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DeLay's descent a win for pompous snobs

By Michael M. Bates
web posted January 16, 2006

Put me down as one of those disappointed with Tom DeLay's decision to give up his House leader job. No, not just because the guy takes a terrific mug shot, which he obviously does.

It's true he's under the gun for taking money from firms associated with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but he could have played a grand game of gotcha for quite a while. Congressional Democrats, including all but a handful in the Senate, have accepted millions from the same special interests.

Tom DeLayWith the heavy cloud of corruption hanging over his head, Mr. DeLay bit the bullet. He did what he thought was best for his party.

Liberals are justifiably buoyed. Getting a conservative Republican scalp is always sweet, but this one is all the sweeter because Tom DeLay had once been – how do you say this in polite company? – a working man. How common. Even more shocking is the kind of work he had done. He was an exterminator. All that was almost 30 years ago, but it has neither been forgotten nor forgiven.

Mainstream media types and other self-styled intellectuals never tire of bringing up his background. References to it are incessant. Google "Tom DeLay" and "exterminator" together and you'll get over 40,000 hits.

The riotously droll Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last year unveiled the Web site "Cockroach Corner" to poke fun at him. It has since been taken down, but there's been no shortage of others willing to lend a hand in spreading the word.

In a 2001 Australia speech, the saintly Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg chose not to, as she has done before, expose Mother's Day for being part of a nefarious plot to perpetuate sexist stereotypes. Instead, she criticized a DeLay comment, made years earlier, that judges acting beyond their authority should be impeached. The justice had the perfect rejoinder: "Mr. DeLay is not a lawyer but, I am told, an exterminator by profession."

At the time she said this, Mr. DeLay had been an elected representative at the state and federal level for more than 20 years. At what point is his profession no longer considered exterminator? And when do the references to it at least begin to diminish?

The apparent answer is never.

From the Washington Post in 1995: "Inside the House Republican leadership, the former pest exterminator from Houston is the enforcer."

From The New Republic the same year: "Before entering politics, he was an exterminator. . ."

From syndicated columnist Molly Ivins in 1997: "Our boy Tom DeLay, the House majority whip and former exterminator from Sugar Land. . ."

In 1998 the Chicago Tribune reported: "DeLay is the arch-conservative former pest-control service operator whose former profession and aggressive attacks on federal regulation of almost any type, including environmental laws, has earned him the nickname ‘The Exterminator.'"

Strange, isn't it, that there never seem to be any arch-liberals to write about?

The New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, the Associated Press and all the other usual suspects just won't let go.

There's an element of obsession. Last April NBC's Brian Williams declared, "The Republicans have given in, and this now means things may have gotten worse for the man they call the ‘Hammer,' the former exterminator from Texas, Tom DeLay."

Williams was an intern for the ridiculous Jimmy Carter and yet has the gall to look down his patrician nose at a man for holding a regular job. That's outrageous.

One current Democratic member of Congress spent years on the rolls as a welfare mother. Another is a former federal judge who was impeached for numerous offenses including conspiracy to obtain a $150,000 bribe.

Yet rarely if ever are their backgrounds brought up in news accounts of them. It looks like once having a regular job, the kind arrogant snobs belittle and giggle about, is much more of a stigma.

Ironically, many of these same supercilious elitists fixated on Mr. DeLay's former occupation routinely voice their understanding of, their compassion for, and their solidarity with everyday working people. The warm sentiments are obviously premised on those working people knowing - and keeping - their place. And it isn't in Congress.

Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths. This essay appeared in the January 12, 2006 Oak Lawn Reporter.

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