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Rep. Tom DeLay, the No. 2 man in the Republican House of Representatives, and perhaps the most conniving of the current crop of Capital partisans, seems bent on political self-destruction, so oblivious is he to even rudimentary standards of ethics.

Twice in one week, the House Ethics Committee faulted DeLay for conduct that, if he were a Democrat, would have Republicans squealing like stuck pigs. The bipartisan panel first criticized the House majority leader for offering to endorse the son of fellow Republican if the colleague voted for the Medicare prescription bill last year. Days later, the committee rebuked him again for using a federal agency to track down Texas state lawmakers as part of a political fight and for a 2002 fund-raiser at a golf tournament sponsored by an energy company seeking special consideration in an energy bill.

Democrats and government watchdog groups have since called for DeLay's resignation from his leadership post. The majority leader has refused, with backing from his party, though some members are beginning to feel the heat their ethically challenged leader is focusing on them.

Some observers say DeLay will be done for if the GOP loses seats in next month's elections, but Republicans should demand his departure long before organizing the next Congress. He is a discredit to the party of Lincoln, to the people's House and to the country.

Republicans are not alone in believing winning is everything in Washington, of course. Democrats happily tolerated the heavy-handed speakership of Jim Wright, another Texan, for example. But Republicans protested, and then-Minority Leader Newt Gingrich engineered an ethics investigation that helped topple him.

With that history in mind, it will be strange, indeed, if Republicans choose to continue following a leader as bereft of ethics as Tom DeLay.