Jack Abramoff. The friend Tom DeLay can’t shake.

More on the many tentacles of Jack Abramoff, including those with his pal, Tom De Lay.

Where to begin examining the extraordinary career of Jack Abramoff? His work trying to secure a visa for the great Zairian kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko, perhaps, or the bilking of an estimated $66 million out of Native American tribes, clients he described as "monkeys," "troglodytes," and "idiots"? Or his leadership of a 1980s think tank financed, unbeknownst to him apparently, by the intelligence arm of South Africa’s apartheid regime?

No, the chapter of our man’s story that matters most at the moment begins with a toast given by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay during a New Year’s trip they both took to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands in 1997. "When one of my closest and dearest friends, Jack Abramoff, your most able representative in Washington, D.C., invited me to the islands, I wanted to see firsthand the free-market success and the progress and reform you have made," DeLay said before an audience of Abramoff’s clients in the islands’ garment industry—whom, upon his return to Washington, he helped win an extended exemption from federal immigration and labor laws. 

And here’s a quote from another pal

"What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs. Then this becomes a different town."

— Grover Norquist, quoted by the National Journal, July 29, 1995. 

I suspect by now De Lay and Norquist are getting downright twitchy at the mere mention of Abramoff’s name, especially as it relates to them, rather than saying what a swell guy he is. The fear of indictment will do that to you.