John Colson: Hit and Run | AspenTimes.com

John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

My e-mail in-box is one crowded spot, mostly with stuff I don’t even care to open.

As a result, my working day invariably starts with cleaning out the dross and keeping what seems interesting, noteworthy or weird enough that I’ll at least take a look at it.

For instance, nearly a decade ago, I once wrote articles about a woman who died in a car crash on Highway 82. She happened to be one of the top figures in the rarefied field of childhood autism and its causes, and a revered champion of the crowd that believes vaccines for various deadly childhood maladies are a chief cause of autism.

As a result, years later, I still receive regular updates from the soldiers in that cause, even though I’m not a health-care reporter and am not likely to be writing any stories about autism anytime soon. My e-mail address, I suspect, is simply stuck somewhere in the middle of a vast list-serve that gets sent out every time something happens in that particular corner of the info-world.

Anyway, I get a lot of e-mail, and much of it is from news outlets, stuff that I peruse as time allows.

So it was this week, when my gleefully startled eyes beheld a headline I never thought I’d see – Republican strongman and policy architect Tom Delay of Texas, one-time majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, had been convicted of two counts of money laundering, charges that originally came to light in 2005.

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Convicted, no less, by a jury of his fellow Texans, which says a lot about the strength of the case against the man once known as “The Hammer” for his dictatorial style.

This jury had concluded that DeLay, despite his howling assertions of innocence, had conspired to illegally launder corporate political donations through the not-so-clean intestines of the Grand Old Party’s money machine, in order to help solidify his party’s stranglehold on Texas politics as well as on the U.S. Congress.

And he had not only conspired, he had succeeded, the Texas jury decided.

So one of the nastiest managers of political wrongdoing in recent memory is now facing a sentence of five years to life in prison.

Of course, stories about the conviction nearly all mentioned that he might get off with probation. The subtext, you understand, is that men at DeLay’s level of power just are not sent to prison, no matter how heinous their deeds. It simply isn’t done.

What a message that slap on the wrist would send to American voters – making it pretty plain that even if you break the law to put your party in your state’s political driver’s seat, then use that position of supremacy to subvert the nation’s political process in a cynical bid for power and wealth, and lie bald-faced when confronted, you need fear no reprisals.

That would go a hell of along way toward restoring voters’ faith in the courts and the political system, don’t you think?

It was interesting to note that Delay was in the pest extermination business before turning to politics.

Since I consider him to be a pest of the worst kind, fouling our nation with his evil slinking and nibbling at the national treasury, I say we should treat him just like he might have treated a cockroach back when the targets for his bile and bad intent were bugs, not the fate of a nation.

Since we can’t just squash him, or hang him, or put him to sleep for good, we should call for a good, stiff prison term, preferably in the worst Texas penal institution we can find – which, dear reader, would be one bad-assed place for a 63-year old power broker to spend his waning days.

As justification for such mean and bitter treatment, I need only refer to a Washington Post story about the conviction. That story noted in passing that in the five years that DeLay has been out of office, he has been serving as a “consultant and informal advisor to Tea Party activists,” the same bunch that just finished using lies, fear and misdirected anger to scramble our country’s political atmosphere to the point where it may not recover for decades.

If nothing else, a nice long term as a guest of the state might keep him from doing further damage to America’s political, social and economic future.

jcolson@aspentimes.com