewell address to his constituency, and see how he compares with my girl:
When I started in politics, I was inspired by the optimism and conservative principles embodied by one of our greatest presidents, Ronald Reagan.
Since I first asked for your votes for Congress back in 1984, America has moved closer to, not further from, the "shining city on a hill" that he so magnificently described.
She has risen from malaise, won a cold war and a few hot ones, and liberated hundreds of millions across Europe and tens of millions of Afghans and Iraqis.
At home, we moved from policies that had long empowered government to finally empowering citizens, taxpayers and communities...initiating sweeping and positive change across all facets of American society...We adopted year after year of tax relief, which led to growth so strong it has not only propelled our economy, but has spurred economic growth across the globe.
Here's a fellow that's not merely denying reality, but using every schoolboy trick in the book to evade accountability (the election fraud law only became official a few months after Tom had already violated it, so no foul there).
OK, let's throw the man a bone the size of the federal deficit or Jack Abramoff's rap sheet, and say he's innocent of all criminal charges, in the technical sense of the term. Now let's look again at those claims, made in his own words, and see what's left standing.
"Sweeping and positive change" across America: Poverty rate's up again; New Orleans remains decimated; oil's comfortably over the $70 mark; the middle class as we once knew it is gone, replaced by a new class of working poor who can't afford to get medicine, send their kids to school, or get out of debt; and inflation's coming back.
"She has risen from malaise": Clinton left behind a budget surplus; the neocon hegemony will leave behind something on the order of a half-trillion dollar deficit.
"liberated hundreds of millions across Europe": What? Tom, World War II ended 60 years ago.
"liberated tens of millions of Afghans and Iraqis": A report released this month says different. In fact, the chaos in Afghanistan could scarcely be worse; though the economy is recovering, thanks to the rebound of the opium trade. Heckuva job, Tommy. As for Iraq, you're right, Tom: there ain't nothin' but sunshine in the graveyards and desolation in the streets. A grateful nation salutes you.
"moved from policies that had empowered government": Partially true, Tom: the government these past five years has been morally, intellectually, and ethically smaller—near to invisibility, in fact. As for practical realities, however, we have never in our history had a more massive, expensive, intrusive, incompetent, or tyrannical government than the one you and your colleagues in the neocon court have blessed us with.
So there you stand, Tom, amid the ruin you have helped to bring about; the moment of accountability finally closing in upon you; and you still cannot admit a single error, the faintest sign of imperfection. You stand there in the public square, shaking the dried blood of thousands from your death-dipped fingers, and you say you are proud; you say that you have nothing to regret.
But my daughter came clean, without being prodded, investigated, questioned, or indicted. She freely admitted her mistake, knowing that there might be unpleasant consequences. You, Tom, had repeated opportunities to follow her lead: you could have, at any point over the past five years, said, "no, we made a mistake with this nation-building, this pre-emptive war, this ballooning deficit, this managerial incompetence, this rapacious program of handouts to the mega-wealthy coupled with cuts to the most needy. We have to stop now, because this doesn't represent true conservatism; it isn't what the GOP is really about."
But you failed, Tom, and that will be your legacy in the grimy footnotes of history. You will be known as an incompetent failure, a petty criminal, a toady and a self-indulgent wastrel. So now I ask you, between yourself and my daughter this evening, who is the child, and who the adult?