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On the occasion of the 2063 Brandeis Dinner Keynote Speech by House Majority Leader TOM DELAY of Texas… Texas and. Israel lands of cactus; Texans and Israelis: tough on the outside sweet on the inside FEATURE The Righteous Brothers Over the top with Tom DeLay BY LOU DUBOSE By the time Tom DeLay arrived at the head table in the Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Hilton on November 16, his obvious intention to succeed Denny Hastert as Speaker of the House seemed too modest by half. A man standing in line at the Zionist Organization of America awards banquet said DeLay made Sam Rayburn look like a lightweight because DeLay stands up to a popular president in his own party. A young telecommunications consultant who had driven over from Englewood, New Jersey, said that more than anything he wanted to get his picture taken with “the man who really is the Speaker of the House and ought to be looking for something bigger?’ Morton Klein, president of the Zionist group that brought DeLay to New York to receive an award, said that he had wanted to see DeLay elected president of the United States. Now, he said, in his remarks from the speaker’s platform, he wants Tom DeLay to become prime minister of Israel \(a career option Democrats in the Texas congressional caucus would probably supDeLay was compared to the Lamed Vav, the “36 just men” in Jewish tradition, whose very existence sustains mankind. But DeLay is a gentileand a man with a temperament, voting record, and fundraising list that makes him as likely to be designated one of the Lamed Vav as Michael Jackson is to be father of the year. So Klein reached into the Old Testament for a comparison that better suited his subject. “Moses wanted to know if there were any righteous men in Canaan?’ DeLay, he said, was far more than the “go-to person for the ZOA and other proIsrael groups.” Tom DeLay is “a righteous gentile.” The sort of righteous gentile Moses sought. Maybe even more so. For Klein, the congressman from Sugar Land has earned his place on a very short list of righteous gentiles who have at great risk defended the Jewish people. Klein ran through the list: Emile Zola, James Balfour, Oskar Schindler, and now Tom DeLay. Here I wanted to ask the earnest young man who asked me if I knew any Yiddish how he would translate “over the top.” The Zionist Organization of America’s annual awards banquet might have been billed as “Over the Top on Tom DeLay.” Almost 800 people paid $360 to eat a plate of convention chicken and listen to a speech by the majority leader. Three others were receiving awards, but DeLay was the starboth the keynote speaker and recipient of the ZOA’s Defender of Israel Award. “We’re here to show our support for the congressman,” said an elegant Park Avenue matron. She also wondered if DeLay would be bringing “any of his Christian group with him.” Small potted barrel cacti with Israeli, American, ZOA, and Texas flags planted around each cactus served as table centerpieces. Signs on each pot compared Israelis and Texans to cactus: “tough on the outside, sweet on the inside.” \(While sweetness is not an attribute that comes to mind when someone mentions Ariel Sharon or Tom DeLay, DeLay’s one soft. spot is foster children. Three days after he spoke in New York, he raced from a Capitol negotiation session on Medicare legislation to a Ways and Means hearing in the Longworth Building literally too winded to speak as he began his testimony as a 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 12/5/03