DeLay's Track Record with Minorities NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams talks with Washington insiders about the latest on Capitol Hill. Today he's joined by Democratic political consultant Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist Tara Setmayer. They discuss the implications of Tom DeLay's impending resignation, as well as DeLay's track record with minorities.

DeLay's Track Record with Minorities

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ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon and this is NEWS AND NOTES.

For a recap of this week's news from inside the Beltway, we go now to NPR's Senior Correspondent Juan Williams in our Political Corner, Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS reporting:

Thanks, Ed. I'm joined now by Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Democratic Presidential Nominee Al Gore in the year 2000. She now runs her own political consulting firm here in Washington. And with us is Tara Setmayer, a Republican strategist. Tara is a regular contributor to the Roundtable segment on NEWS AND NOTES. Welcome to you both.

Ms. DONNA BRAZILE (Political Consultant, Former Democratic Campaign Manager): Thank you, Juan.

Ms. TARA SETMAYER, (Republican Strategist): Thank you, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Let's start with Tara Setmayer. You had Tom DeLay announce his resignation from Congress this week. It's a major move because Tom DeLay has dominated Capitol Hill for the last 10 years. Is this the end of an era and the sign of a new dawn for Democratic power on Capitol Hill?

Ms. SETMAYER: Yeah, I'll be very interested to see how history portrays his tenure as majority leader. Some say he's one of the most effective majority leaders in history. And to see his career end this way I think saddens a lot of conservatives. I think that he ultimately brought it own himself. But what happen is, and this happens on both sides of the aisle, whenever you're in power, whenever a majority party is in power for a long time, sometimes the vices of holding power can--you can fall victim to them.

I'm not exactly a Tom Delay loyalist. Where I say that he brought it on himself is that, again when you have--when you're in power for so long, sometimes even you're guilty by association. Was he completely naive to what was going on around him? I question that, that someone that is that politically astute was unaware of what was going on, not saying that he participated in it. But I think that once he became aware of the ship taking on water, he saw that his time was ending.

WILLIAMS: Donna Brazile, in fact, one of the arguments that he put forward in explaining his decision to resign is that he might have lost that seat in the 22nd district of Texas to Nick Lampson, a former member of Congress. Do you believe that Democrats can win that seat? And do you believe that Democrats can win back control of the House of Representatives this year? They need 15 victories in order to it.

Ms. BRAZILE: That's a tough seat, and I think the reason why Tom DeLay quit is because he understood that he could not hold on to that seat. As part of the power scheme when he went back and gerrymandered those districts, he lost a significant chunk of Republican votes. I was on Capitol Hill during many of those years.

Tom DeLay was a unique politician in the Texas style of politics; The Lyndon Johnson, the Jim Wright, I mean he really enforced the rules, meaning the internal rules of engagement, and that is if you want to play, you got to pay.

WILLIAMS: One last question on this point to the two of you: What's Tom DeLay's record like with the minority community, large minority community of Hispanics in Texas, but with African-Americans as well; and I'm recalling that JC Watts, Tara, the lone Republican black member of Congress, really had some strong clashes with Tom DeLay; and many think that the reason he's gone is because of Tom DeLay. Am I off?

Ms. BRAZILE: No, you're not.

Ms. SETMAYER: Not at all, I know JC very well, and I saw the frustration and the struggles that JC had being in leadership. And I've always wanted to say that I thought JC was thrust into a leadership position in ‘98 unfairly and too soon, that it was kind of the Republican political affirmative action going on because of the disaster of the ‘98 election. They figured, oh well, let's put this rising star, this minority, in the conference position, which is supposed to be the communication arm of the party.

You're supposed to be able to keep everyone on message. And it made JC's life very difficult. And I think that he finally--he tried to be the good steward, and I think that that was an uphill battle for him, and he decided that it wasn't worth it for him.

WILLIAMS: Donna, what's the record? What's the history of DeLay's relationship with the minority community?

Ms. BRAZILE: There was no real significant relationship with the minority community. Look, unlike Dick Army and of course Speaker Hastert and Newt Gingrich for his--I mean, they all had minorities in key positions of leadership. Tom DeLay didn't really care. I mean Tom DeLay was about building Republican political power. There was no Kumbayah moment ever in Tom DeLay's life on Capitol Hill. He was about power and he took himself out of play in my judgment.

WILLIAMS: So can we anticipate, he says now that Christ has come into his life. Is he going to be in the Black church in the pew, in the pulpit?

Ms. SETMAYER: I wouldn't hold my breath. I don't ever want to say that, and some people might--some of the more staunch party loyalists probably won't appreciate my honesty with the situation, but that's the reality. And like Donna said, I was up on Capitol Hill during the mid ‘90's, and unlike Dick Army and Newt Gingrich and some of the other folks, even John Boehner, they were so much more--they gave off at least the aura of being more open and willing and friendlier to minorities, where I never felt that way about Tom DeLay.

So I think that Tom Delay had his place; he did his job. He was good at that as far as building--keeping the party--loyalists in line, getting things done. They call him the hammer for a reason. It didn't exactly make him the most likable guy, but he was respected and he kept our majority going very strong for a while. And it's definitely a dawn of a new power era in within the Republican Party and I think a good one.

WILLIAMS: Tara Setmayer is a Republican strategist based here in Washington. Donna Brazile, former campaigned manager for Democratic Presidential Nominee Al Gore. She now runs her own political consulting firm here in Washington. That's it for Political Corner this week, back to you Ed.

GORDON: Thanks, Juan. Don't forget to join us every Thursday for Juan Williams and his Washington Insider's right here on Political Corner.

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