The new Dancing With the Stars contestant tells The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove why he’s more afraid of Obamacare than the dance floor.
Right-wing activist Tom DeLay—who was known as The Hammer during his reign as House Republican whip and then majority leader—has no intention of letting up on President Barack Obama just because he’s a contestant on Dancing With the Stars.
“That’s just five hours a day that I dance,” he told The Daily Beast Tuesday morning from Houston, as he drove to his first training session. “I’ve got another 19 hours to stop Obama.”
The 62-year-old DeLay—who three years ago was forced out of office amid the Jack Abramoff scandal after a Texas grand jury indicted him for alleged campaign-law violations—claimed to be “in pretty good shape,” but he hasn’t consulted a physician to confirm his dance-worthiness.
Since leaving office, DeLay has fleshed out a career as a professional conservative—he founded a political consulting company, First Principles LLC—and is a frequent cable talking head inveighing against the evils of Democrats in general and Obama in particular. He has long been fighting liberals, whom he usually likens to communists, as a leader of the embattled movement of cultural conservatives who oppose abortion rights and gay marriage but support the inclusion of religion in politics, arguing that the United States is essentially a Judeo-Christian nation.
The irony of DeLay’s adventure in pop culture isn't lost on him.
“Never in my wildest dreams!” he cackled as he contemplated his improbable journey from brass-knuckled, right-wing Washington power freak to twinkle-toed artiste. On the way, he transformed himself from a hard-drinking playboy who cheated on his wife—and earned the nickname Hot Tub Tom—into a pious Sunday school teacher. But he says he always enjoyed cutting a rug.
“I’ve always meant to take ballroom dancing lessons, and back in the ‘70s I did take disco. So I do know how to disco.”
“I’ve always meant to take ballroom dancing lessons, and back in the ‘70s I did take disco. So I do know how to disco,” DeLay added, prompting an alarmingly cheeseball vision of the former Republican leader in a shiny purple polyester shirt, open to the sternum. “Oh, man, I was a nut! Look at my Facebook profile picture right now. It’s John Travolta. I loved Saturday Night Fever and Urban Cowboy. This was before politics, when I was killin’ bugs in a pest control company.”
By the time of the Sept. 21 premiere of the long-running show—during which DeLay’s dancing skills will be, in the spirit of our age, pitted against Kelly Osbourne’s and Donny Osmond’s—he vows he’ll be ready to face the music. “Listen, I’m not scared of the judges. I’ve had every criticism you can imagine hurled at me for the last 30 years," DeLay said. "There’s nothing they can do to upset me. I’m looking forward to their constructive criticism.”
DeLay said that since yesterday’s announcement his friends and former colleagues “have been super supportive. I don’t want to sound like a dork, but I am very humbled. I had a really fun day yesterday with all the jokes being hurled at me. Patrick McHenry, a congressman from North Carolina, wanted to know if I was going Hollywood. My answer is I am going to Hollywood and will change Hollywood.”
DeLay—who in 2006 launched a campaign to garner public support for embattled Dancing with the Stars contestant Sara Evans, a loyal Republican country singer who was having a spot of bother with her adulterous husband—plans to use his vote-getting talents this time on his own behalf.
“Exactly right. Shoot, man! Why wouldn’t I? Donny Osmond’s gonna use his skills. I’m gonna use mine.”
Lloyd Grove is editor at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a frequent contributor to New York magazine and was a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. He wrote a gossip column for the New York Daily News from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he wrote the Reliable Source column for the Washington Post, where he spent 23 years covering politics, the media, and other subjects.