Lazy Saturday Reads: The Hastert Files

reading by window

Good Day!!

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?

woman coffee reading

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:

Sex scandals made Denny Hastert — now they may break him.

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.

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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.

girl reading

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.

Dennis Perrin near the window reading

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.

woman reading1

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.

Mediaite: This Unnerving C-SPAN Call to Dennis Hastert Makes His Indictment Quite Interesting.

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.”


39 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads: The Hastert Files”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    It’s amazing it took so long for all of this stuff to come out. Hastert must have some powerful friends.

  2. janicen says:

    How did we get to this point, you ask? Well I’m reading all about it and I can’t wait until you and dak and Pat J. read this book and post about it. I’m reading, “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” by Kevin M. Kruze. It’s fascinating. I’m a slow reader when it comes to non-fiction so I’m only 12% into it but I highly recommend it. It answers the question of why American Christianity bears little resemblance to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We don’t feed and help the poor, we demonize them because helping them makes them weaker.

    In reaction to the horrors of the New Deal, our corporate overlords had to come up with a way to demonize the collective and stress individualism and fear of government. What better tool than religion? The began a propaganda campaign the likes of which would make Fox News blush and gradually peppered our consciousness with phrases like “In God We Trust” and “One Nation Under God”. Those phrases magically appeared in the twentieth century. We always thought it had to do with weeding out communists, but it was much more insidious than that. They used their vast wealth to gain control the hearts and minds of unsuspecting Americans and convincing them that conservative politics and a pro-business agenda is what God wants.

    I’m thinking that players like Hastert are the easiest to manipulate. He’ll do whatever they tell him to do, enact whatever legislation they want, and oversee the impeachment of whomever they want because he desperately needs to keep his awful secrets.

    • janicen says:

      I misspelled the author’s name. It’s “Kruse, not Kruze”.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      “why American Christianity bears little resemblance to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We don’t feed and help the poor, we demonize them because helping them makes them weaker”

      I’ve made that observation here and other places across the blogosphere for years.

      • janicen says:

        Exactly. What I’m learning is that it didn’t just evolve that way, it was a deliberate campaign to impose a political agenda.

      • dakinikat says:

        The entire religion was designed to spread Roman rule, culture, and the idea of obedient women and slaves to capture peoples. It’s been used like that since Constantine locked up those religious leaders up and told them to come up with a Roman religion. They also went about systematically destroying competing version of early christianity of which there were many and some with some pretty exotic ideas. The idea is all summed up with the concept of sheep. Just follow and don’t question.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That book sounds really interesting. I will check it out!

    • Fannie says:

      You might have heard about the end of the year outdoor carnival that the PS120 Queens elementary school put on. They ordered all these inflatable house and water slide rentals, and shaved ice cones makers for the kids. Come to find out, the poor kids were left out because they couldn’t afford the $10 fee to attend the carnival. So the principal, Joan Monroe, had them go into the gym, to watch some old Disney movie. While everybody else were having loads of fun outdoors jumping in the house, and sliding in the water and eating cherry/grape snow cones.

      Just how did this freaking woman get to the point that she was the decision maker, and come hell or high water, she made sure the poor weren’t going to be part of the carnival. These kids weren’t a threat (terrorist) to the carnival, they were criminals, they just didn’t have the fucking $10. It didn’t take me long to smell a rat, and I called the school. First thing I was told was the secretary couldn’t talk about it, couldn’t connect me to her office, and couldn’t help me. Case closed. Then I called the Supt. Education office about my concerns, and the issue of treating the poor kids differently and making them feel less than human because they were poor. If all the kids couldn’t afford the carnival then why have one? Why didn’t they all gather in the Gym for Disney and popcorn. I was told the case was under investigation, and that is why I couldn’t talk to the principal. It’s not right.

      I think we have failed, it’s all about money. We have allowed the rich to take control in all aspects of our lives. We have allowed the Christian Republicans to get away with all the terrible decisions, and the destruction of our democracy.

      • Delphyne49 says:

        Fannie – I ❤ you! I was outraged when I read this story a few days ago. The children forced into that gym to watch a Disney movies and listening to the other kids having fun outside broke my heart. Many of them were immigrant kids, from what I understand – Chinese, I think. It's embarrassing to me that our country does things like this…it just isn't right. Being poor should not make you a pariah.

      • Fannie says:

        Dennis Hastert, became a “born again” back when he was a teen. He received his BA degree from Wheaton College (Evangelical) in economics. Went on for his Masters in philosophy, at Northern Illinois University. Then went on to coach and teach. Yeah, he nailed them down when he was there. I read the link at politico “hometown rocked by scandal”. It was real telling when you see the article, then on the right side of the screen is a big black and red photo of Pres. Obama, asking you to click here, and send him a message to stop spending our money, some bullshit, and I backed out of there. That’s the other part of how we come to be were we are, the computer, the digital, and the cell phones, and everything else that somehow manages to get your attention away from the truth, and serious issue concerning Hastert. Of course that caught up with him in the way of the how the band looks over the accounts, and how the IRS responds to that.

