October 03, 2006

WaTimes Calls for Hastert's Head

Nothing like a good old-fashioned lynching, eh boys?

Sexual predators come in all shapes, sizes and partisan hues, in institutions within and without government. When predators are found they must be dealt with, forcefully and swiftly. This time the offender is a Republican, and Republicans can't simply "get ahead" of the scandal by competing to make the most noise in calls for a full investigation. The time for that is long past.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away.

I'm not sure if the Times has something they're withholding or if they are just far ahead of the story to a Leopoldian extreme, but what has been presented so far doesn't support their call for Hastert's resignation.

I'm not Hastert fan, and can't recall him having done much of anything as Speaker--which may well be enough reason to hang him out to dry according to some--but I'm simply seen nothing in the emails that should have warranted a major concern based purely on their content.

Denny Hastert has been utterly forgettable Speaker of the House, but I want to see more evidence that he was somehow either involved in covering up the scandal, or through gross negligence was unaware of a serious evidence of the likelihood of Foley's scandal, before calling for him to be cast down.

If the Times wants Hastert gone over this, they need to make a solid case to their readers. So far, I think they've failed to do so.

Update: Captain Ed makes a very valid argument for replacing Hastert:

As I wrote earlier, the strange reluctance of Republicans to investigate the earlier e-mails combined with Hastert's clumsy attempts to distance himself from the scandal on Friday have compounded the scandal -- which by all rights should fall completely on Mark Foley himself. Hastert's staffers told the press on Friday that he hadn't known of a problem with Foley, forcing John Boehner to retract his statement that he himself had told Hastert of the issue. Only after Thomas Reynolds went public the next day did Hastert himself admit that he had known of the earlier e-mails.

But let's put that aside for the moment, and concentrate on what Hastert and the leadership say they did in response to Foley. Once they found out about the e-mails through the complaint of an underage page, all they did was ask Foley about it, and accepted his denials at face value. Incredibly, no one apparently ever asked any of Foley's former or current pages if they had noticed any inappropriate behavior from the Congressman. What kind of an investigation doesn't address the reality of patterns in allegedly predatory behavior? Foley's uncommon interest in young teenage boys had become parlor talk among the pages, but either Hastert didn't want to find that out or deliberately avoided it. Hastert apparently made the decision not to follow procedures and refer the matter to the Page Board, the bipartisan committee that oversees pages, and that looks very clearly like a cover-up.

And someone has to explain why Foley retained his position on the Caucus for Missing and Exploited Children. No one saw a problem with this?

Even ascribing the best of intentions to Hastert and the other members of leadership, personal friendship with Foley doesn't excuse that level of incompetence. Furthermore, when the scandal broke, Hastert should have immediately explained his involvement in the earlier complaint, rather than wait for it to dribble out. That's what leadership means: controlling a situation and providing an example rather than allowing events to control you and your party. All Hastert needed to do was to come out on Friday and said, "We had a complaint about suggestive e-mails this winter, and we relied on Mark Foley's word that nothing more untoward had occurred. In hindsight, that was a mistake, but we wanted to honor the wishes of the parents and not make a public spectacle of the situation." It wouldn't have explained the earlier incompetence, but at least it would have dampened the firestorm that erupted around the changing stories of House leadership.

Perhaps Hastert should be replaced. He has not shown signs of leadership at any point in his tenure that I can readily recall, and he has now twice "stepped in it" (the first time was the absurd argument that Congressional offices are somehow out of legal jurisdiction during the William Jefferson investigation) when he has opened his mouth.

The sad fact of the matter is that incompetence is all to often the defining characteristic of "leadership" members in both parties and in the Congressional rank-and-file. If competence in government is going to be our new standard, the only people left in the halls of Congress will be the custodial staff. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

They at least, know how to clean up messes without making them worse.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at October 3, 2006 12:49 AM | TrackBack

I agree CY. What we need is more facts and less hysteria. If it is true that Hastert only saw the emails, then telling him to back off was the proper course. There was nothing in them that was illegal or actionable.

It also appears that he was never made aware of any of the IMs. If that is true, then there was no way for him to move forward and take any other action.

But what is really curious is the fact that somebody who is a Dem operative did have the IMs and held on to them. Why was that? I mean if there was something illegal done, then why weren't they handed over to the authorities? My suspicion is that they were viewed as not so much something that someone could be arrested over, but as a political wedge. Another Scandal du Jour brought to us via the DNC!

Posted by: Specter at October 3, 2006 07:11 AM

What the Cap said. Regardless of whether one thinks Hastert was negligent (I'm not so sure he was), it should have been the easiest thing in the world to defuse this, and Hastert did his best to confirm suspicions.

Another Scandal du Jour brought to us via the DNC!

Not so much. It was brought to you by Hastert. The DNC is just giving him the bullhorn.

Posted by: jpe at October 3, 2006 11:14 AM


Sorry to burst your bubble, but I see it is time to ground this issue in fact and not speculation. First off - Hastert and the rest of the Repub Leadership were made aware of the emails about a year ago. Don't confuse the emails with the IMs - they are completely different animals. Those emails are fairly innocuous - there is nothing overtly slimey or sexual in them at all. The Repub Leadership looked at them and then told Foley to stop. Not much else they could do, was there? In reality, they were following the wishes of the young man's parents. Hey - even sCREW sent the emails to the FBI and the FBI declined to investigate because there was nothing illegal about the emails.

The IMs may be a different story, but that has not been proven yet. Specifically, nobody has seen the header information from the IMs that proves it came from Foley to begin with (my suspicion is that they did). Be that as it may, the Repub Leadership was not made aware of these communications until last Friday. Notice when Foley left. I think the Republicans did their job - and that Foley did the right thing by resigning (as opposed to....I don't know....something like, "I did not have sex with that woman"...).

There is an FBI/police investigation into the IMs. If they prove to have come from Foley, then apply the applicable laws and make the guy defend himself. But what also has to be asked is where the IMs came from - and who held onto them sine they were sent in 2003 and earlier. The Dems are up in arms saying, "The Repub Leadership knew about this and did nothing to protect the 'children'." Yet - somebody on the left-leaning side has had those IMs in their possession for a long time, and only chose now - during an election season - to come forward with them. So - the Republican Leadership did not know about the IMs, but somebody on the left did. Which one was more negligent in "protecting children"? It sure looks like the person/people/CREW/Jason Leopold gang cared more about the impact in the election season than about the teens. What is really sweet is that if the cops find out that someone actually had those IMs for even a few days before they were released, they could be facing some pretty good charges. I suspect that the stuff was held on to for months and months.....

We'll see. But for the Dems to claim the high ground is ridiculous. They did less to protect the teens - and knew more. hypocrisy at best.

Posted by: Specter at October 4, 2006 06:39 AM