The Times Gets Tautological with Tom DeLay

A lot of people have been having fun with a line from a harrumphing Sunday editorial excoriating former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, conservative Republican of Texas ("Tom DeLay's Legacy").

The Justice Department decided last week not to bring charges against Tom DeLay, whose unethical conduct represented a modern low among Congressional leaders. The decision is a reminder that some of Washington's worst big-money practices remain either legal or far too difficult to prosecute.

Mr. DeLay, the Texas Republican who had been the House majority leader, crowed that he had been "found innocent." But many of Mr. DeLay's actions remain legal only because lawmakers have chosen not to criminalize them. Mr. DeLay's wife and daughter, for example, were paid more than $500,000 by his political action and campaign committees for "strategic guidance" and event-planning. Others in Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have put family members on the payroll.

How to explain in terms a Times editorial writer would understand? If there is no law against something, then it is not a crime. That's how it works.

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