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Speaker Jim Wright has launched a blistering personal assault on Richard Phelan, the special counsel to the House ethics committee whose painstaking investigation of the Texas Democrat's sleazy financial dealings has put Wright's continuation as speaker in jeopardy.

Wright's tactic is uncannily reminiscent of the advice given well over a century ago by a young trial attorney in Illinois. Abe Lincoln said, in effect, if the facts are against your client, argue the law; if the law is against your client, argue the facts; and if both facts and law are against him, attack the other fellow's lawyer.