George F. Will tries to pretty up the image of Tom DeLay.
He strides like a bantam rooster into the living room of one of the Rio Bend bungalows, having just been buoyed by an appreciative luncheon of 400 Realtors to whom he read a list of earmarks — personally directed spending, aka pork — he has delivered to his district. Most people, battered as he recently has been, would be curled up on the carpet in a fetal position. But DeLay is as direct and uncomplicated as the tool that supplies his nickname — “The Hammer” — and his faults do not include being a whiner.
Furthermore, he is not about to plea-bargain in the court of public opinion. He chafes under prudential reticence: His attorneys tell him not to trumpet the fact that the Justice Department told them he is not a target in the Jack Abramoff investigation. But about other matters, the bantam is belligerent.
Referring to his trial on campaign finance charges brought by a notoriously political Democratic prosecutor, DeLay says, with a confidence that might be misplaced but clearly is unfeigned, “I’ll be acquitted by the end of April.” Then he says he will secure a 12th term, winning “the most expensive congressional race ever.” The national Democratic Party and several liberal groups — already running ads and phone banks — spend, well, liberally.
Because undecided voters are thin here — he estimates they are about 13 percent of the district — this election will be about mobilizing the faithful. So the piling on by his critics — their wretched excesses in response to what they perceive to be his — may help him.