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Pioneer Editorial: Will DeLay's move be too late for GOP?

The question remaining after Tuesday's announcement that former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, would resign from office this summer is if it comes in time to turn around President Bush's low numbers in the polls and help Republican candidates in the November election.

Democrats are hoping it's too late.

But if the Republicans are to retain any of the "mandate" they received in 2004 by the number of red states over blue states, a new direction must be taken away from their perceived imperial dominance that besets Washington, D.C.

The president's poll numbers have plummeted, his domestic agenda stalled and the nation is becoming ever more antsy over the War on Terror/Iraq. Despite having majorities in both the House and the Senate, Republicans have floundered and perhaps even squandered the capital they supposedly claim.

DeLay held on far longer than he should, deeply embroiled in ethics charges which find him under indictment in Texas. Although he stepped down last fall from his leadership post, it took former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, once a key DeLay ally, and two of DeLay's former aides to plead guilty in a Justice Department corruption probe to force his hand this week.

Congress, which has even lower public opinion ratings than President Bush, needs to get back to the job of governing. While DeLay's departure should help, other Republicans are entangled in the Abramoff mess, and questions have been raised about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

The White House has not been without fault, either. Democrats assert that President Bush is occupying the office, but it's the puppeteers in the backroom, such as Karl Rove, who are running the show. The indictment of former vice presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby only adds to critics claim that Washington is beset in a "culture of corruption."

The president did take a positive step last week in replacing longtime Chief of Staff Andy Card with Budget Director Joshua Bolten, and giving him the authority to make more staff changes.

If the president is to be perceived as being in charge, he must take charge and show that he is leading the agenda com-ing from the White House. He must rise above the setbacks of bungling the federal response to Hurricane Katrina or under-estimating the fallout from advocating an Arab country run U.S. ports.

If the president is to make the most of the 2½ years he has left and not be labeled "lame duck" before his time, he must make changes in his house and get the nation back on agenda. Similarly, DeLay's action is but a step toward restoring confidence in Congress and Republicans there too must focus on a national agenda that doesn't stutter step around the "culture of corruption" at every turn.

Otherwise, Democrats will get all they ever hoped for in November, handed on a plate.