When Congressman Tom DeLay last week explained his decision to leave Congress by saying he desired to keep the GOP majority in place, many people scratched their heads. More than a few were skeptical: Who in Congress acts on behalf of party over personal interest?
It's not certain how his resignation will be viewed down the road. If Mr. DeLay beats the charges by partisan prosecutor Ronnie Earle and is not prosecuted for Abramoff-related matters, he will gain additional admiration from Republicans who already value his tough-mindedness in the years past.
If, though, Mr. DeLay's already-tarnished aides become witnesses against him, he will receive no credit for stepping aside, but rather anger at having lost sight of the truly important reasons for climbing the political mountain.
The resignation itself provoked varying reactions. To those who don't know him, the former majority leader's explanation that the campaign to keep his seat would have cost too much, and allowed Democrats too easy a shot at him and other Republicans, simply wasn't persuasive.
But many of the beltway professionals nodded. Mr. DeLay believes passionately in the Republican Party and in the urgent need to maintain the party's majority status, especially in this time of war. Many agree with his view that a Democratic triumph in either the House or the Senate would be tantamount to a defeat in the war.
Mr. DeLay obviously made mistakes in staff appointments, but he had made his mark legislatively: Much of what has been achieved for the conservative legislative agenda over the past decade would not have happened had Tom DeLay not been there.