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It's a weaker GOP with no DeLay

CHERYL GLASER:"Partisanship is not a symptom of a democracy's weakness but of its health and strength." Them's fighting words. They're also the parting words of former majority leader Tom DeLay as he left the House of Representatives. Today was his last day in Congress. Writer and commentator Adrian Wooldridge says DeLay's got a point. And for that reason he'll miss the man known as The Hammer:


ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE: Tom DeLay got no big pats on the back from Republicans today.

He's embroiled in sundry ethics problems-over everything from his friendship with Jack Abramoff to his predilection for fancy golf trips to possible violations of Texas election laws, and the GOP is terrified of being tarred with the corruption brush.

But if there were any justice in the world, he would be hailed as a departing giant.

Tom DeLay undoubtedly played hardball, but it was darn effective hardball.

DeLay conjured solid Republican majorities out of a fractious and narrowly divided House. He squeezed votes through by the narrowest of margins. In a world where every extra vote has a price, he knew exactly how many he needed to buy.

He used his formidable vote-gathering skills for a single purpose--advancing the Republican agenda.

DeLay was a committed supporter of tax cuts, Social Security accounts and traditional values; he was also a passionate opponent of regulation, insisting on subjecting new regulations to cost-benefit analysis.

Few congressmen have raised more money for their fellow Republicans.

None of this was particularly pretty. The so-called K Street project was an attempt to persuade lobbying firms and trade organizations that dot Washington's K Street to employ more Republicans. That was pushing it. But it was also sensible after 40 years of Democratic K Street domination.

Today, the Republican Party is visibly weaker.

No one, least of all DeLay's successor, John Boehner, is driving the Republican agenda. Republicans in the House and Senate and White House have been at sixes and sevens on vital issues. And the conservative movement in the country is in open revolt. And has anything been done about all that pork and perks? Not a jot.

The only difference is that, when The Hammer was in charge, the pork and perks were subordinated to the wider end of Republican power. Now they are just ends in themselves.

GLASER: Adrian Wooldridge is a Washington correspondent for "The Economist." He comes to us by special arrangement with that magazine.

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