Lazy Saturday Reads: The Hastert FilesPosted: May 30, 2015
We live in strange times. Our politics and popular culture seem to be dominated by people who pretend to be deeply religious as a cover for their own inner hypocrisy and corruption.
Two of our three branches of government controlled by right wing “christians” who give themselves permission to violate any standards of behavior while they focus obsessively on the “sins” of others. They can’t seem to stop thinking about what other people are doing in their sex lives, and they focus their attention on trying to control women’s reproductive choices.
When they aren’t trying to ban abortion and birth control and legalize forced childbirth, they seem bent on destroying any remaining vestiges of democracy and equality in our country by removing any controls on corporations and wealthy political donors. They justify the rampant violence caused by the easy availability of guns, and they defend police brutality against people whom they consider somehow “lesser” than themselves.
How did we get to this point? I can recall when American culture and media were much more dominated by what the right wingers used to call “the East Coast liberal establishment.” I recall the Supreme Court making major decisions that led to advancements in equal rights in this country. There was a time when even radicals like Noam Chomsky could get on C-Span and other TV outlets and when the Sunday shows weren’t required to have three Republicans for every Democrat allowed on the air. There was a time when people who didn’t believe in evolution and got their “science” from the bible were marginalized and dismissed as nuts.
Wasn’t there? Was it all a dream?
The latest right wing hypocrite to be exposed is former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who has been indicted for trying to manipulate bank reporting rules and lying to the FBI about it. There seems much less public concern that Hastert was doing this in order to hide the fact that he abused high school students whom he worked with as a teacher and coach.
Here’s some background on the Hastert story from Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times:
He was always thought of the “Accidental Speaker.” That’s because of the dramatic turn of events on one day – Saturday, Dec. 19, 1998 – that vaulted the relatively unknown lawmaker from Chicago’s western suburbs into the top job.
House members that day headed to the chamber for an unusual Saturday session, for what would be historic votes to impeach President Bill Clinton.The votes were to be on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, though everyone knew that Clinton got into this jam because of his sexual relationship with then White House intern Monica Lewinsky….
Republicans had lost seats in the 1998 mid-terms, with some blaming GOP leaders for aggressively pursuing the Clinton impeachment.
After the election losses, some House members asked Hastert, then the chief deputy whip under Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to run for majority leader. But he refused because he had already promised to support to Rep. Dick Armey R-Texas….
Meanwhile, House Speaker Newt Gingrich R-Ga. decided to resign, though the public was not yet aware that he too, had been having an affair.
Gingrich threw his backing to Louisiana’s Rep. Bob Livingston.
On that fateful Saturday, members gathered in the chamber knowing that Livingston had earlier in the week admitted he was having an extramarital affair, jumping the gun on a magazine that was about to expose him.
Livingston launched into a speech on the House floor, urging Clinton to just quit.
But what happened next was a shocker. Livingston announced his own resignation.
I was in the House gallery that day and recall clearly the loud gasps and shouts from members absorbing what Livingston was doing. Suddenly, Republicans had to find a new speaker.
Sweet also mentions that the Mark Foley scandal back in 2006 may have led to Hastert stepping down as Speaker and leaving the House. Read the whole thing at the link.
Sweet doesn’t even mention the rumors about Hastert himself that were going around in 2006. Steve M. wrote a bit about it at Crooks & Liars yesterday, linking to this October 2006 Huffington Post blog by Lawrence O’Donnell: Who is Scott Palmer?
He is Speaker Hastert’s chief of staff, which makes him the key player in the what-did-Hastert-know-and-when-did-he-know-it drama. Scott Palmer has issued a statement flatly denying that Kirk Fordham, Mark Foley’s former chief of staff, warned him that Foley was crossing the line with pages long before Foley’s inappropriate email surfaced. Palmer’s denial of Fordham’s headline-grabbing claim is the thread Hastert’s Speakership is now hanging by.
In Hastert’s brief, evasive press conference on Thursday, sharp reporters immediately zeroed in on Palmer’s role in the Foley information flow. Did Hastert leap to the defense of his chief of staff’s honor in the crucial credibility contest with Kirk Fordham? Did he say I know Scott Palmer and I know he’s telling the truth? No. He avoided every question with Palmer’s name in it. Hastert obviously does not want to talk about Scott Palmer.
