Fred Barnes claimed that "only the press" refers to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) as "the Hammer." But The New York Times reported that a tribute dinner held by DeLay supporters in Washington, D.C., in May 2005 included numerous references to DeLay's nickname: "Mr. DeLay was served a red-white-and-blue cake festooned with sparklers and plastic hammers -- a reference to his nickname, the Hammer -- while the band played 'If I Had a Hammer.' "
On the April 8 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes claimed that "only the press" refers to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) as "the Hammer." But as Media Matters for America has noted, The New York Times reported that a $2,000-a-table tribute dinner held by DeLay supporters in Washington, D.C., in May 2005 included numerous references to DeLay's nickname: "Mr. DeLay was served a red-white-and-blue cake festooned with sparklers and plastic hammers -- a reference to his nickname, the Hammer -- while the band played 'If I Had a Hammer.' "
The Washington Post further noted the repeated use of DeLay's nickname during the event:
Amid the rhetorical red meat, guests dined on filet mignon and salmon, topped off by frosted marble cake with chocolate hammers. At one table, diners grabbed for the edible hammers like kids at a birthday party. "Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats and it will facilitate the serving of our hammer desserts," implored [American Conservative Union board member Cleta] Mitchell. When no one listened, she shushed into the microphone and asked, "Where is the Hammer when you need him?"
Barnes added that Republican House members had little reason to refer to DeLay as "the Hammer," because DeLay was "a very gentle persuader." But a July 11, 2003, Congressional Quarterly article presented a starkly different account of DeLay's negotiating tactics, reporting that if Republican House members defied their leadership, "punishment" or "threats" would follow, or committee memberships could be put in jeopardy:
DeLay perfected his reputation as a keen political strategist, vote-counter, enforcer of party loyalty and chief fundraiser among lobbyists while serving as majority whip, a job he won when Republicans took control of the House in 1995.
And he solidified his base of support within the GOP conference -- from conservatives and moderates -- by meeting members' needs, ranging from feeding them barbecue on late work nights to raising millions of dollars in campaign cash. (1999 CQ Weekly, p. 1322)
In exchange, members learned to accurately report their intended votes and not defy the leadership when loyalty counted the most. If they did, punishment, or threats of it, followed.
In a high-profile delivery of leadership payback, moderate Christopher Shays of Connecticut was denied the chairmanship of the Government Reform Committee because he used procedural rules against the leadership to force a vote on his campaign finance overhaul (PL 107-155).
This year, conservative Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey was warned he could lose the helm of the House Veterans' Affairs panel if he pursued budget-busting legislation to move veterans' health spending from discretionary to mandatory accounts to guarantee funding. Smith has since worked on a compromise bill and is trying to avoid conflict.
From a discussion with guest co-host and National Public Radio senior correspondent Juan Williams, on the April 8 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys:
WILLIAMS: But the second thing to say is that you take away Tom DeLay, who was a terrific fundraiser. I mean, he was known as "the Hammer" around this town, because he could hold together votes on the Hill for the Republican Party. But he was a great fundraiser. He's gone. That puts more pressure on the man that you just pointed out has a historic low in terms of his ratings, President Bush, to get out there and raise some money.
WILLIAMS: But let me say something, it's a season of change. And people are not so much looking at what the Democrats -- as someone said this week, a Republican said to me this week -- it's not necessarily that the Democrats have such great things to offer.
WILLIAMS: It's that the Republicans are just knee-deep in trouble at this moment. And I might add they're not helping themselves. When you look as ethics reform coming out of the Congress, they don't even have an oversight committee, Fred. They're talking about, "Oh, we'll just disclose. We'll open the door and let sunlight in and tell people all the corrupt acts we're up to."
BARNES: Can I say one more thing about Tom DeLay? You know, it was only the press that called him "the Hammer." You won't believe this, but the fact is, he was a very gentle persuader of members of the -- of the House Republicans to get them to vote with him, probably the best ever. He will be remembered as one great legislator who left under a cloud but was a great congressional leader.
WILLIAMS: Well, I'll tell you what, I don't know that I have that view.