DeLay as wedge

Does beleaguered House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) belong in the same lineup as conservative icons Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan? That’s the question raised in a new ad by the Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive group mounting a campaign to undermine DeLay and make him fight for his political life. The ad zeroes in on his role in bringing Congress into the Terri Schiavo matter — which polls said was an unpopular move with voters of almost all stripes.

Does beleaguered House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) belong in the same lineup as conservative icons Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan?

That’s the question raised in a new ad by the Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive group mounting a campaign to undermine DeLay and make him fight for his political life. The ad zeroes in on his role in bringing Congress into the Terri Schiavo matter — which polls said was an unpopular move with voters of almost all stripes.

Could it be, the ad suggests, that DeLay is betraying conservative values? The intent is to drive a wedge in DeLay’s conservative base by highlighting the string of alleged lapses in ethics and judgment being raised in the drip, drip, drip of negative stories.

The headline asks the question, “The New Face of American Conservatism?” above pictures of Ike, Goldwater and Reagan. The photo of DeLay tips off the line.

The group is taking a new tack in the full-page ad, to be published in today’s edition of The Washington Times because of the paper’s conservative readership. Previously, television ads bankrolled by the Campaign for America’s Future — running in Texas, D.C. and a few other targeted spots — have been hitting DeLay on ethics grounds.

The print ad, appealing to conservatives, widens the focus. “Once upon a time ... Conservatives stood for honest government. Just read Barry Goldwater’s ‘Conscience of a Conservative.’ Now, their chosen leader is the symbol of money corruption in Washington.

“Conservatives once stood for limited government. Now, their chosen leader drags Congress into one family’s private tragedy. Conservatives once stood for family values. Now, their chosen leader does the bidding of gambling lobbyists,” the ad said.

And, no surprise, a Wall Street Journal editorial criticizing DeLay’s reign is part of the copy. “Conservatives once challenged Beltway corruption. Now, even the Wall Street Journal editorialized that conservatives’ chosen leader ‘smells just like the beltway itself.’” The kicker states, “Now conservatives rally to his defense, saying he hasn’t been convicted of any crimes yet. Once, conservatives had higher standards for their leader.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said DeLay’s push to have Congress intervene in the sad right-to-die Schiavo situation may do more to put DeLay in a critical light than any ethics charges. “We could not make him into a Newt Gingrich,” Frank told reporters at a Wednesday Christian Science Monitor Sperling breakfast. But he made himself one by taking on Schiavo.

Predicts Frank: Soon there will be bumper stickers with the slogan “Justice DeLayed is Justice Denied.”

The progressive forces should be careful about demonizing DeLay, Frank said. There is a “danger of overarguing” and any inaccurate statement could end up backfiring.

On the road. Over congressional recess, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) made a four-state funder swing. Last week, Hastert hit Kansas City, Mo., for a funder for Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.); Atlanta to help Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.); Athens, Ga., for Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.); and Zolfo Springs, Fla., to benefit Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), wrapping up in Bonita Springs for Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.). The Speaker then headed to Wisconsin for a funder for the Wisconsin GOP.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) raised money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in recess runs to New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. E-mail: lsweet3022@aol.com