If Fordham did warn Palmer about Foley a long time ago, what are the odds that Palmer did not tell Hastert? As close to zero as you can get. Many chiefs of staff are close, very close, to their bosses on Capitol Hill. But none are closer than Scott Palmer is to Denny Hastert. They don’t just work together all day, they live together.
There are plenty of odd couple Congressmen who have roomed together on Capitol Hill, but I have never heard of a chief of staff who rooms with his boss. It is beyond unusual. But it must have its advantages. Anything they forget to tell each other at the office, they have until bedtime to catch up on. And then there’s breakfast for anything they forgot to tell each other before falling asleep. And then there’s all day at the office. Hastert and Palmer are together more than any other co-workers in the Congress.
Hastert was married to a woman who apparently stayed back home in Illinois while her husband shacked up with his chief of staff. Go to the link to read more.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t link to InfoWars, but they actually have published the best summary of the Hastert scandals and rumors that I’ve seen. It’s based on old stories from Wayne Madson, who is often denigrated for spreading bizarre conspiracy theories but sometimes gets stories that have some truth to them. Here’s an excerpt:
In 2006, WMR scooped the Washington media by reporting that Hastert was involved with the cover-up of a major sex scandal involving Republican congressmen and underage male pages.
WMR led off its reporting on Hastert with this September 30, 2006 report:
“Congressional sources told WMR that Hastert, while working from 1964 to 1980 as a popular history/government teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School, in Yorkville, Illinois — a suburb of Chicago — was the subject of persistent rumors about inappropriate contact with male members of his high school wrestling team. The culture of the times usually resulted in such alleged behavior being covered up by public and parochial school authorities. However, the rumors were enough for his Yorkville constituency to reject him when he ran for an open seat in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1980. However, Hastert lucked out when another sitting Republican House member who represented the three-seat district had a stroke and declined to run for re-election. The GOP machine bosses selected Hastert as the replacement candidate.
Hastert served in Springfield from 1980 to 1986, six years to make the transformation from wrestling coach with a cloud surrounding himself to politician. In 1986, Hastert received an unexpected promotion. After incumbent Republican Rep. John Grotberg was nominated by the GOP for a second term, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and fell into a coma. The Illinois Republican Convention selected Hastert as the replacement on the ticket, a virtual election to the U.S. House of Representatives in the strongly Republican district.
In 1989, when the allegations of homosexuality among GOP congressmen arose during the first ‘Pagegate”‘ scandal [the so-called “Franklin cover-up], Hastert’s name was one of those whispered.
Read the rest at the link. So even then the rumors about Hastert’s history of abuse were out there but were apparently ignored by the mainstream media. If you’re a Republican, you can get away with this kind of thing. Just look at Diaper Dave Vitter, who survived an embarrassing sex scandal and may be the next Governor of Louisiana.
Here’s Josh Marshall on Hastert and the Foley Scandal. His conclusions in the light of the recent news:
We don’t have any convictions yet. Indeed, any statute of limitations has almost certainly lapsed. So we can’t be certain of anything and we have few details. But it seems clear that Hastert himself had enough of a history of sexual abuse (though we don’t know the ages yet) that he was willing to pay $3.5 million to keep it covered up.
Adding this fact puts the whole Foley scandal in a dramatically different light – at least at the level of irony and perhaps more.
Looking back, it is hard to believe Hastert didn’t go through the weeks of the Foley scandal something like petrified that his own history would be kicked up in the storm of the Foley revelations. Indeed, this new information might explain his own awkward and oddly tentative response.
Set aside whether this past had any role in Hastert’s office’s laggard response to warnings about Foley. Hastert was hiding an explosive secret. He must have been terrified of exposure. A thundering denunciation of Foley would seem like the kind of move which almost would have invited a past victim to step forward. Perhaps that explains his reticence. At this point there’s no way to know.
I’m just throwing this stuff out there for discussion. Obviously there will be lots more coming out about Hastert’s history, including how he got rich enough to pay millions to keep his shameful secrets. Just a few more stories, links only:
CBS Chicago: Dennis Hastert To Friends: I Am A Victim, Too.
Conservative columnist John Kass at the Chicago Tribune: Dennis Hastert and the Illinois Combine.
Josh Gerstein at Politico: Dennis Hastert charges cast light on 2013 lawsuit.
Also from Politico: Hastert hometown rocked by scandal.
What are you hearing? Remember, this is an open thread. Feel free to post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and have an enjoyable weekend.
FYI: The images in this post are from Robin Schmidt’s Pinterest page, “Reading.”