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|DeLaying the Politics of Personal Destruction||
When I first saw the headlines on this, apparently the biggest political scandal since Monica Lewinsky, I thought it was a done deal -- DeLay was found guilty and now it's all over except the sentencing. Consider these headlines:
"How ‘The Hammer' Got Nailed" (Newsweek)
"DeLay is indicted on felony charge" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
"Capitol Hill's DeLay Era Ends" (Washington Post)
"DeLay indicted on new, graver charges - Different grand jury says he laundered campaign money" (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Still bending the rules" (Kansas City Star)
"Tom DeLay's House of Shame" (Newsweek)
The Newsweek article titled, "Power Outage," (the exact same phrase, oddly enough, appearing at the head of the simultaneous story in Time Magazine) actually led off the story by comparing DeLay's leadership to Saddam's murderous Baath Party in Iraq.
CNN, ABC, and most other television reports further propped up this misconception. The average viewer could only draw one conclusion: Tom DeLay is the devil incarnate and he's finally going to fry for his heinous crimes!
Then, I discovered there's more to the story. An Austin lawyer, Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle, has been after Tom DeLay for years. (For those of you outside of Texas, here's a pertinent fact. Texas is largely conservative with one major exception: the capital city, Austin, where the culture is overwhelmingly liberal.) Congressman DeLay and attorney Earle have a substantial history of political warfare. Earle has, after previous failure, finally convinced a grand jury that DeLay's office may have violated a technicality of the spider's web known as campaign finance reform. Given the ever-changing intricacies of who can donate how much to what political effort, it's hard to tell whether DeLay's campaign did anything wrong or not. But Earle may have found something that's not quite right. Therefore, a couple of indictments have been handed down.
Here's the crazy thing about an indictment: it proves no guilt! It simply indicates that the situation needs further examination. But listening to some of the talking heads in the media, you'd think DeLay was dirtier than Al Capone.
Here's my point: DeLay's campaign office may or may not have done something wrong. I have no idea. If something was out of line, DeLay himself may or may have not known about it. Again, I have no idea.
What I do know is that the media's thirst for blood is unsettling, especially when they're going after a conservative. And if it's a Christian conservative, the accusations are even harsher. The way many of them try and convict a public figure before the legal system can resolve the issue undermines the democratic principles that are critical to our country's success.
When Republican hitmen immediately went after President Clinton after he was caught with an intern under the Oval Office desk, the media, for the most part, called for restraint. We, the viewers, were told things like, "Wait until all of the facts come out," and "Let's not rush to judgment." But before DeLay could respond to the first indictment, millions of media arrows were already in the air, aimed directly at the Republican's political career.
This zeal serves no healthy purpose. Liberals get overexcited and trample the judicial process and conservatives learn to distrust and resent the media more than they already do. If we will allow the legal proceedings to run their course, we will all be in a position to work together to resolve the situation. Basing our position on the outcome, instead of the accusations, will provide an opportunity to work together, instead of falling further apart. And that, for once, would be a winning proposition for every American.
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org
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