Already, the neoconservative Wall Street Journal has put its nail file between his shoulder blades and urged the GOP to abandon him. While the GOP caucus seems to be holding firm, DeLay has few vocal defenders.

Of what does he stand accused? He put his wife and daughter on his campaign staff, for pay. But, so what? Robert F. Kennedy ran JFK’s campaign, a practice common in politics.

It is said that trips abroad by DeLay and his family were paid for by nonprofit organizations. But this, too, is common practice. Junket is a synonym for “co-del,” which is short-hand for congressional delegations traveling overseas on “fact-finding” trips that tend to occur in batches at Christmas, Easter and any other time Congress takes a break from its Herculean labors.

No, the Left is after DeLay because – on tax cuts, right-to-life and reigning in renegade jurists – he is relentless. He is not an old-school Republican who votes right, then heads for the first tee at Burning Tree. And when it comes to raising cash from lobbyists and fat cats for the GOP to wage war against the Democratic Party, few have it down to a science like “the Hammer.” Like Gen. Grant, the Hammer has a reputation for inflicting heavy causalities, which is why the left wants him gone. ~Pat Buchanan

Someone might wonder why Mr. Buchanan has bothered to take up the cause of Tom DeLay, until he considers that Mr. DeLay has been the most vocal figure condemning judicial activism, particularly in relation to what he and Mr. Buchanan believe was judicial activism in the Terri Schiavo case. (That it was not judicial activism, and that this case of non-activism has been the first time DeLay has bothered to speak out so forcefully on the issue in recent memory is ironic, but not to the point.) Nonetheless, the crucial point is that Mr. DeLay, even to the extent that he is the principled champion he is made out to be here, fights for “GOP principles, as he understands them.” No one would question that he is a loyal party man. Undoubtedly he fights for those GOP principles (whatever he imagines them to be), and perhaps Republicans should care about that, but why should real conservatives watching from outside the GOP have any reaction, except perhaps a little satisfaction, about Mr. DeLay’s ethical woes? Surely it cannot be helpful to the cause of judicial restraint that its loudest advocate in Washington is a man in danger of being indicted in a bribery investigation and who has been chastised by his fellow members for poor ethical conduct.

And there is the rub. Mr. DeLay’s ethics imbroglio has not been limited to junkets for his family. We might roll our eyes at such junkets, but Mr. Buchanan is right when he says they are nothing exceptional for congressmen. What has helped make this latest matter even remotely credible is that it reinforces the impression that the House Ethics Committee has already given us about DeLay when it admonished him on two occasions for his conduct in three incidents. The impression is that he bends the rules and transgresses boundaries of ethical behaviour for personal and party advantage, and integrity be damned. When he pushes for rule changes that would allow indicted House members to retain their leadership posts, he confirms the suspicions that his indictment is far more likely than he claims. If that is the sort of leader the GOP wants as its majority leader, it will contribute to the sense that the Congressional leadership has become as arrogant and self-serving as the leadership that was kicked out 11 years ago. If the GOP is leaving DeLay to the wolves, it is because he has damaged them in a serious way–this is not another case of abandoning a Trent Lott to villainous calumny.

Real conservatives should not waste an ounce of energy defending Mr. DeLay. He has done virtually nothing for us, and his sudden discovery of judicial activism as a burning issue seems more than a little cynical and designed to rally the party to his side given his limited concern with it before now.