Embattled Tom DeLay had a press conference yesterday. Since I had been advised by a commenter that Delay was "backing away from DeLay" with respect to judges, I laughed when I saw the Times coverage. Try to guess which is their headline and lead (no peeking):
(a) DeLay Tempers His Statements
House majority leader admits 'inartful' remarks after death of Schiavo
The embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, increasingly under fire for what critics describe as ethical lapses and political overreach, offered a rare apology yesterday for "inartful" remarks criticizing federal judges.
(b) Under Fire, DeLay Apologizes for Criticizing Judges
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, increasingly under fire for what critics describe as ethical lapses and political overreach, offered a rare apology today for what he said were "inartful" remarks criticizing federal judges.
(c) DeLay Apologizes for Comments
Leader Wouldn't Say Whether He Wants Schiavo Judges Impeached
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) apologized yesterday for heated comments he made about possible retribution against federal judges for their handling of the Terri Schiavo case, but declined to say whether he favors impeaching those judges.
(d) DeLay Asks House Panel to Review Judges
Deflecting all questions about his ethical conduct and political future, Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, on Wednesday stepped up his crusade against judges, announcing that he had instructed the Judiciary Committee to investigate federal court decisions in the Terri Schiavo case and to recommend possible legislation.
(e) DeLay Apologizes for Schiavo Case Rhetoric
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay apologized Wednesday for using overheated rhetoric on the day Terri Schiavo died, but refused to say whether he supports impeachment of the judges who ruled in her case.
(f) DeLay Seeks Congressional Review of Schiavo Case
U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who denounced judges involved in the court battle over Terri Schiavo, said on Wednesday he has requested a congressional review of the brain-damaged woman's ``right-to-die'' case.
For folks scoring at home, that is the LA Times wire release, the LA Times, the Washington Post, the NY Times, the AP, and Reuters. This time, the Times manages to get to the left even of the Reuters crowd.
In the body of her story, we learn what Ms. Stolberg meant when she said that DeLay "stepped up" his attacks:
Mr. DeLay's subsequent criticisms of the courts - at one point he suggested that the judges responsible could be impeached and at another point said that they would be held responsible - have brought ridicule from Democrats. They have also prompted some prominent Republicans, including Mr. Bush and Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, to distance themselves from him.
Asked last week about Mr. DeLay's attacks on judges, Mr. Bush would only say that he believed in an independent judiciary, in a system of checks and balances, in judges who strictly interpreted the Constitution.
On Wednesday, Mr. DeLay seemed to adopt the president's language: "Of course I believe in an independent judiciary," he said. He also apologized for the impeachment comment, even as he insisted it was well within the purview of Congress to rein in the courts.
"Sometimes I get a little more passionate," Mr. DeLay said, "particularly during the moment and the day that Terri Schiavo was starved to death. Emotions were flowing."
"I said something in an inartful way," he added, "and I shouldn't have said it that way, and I apologize. I apologize for saying it that way. It was taken wrong, and I didn't explain or clarify my remarks as I'm clarifying them here."
Mr. DeLay was not specific about what legislative changes, if any, he would like to see emerge from the Judiciary Committee's review. But in announcing that he had asked Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican and the committee chairman, to examine the actions of federal judges in the Schiavo case, Mr. DeLay said the House had previously passed legislation limiting the jurisdiction of the courts and breaking up the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a bill that died in the Senate.
"We set the jurisdiction of the courts," Mr. DeLay said. "We set up the courts. We can unset the courts."
So, is this is a "stepped up" attack, or is Mr. DeLay engaging in a face-saving lateral to Sensenbrenner's committee, where the topic can die in dignity (and without Congressional or media scrutiny)?
Ms. Stolberg presents no expert quotes from anyone suggesting that legislation will actually emerge from this wreckage. However, she does offer the subtle hint that, as part of his "stepped-up" attack, DeLay did not propose any specific legislation.
And folks complain that the Times does not have a comics section!
[LATE UPDATE: Frank Rich rallies to my cause in the Sunday Week in Review:
You can see why Dick Cheney and President Bush in rapid succession distanced themselves from Mr. DeLay's threats of retribution against judges who presided in the Schiavo case. If an Eric Rudolph murders a judge in close chronological proximity to that kind of rhetoric, they've got a political Armageddon on their hands. Mr. DeLay got the message, sort of. At his Wednesday news conference, he tried to dial back some of his words, if only as a way of changing the subject from Indians and his own potential outings in a court of law.]
UPDATE: The Times could not pry a reaction quote out of James Sensenbrenner, but here is what he had to say last week:
In the same interview Thursday, Sensenbrenner was asked about recent comments by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, in which DeLay said he wanted the House Judiciary Committee to review the conduct of the judges in the Terri Schiavo case. DeLay has assailed the federal bench over that case and others, calling it "arrogant" and "out of control," saying Congress should "reassert our constitutional authority over the courts." But DeLay hasn't specified what he wants Sensenbrenner's committee to do.
Asked if DeLay has made any specific request of the panel, Sensenbrenner said, "No, he has not."
Nor did Sensenbrenner say what he thought the majority leader had in mind.
"I saw the same press conference you did," he said of DeLay's comments.
Sensenbrenner has criticized the court's handling of the Schiavo case, but he appeared cool to talk by some conservatives about "impeaching" judges. "We can disagree with the federal judiciary on the decision, but the answer to that is to make sure the courts look at cases a little more carefully," he said.
Sensenbrenner said his preference was to pass legislation spelling out that incapacitated people without living wills have the right in such cases to judicial review in federal court.
He was not exactly breathing fire.
MORE: Was this just an honest difference of opinion on the part of Ms. Stolberg, or part of the Times jihad? The LA Times actually tries to put the Times story in perspective, but DeLay still looks like a leader:
At least 39 members of Congress have engaged in the controversial practice of paying their spouses, children or other relatives out of campaign funds, or have hired companies in which a family member had a financial interest, records and interviews show.
...DeLay, a Texas Republican, has defended the payments to his wife, Christine, and his daughter, Danielle DeLay Ferro, saying his family members provided valuable service to his campaign. They received $473,801 over the last two election cycles, records show.
...Among the recipients of the largest payments were members of DeLay's family and those of Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy). Pombo paid his wife and brother $357,325 from his political fund over the last four years for duties listed as bookkeeping, fundraising, consulting and other unspecified services, records show.
...Including Pombo, five of the top six congressional families in The Times' analysis of two election cycles were Californians. The campaign fund of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) paid $251,853 to her husband's firm, according to the candidate's campaign filings. She was followed by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-North Hollywood), $205,500; Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego), $154,504; and Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), $152,362.