For about an hour yesterday afternoon it looked like Rep. David Dreier of California would be the “temporary” House Majority Leader when Tom DeLay stepped aside. Even Fox News was reporting it was Dreier, and if you can’t trust Fox News to get the story straight from the Republicans, who can you trust?
But insiders say that the House membership was pissed off at having the leadership of the House choose Mr. Dreier without consulting them. The conservative members also had a problem with Dreier in that he’s considered to be “too moderate.” (That whole gay rumor thing had nothing to do with it…) So in a quick flurry of meetings, Roy Blunt of Missouri was chosen.
Blunt is considered by some to be Tom DeLay without the charm. He’s as ambitious as his Texas colleague, his connections with lobbyists are solid — including Jack Abramoff — and he’s widely seen by many on the Hill as just the mouthpiece of DeLay while he awaits the outcome of his indictment.
Personally I think the Republicans blew a great opportunity to make up a lot of yardage yesterday. They could have sent a clear message to the voters that they take their leadership role in Congress seriously — one they assumed on the premise that they would clean up the mess left by forty years of Democratic arrogance. They could have appointed a majority leader who was without even the appearance of criminal connections, and if they had chosen Mr. Dreier, they would have also sent a message that they’re willing to go with a more moderate — and dare I say tolerant — image of House leadership. But apparently the conservatives would have none of it; “we’re not going to have one of Them in a leadership role!” (What could they possibly mean by “Them?” Moderate? Gay? Take a wild guess.) So they’re putting up this sham of “temporary” leader and giving Mr. Dreier the honor of doing “administrative” work in the Leadership office. (What’s he going to do, be in charge of catering?) Meanwhile, Tom DeLay isn’t going anywhere. Literally. He’s not going to vacate his office unless he’s actually convicted or voted out of office. Which, by the way, is not too hard a stretch to imagine. Mr. DeLay is seen as vulnerable in his district in Texas. He won re-election in 2004 with 55% of the vote; that’s a very narrow win for a Republican incumbent in that part of the state. The Texas Republicans may decide that Mr. DeLay is too damaged even for them and try to get him to not run again lest he lose to a Democrat.
There are other potential leaders for the Republicans besides Mr. Blunt; John Boehner of Ohio is mentioned as moving up. Choosing David Dreier would have been a bold move; it would have confounded the Democrats, and it would have said that they, as a party, were willing to move in a new direction for the good of the party and the country. But one thing you can count on the Republicans to be is loyal and consistent to a fault, do everything they can to maintain the status quo, and most of all, keep the nutsery happy.