There's a wartime saying about “calling the guns in on your own position.” It refers to soldiers who realize that for their side to win a battle over an enemy, they actually have to radio their comrades to train the big guns or bombs precisely where they are -- and pray the enemy is killed and they aren't.
Less often, it can refer to someone calling in the guns on their position by mistake -- or by their own actions causing their own side to shoot at them.
That happened to Tom DeLay, the former U.S. House Majority Leader from Sugar Land, now gone not just from that job, but from Congress. After being indicted for funneling corporate money into Texas legislative elections, he became too big a liability for his Republican Party to keep him around.
Back home in Texas, despite a Republican majority in the Texas House of Representatives that the DeLay effort helped produce, Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland may be about to join DeLay as a former leader.
The arrogant, money-driven leadership style led to DeLay's fall, and may lead to Craddick's. Two Republican state representatives – Brian McCall of Plano and Jim Pitts of Waxahachie -- have filed against him.
Craddick insists he's got the votes to win a third term as presiding officer. But there's a good possibility he'll join DeLay in political exile.
Craddick's heavy-handed, partisan leadership style since he became speaker in 2003 – an echo of DeLay's example – finally may have created a critical mass of Republicans ready to join most of the Democrats in the minority to build a majority to take back the House for its members.
Craddick called virtually all the shots – down to what goes on in subcommittees, or doesn't.
Just after the Nov. 7 election, Craddick released the names of 109 pledges he said were sworn to him, who will be members of the House when it convenes Jan. 9, when the speaker's election presumably will be held.
It takes 76 votes to get a majority in the 150- member House. But for this election, it'll be 75. One seat is vacant, and even though it will be filled by a Republican -- one of two from Pearland in a January runoff -- it won't be in time for the speaker's election.
But after McCall announced, Craddick released a new list with 84 names that his spokespeople said had reconfirmed their support. Even though that's 25 fewer than Craddick had claimed last month, Bill Miller, the lobbyist who serves as Craddick's mouthpiece on some things, said “He's rock-solid.”
Alas, before the ink was dry on that list, Pitts -- Craddick's Appropriations Committee chairman -- said he also was challenging Craddick. Pitts was among the 84 Craddick claimed had reconfirmed.
Two others who had announced for speaker – conservative Republican Robert Talton of Pasadena, and liberal Democrat Senfronia Thompson of Houston – said shortly after Mc- Call announced that they would support him, and urged their supporters to do likewise.
Races for speaker usually are hated by lobbyists, because it can face them with making choices, which they'd prefer not to do. In that process, they risk making more enemies than friends, and the House is often divided for years.
In this case, however, dozens of lobbyists are hoping Craddick bites the dust. Craddick and Gov. Rick Perry took a lesson from DeLay's “K Street Project” in Washington, where he made it clear that lobbying interests hoping to be successful better use Republicans rather than Democrats.
A speaker's race is a shifty playing field. Members pledging to more than one candidate is not uncommon. A secret ballot on the House floor, reducing opportunities for post-election vindictiveness, could make a difference.
The coup may not happen. Craddick may survive. But if McCall or Pitts or someone else unseats him, there will be a rich irony.
Craddick dunned more than $1 million from lobbyists to refurbish the speaker's apartment behind the House chamber in the capitol. Those tired of Craddick and his iron-fisted tactics will chuckle big-time if, after the Legislature convenes, Craddick has to find some other place to live.
Reach McNeely at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 323-0248.