Dancin’ DeLay

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has been competing on season 9 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and not totally sucking at this thing, as so many had assumed and perhaps even hoped. In fact, he’s charming, funny (on purpose, mostly and surprisingly), and seems to be having the time of his life. He’s even — dare I say it — sorta graceful!

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I guess there really is life after politics. It’s also a relatively safe bet there are at least a handful of members of Congress who are a bit jealous.

After all, Tom DeLay looked to be having a heck of a lot more fun than most elected officials in Washington these days. There are likely a few who are angered he isn’t living the gloomy post-congressional existence members dread may lie in their own futures with their glory days in Congress in the rearview mirror. In some ways, DeLay was putting his finger in the eye of the congressional life he left behind, and those still fanning the flames of his legal troubles.

But where many head to K Street or return home to their pre-congressional careers, Tom DeLay, a former exterminator, chose a pretty interesting gig for his next phase of life.

At age 62, DeLay is no spring chicken, but hardly ready to be put out to pasture, either, as he has proven to the world these past few weeks. Other men his age may have a few aches and pains to complain about, mostly the usual stuff that accompanies growing older. The Hammer, as he was known in Congress, now boasts an athlete’s injury with a couple of stress fractures in his feet — the kind that often plagues runners, gymnasts and, yes, dancers. In a way, it’s a badge of honor.

Unfortunately, the injuries have sidelined him, forcing him out of the competition, but with good luck and an even better agent, maybe into lucrative product endorsements.

On Monday night DeLay was rather politically incorrect after dancing his samba while facing the judges alongside his dance partner, Cheryl Burke. Given the opportunity to milk his injuries, as some contestants have done in the past with supreme drama, when asked how he was able to pull it off, how did he manage to do it, and how, by the way, was he feeling after a rigorous performance, which show producers and doctors advised against, he declined to take the bait. He simply said, “I’m fine.” I guess he figured he would either win or lose this thing on merit and talent (or lack thereof), but not on pity. Not on your life. Not the Hammer. And I don’t pity him. I kind of admire him.

If nothing else, Mr. DeLay’s shimmies, wiggles and glides across the dance floor provide him with one of the more interesting Wikipedia entries of modern politicians, along with those other items.
DeLay left Congress under a cloud. While not implicated personally, two of his staffers were convicted in the Jack Abramoff scandal. DeLay himself was charged with criminal violations of Texas campaign finance laws, plus money laundering. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, has yet to bring the case before a jury, more than four years after the indictments. DeLay pleaded not guilty, and one count on election law violations was dropped. Earle is not seeking reelection.

Tom DeLay has been productive since exiting Congress. He’s written a book. He and his wife have been working on their Texas-based foster care center. And then there’s that dancing.

With Tom DeLay now but a fading memory on “Dancing With the Stars,” I’ve decided to root for the one whose smiling face graced my bedroom walls from dozens of Tiger Beat magazine photos when I was a young girl. In the end, I think I always knew my heart really still belonged to Donny Osmond. (Sorry, Tom.)

Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed  congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.