Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas has again distinguished himself in his ability to use crass political manipulation in an attempt to distract the public from his compromised reputation. As I read the reports on his outrageous statements about the Terri Schiavo case, I could only ask, “What could he have been thinking of?”

DeLay reportedly faced a situation similar to the Schiavo case in the fall of 1988, when his father was critically injured in an accident. The father, Charles DeLay, was in a coma, and the family made the decision to let him die when his kidneys failed. Rep. DeLay quietly supported the family’s decision.

Recently DeLay joined with Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to spearhead the congressional effort to insert itself into the judicial process and to obstruct the decision by Terri Schiavo’s husband to let her die. DeLay denounced the husband for “an act of barbarism.” Many called this effort political grandstanding. About 70 percent of the U.S. public disagreed with the congressional action. Right afterward, President Bush’s approval rating fell to the lowest level in his presidency. Many pundits attributed this drop to his jumping on the DeLay bandwagon.

A Houston Chronicle poll indicated DeLay’s approval ratings in his own district dropped as well — 69 percent opposed the government action in the matter. 49 percent said someone new should be elected in the district, with only 39 percent saying DeLay should be re-elected.

In 1990, the DeLay family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that made a coupling which failed and resulted in Charles DeLay’s death. The suit sought compensation for “physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and trauma.” The case was resolved with a payment to the family in 1993.

Subsequently, DeLay has built his political career on calling for “tort reform” to protect U.S. businesses from “frivolous, parasitic lawsuits.” He has also urged the House to condemn trial lawyers who “get fat off the pain” of plaintiffs.

Not content to let this spectacle of hypocrisy come to an end, DeLay has again put his foot in it. In the wake of Terri Schiavo’s tragic death, DeLay declared, in reference to certain federal judges, “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.” In one of many sharp responses to this threat against the courts, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) sent a letter pointing out that DeLay’s comments “may violate a Federal criminal statute.” That law states, “Whoever threatens to assault…or murder, a United States judge with intent to retaliate against such judge on account of the performance of official duties, shall be punished [by up to six years in prison].”

Noting that the family of one federal judge was recently murdered in their Illinois home, and another judge was gunned down in an Atlanta courtroom, Lautenberg wrote. “Your attempt to intimidate judges in America not only threatens our courts, but our fundamental democracy as well.”

Several questions come to my mind as I ponder this congressman’s outrageous behavior. Does DeLay think the public is stupid? When will this modern-day McCarthy be stopped and removed from office? And, what will be DeLay’s next outrage if he is not stopped?” I think many others may be considering these same questions.

Paul Hill ( is a contributing writer from Texas.