[This review was published in the Summer 2007 issue of The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, pp. 251-253.]

 

Book Review 

 

No Retreat, No Surrender: One American’s Fight

Tom DeLay, with Stephen Mansfield

Sentinel, 2007 

 

            Congressman Tom DeLay has long been one of the “lightning rod” figures in American politics.  He resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 after serving there for 22 years, much of the time in Republican leadership roles.  As the title to this book makes clear, he was stalwartly partisan on behalf of his Party and his principles.  This led to his becoming the majority leader in the House in 2003, but also called down upon his head an unending series of attacks from his enemies.

            He was forced out of his leadership role when, as he says, a “partisan Democrat” district attorney in Texas got a grand jury to indict him for money laundering (a charge he denies).  An internal Republican Party rule (which he himself had helped enact) provided that anyone indicted must resign from the leadership.  Going further, he resigned his seat in Congress in June 2006, believing that he would no longer be able to have a significant impact in Congress and could be more effective elsewhere.

            This is a valuable book that enables the reader to see DeLay’s career as he himself sees it.  Like the elephant examined by the blind men in the Indian story, it is a career that can be perceived in many ways.  The book describes a man of great energy and gives an insider’s view of the Republican Party program in Congress before and after the “Contract With America” in 1994-5.  Of especial interest are DeLay’s characterizations of such other major personalities in the Congress and in American politics as Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Dennis Hastert, and presidents George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, William Clinton and Richard Nixon.

            DeLay’s political position as a Goldwater-Reagan conservative is summarized concisely when he tells us that “I want to reduce the size of government.”  Specific points include restoring the primacy of the Congress, reducing the executive branch, restraining judicial activism, returning the control of education to the states and localities, promoting the deregulation of business, supporting “unrestrained free trade worldwide,” and stopping illegal immigration but with a “restricted guest worker program.” A salient part of his belief-system developed when he became a committed Christian after attending a Bible study group during his first year in Congress.  He is strongly opposed to abortion, and his study of the Bible has created in him a “love of Israel.”  In fact, he says that the reason he resigned his Congressional seat was “to be free… to advance conservative causes and support Israel.” (Emphasis added)   

            The book is engaging as a personal chronicle, but isn’t deeply thoughtful.  He points with pride to the various ways that the “Republican Revolution of 1994” (when the Republican Party won a majority in Congress that lasted until the 2006 election) has “transformed America.”  Many of his fellow “conservatives,” however, sense that the United States is in serious difficulty, indeed peril, from what they feel is the hollowing-out of the American economy through the free-trade globalization that DeLay endorses.  Rather than a transformed America, they see the influx of millions of Third World immigrants as much more serious than DeLay’s lack of stress seems to make it.  And DeLay seems in no way cognizant, as they feel they are, of the dangers created by an “American Project” of world hegemony.  None of this is made the subject of extended discussion.

            Readers are likely to take particular interest in DeLay’s rebuttal of the many ethics charges that have been made against him.  One chapter is devoted to “ten liberal lies you’ve heard about me.”  Overall, he speaks of “ten years of political persecution” that stemmed from “a carefully executed strategy by the Democrats.”  It is hard to judge all this without a detailed study of it, but it is a subject that should be approached with an open mind, since it is entirely plausible that he has been, as he thinks, a lightning rod who has attracted the venom of a partisan campaign amounting to a “politics of personal destruction.”

            There is one charge he makes of a “lie” against him that does not seem to hold up because of apparent inconsistencies in his account.  He says it was a lie when Dick Armey, also a member of the House Republican leadership, told speaker-of-the-house Newt Gingrich that “we had been plotting against him” [i.e., Gingrich].  But was this a lie?   (Or was it simply a difference between DeLay and Armey over the meaning of “plotting”)?  DeLay relates how he attended a meeting of a group of Republican Congressmen who “intended to move to vacate the [speaker’s] chair.”  He says “I tried to talk them out of it,” but he also says that he told the group he would join them in voting to oust Gingrich.  From this, it would appear that he went along, but reluctantly.  But then, several pages later, without seeming to sense how it contradicts his charge that Armey lied, he tells us that “I had run the campaign against Newt.”

            The book’s account of DeLay’s life as a child and before he became a member of Congress is readable and interesting.  His father, although an alcoholic, was successful in the oil business; and as a youngster DeLay spent several years in Venezuela, where death squads just missed killing him and “dead bodies sometimes hung from lampposts in our village square.”  One of DeLay’s formative experiences was when he and other Americans were detained threateningly by Fidel Castro’s soldiers when the Americans’ plane stopped over in Havana while the DeLay family was returning to the United States.  It was there that “I met for the first time the suffocating spirit of tyranny.”  As an undergraduate, DeLay was booted out of Baylor University—and his account of the reasons is hilarious.  There is an account, too, of the process of DeLay’s political maturation during the six years he served in the Texas House of Representatives.

            American radio and television personalities Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity contributed a Foreword and Preface, respectively.  Co-author Stephen Mansfield is a professional writer and speaker.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Dwight D. Murphey