        Hastert had 100% backing from the Christian Coalition Lobbyist, the NRA, Chamber of Commerce, and a lot of other organizations. They not only supported him 100%, but they supported Newt Gingrich, and Bob Livingston, 110% for their sexual practices. Saying they were more manly than Bill Clinton. They claimed Bill was ducking around, and Newt and Bob, handled it the manly way, and stepped down. (If you could hear me laughing, heeheehee). What’s more all the others were well regarded in the media, were honest, sincere, and driven. Right, driven by the devil.

        Pat Robertson who started the Christian Coalition, made sure that anybody who was against abortion, against homosexuality, against same sex marriage, and for funding private schools, and proposed religion amendment to US Constitution, were the ones they wanted in their army. He went national, and spent a ton to get churches to vote the way he said, and those he selected to serve. Now we have all these groups that don’t have the CC name, and come off as some bullshit name for IRS 401 exemption, and passing the plate from all these mega churches. I see the Mormons doing it right here in Idaho, and at the capital. When questioned, when confronted, they have learned not to give a true account, just deny everything, and every penny.

        Republicans won’t stand up against these, sexual affairs, or these child molesters, these rapist, these terrorists, well not in their party. Just look at Huckabee, just listen to Wolf on CNN, holy smokes man. We can’t expect them to stand against these no good account assholes, why in the hell do we think they’ll help us. They will not. The only thing they want is abortion outlawed, no immigration, and prayers in school, and the bible as the constitution.
        I hope they give Hastert a “winner’s award, special sexual predator award, or class A asshole champion, that nailed ’em down. Maybe give the awards to him in the city of New Orleans, where he said it should be bulldozed after Katrina.

        My rant, sorry it’s a late in day.

      • janicen says:

        No, I hadn’t read about it. That’s disgusting. You’re right that person should not be a principal or have anything to do with children. Thank you for calling them, Fannie. By the way, my husband said to tell you he loves you too.

        • Fannie says:

          Back at you and your hubby. Big smile. When it comes children, those who are hired to lead the way, need to set the example. She didn’t solve the problem, and needs to be cut loose from her job. All kids need more fun, need more adventures, need more field trips that educate them, and help them be friends, and make friends.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    I had no idea that Dennis rose in the ranks of politics through appointment and became Speaker of the House by default. It all sounds like Dennis was the recipient of some grateful patrons. I wonder what inspired that sort of gratitude? And how did this guy who started out a teacher & coach amass a fortune that allowed him to pay out over 3 million dollars in hush money?

    I think back to when I was in HS and even when my daughter was in HS and it wasn’t uncommon for a grown man, in his 20’s, to date a teenage girl. I had several friends in HS who were dating and/or engaged men that were 5-10 years older than them. I also had a friend who dated a professor when she was a freshman in college who was at least 15 years older than her. Were there laws in those days that allowed adults to date teens? I honestly don’t remember? I do remember that it was illegal for an adult, over 21, to provide alcohol to minors, but I don’t remember any restrictions on dating. You are near my age BB, do you remember if there were any laws against adults dating teenagers?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Ana Marie Cox at The Daily Beast: How ‘Public Servant’ Hastert Got His Riches

      Washington Post: How Dennis Hastert made a fortune in land deals

      I don’t know about laws against adults dating teenagers, but to my knowledge it has always been considered wrong for public school teachers to get romantically involved with students. One of my junior high teachers got fired for it. I think college teachers getting involved with students used to be more accepted, though still scandalous.

      Every state has its own age of consent, of course.

      But this isn’t about dating. It’s about sexual abuse.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I know it’s not about dating, I wasn’t inferring that it was. I was just thinking back to the 1950’s, 60’s and even into the 70’s and remembering how teenage girls often dated older men. I don’t remember whether it was illegal or not. My mother encouraged me to date a guy who was 22 when I was 16 and I thought he was OLD and didn’t want anything to do with him. 🙂 My daughter played basketball in Jr. High with a girl who married the guy who was their Jr. High BB coach when she was about 18 and he was about 35. I know they dated while she was in HS with her parents approval.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like I was telling you something you don’t know. Legality varies from state to state. In some Southern states, the age of consent used to be even lower than 16, which it is in lots of states. But where I’ve lived, a high school teacher who dated a student would have been out of a job.

          That’s amazing that your mom encouraged you to go out with a man that much older than you. My mom would have freaked out if I tried that. When I was about 21, I got involved with a guy who was 33. He told me he was 29. I was even shocked by that.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            He was the nephew of one of her close friends and had a college degree. I suppose she thought he would make a good catch.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            “When I was about 21, I got involved with a guy who was 33. He told me he was 29. I was even shocked by that.”

            It’s funny how at 21 a 33 year old would seem too old, now a 33 year old seems like a child. Perception is reality.

          • bostonboomer says:

            OK, I understand why she wanted you to date him now.

            I know. It is funny. To me now a 33 year old is a kid.

    • Fannie says:

      Back in the day, a HS teacher was not allowed to date their students. I think that included college professors. Once they were college students they could date and hang out with teachers. Now it’s gone back the other way, teachers don’t want to deal with those issues. I haven’t been on campus for long time, so might not be the case.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Digby has a good piece in Salon in response to Bill Kristol’s stupid argument that Hillary is too old and Baby Boomers suck anyway.

    The GOP’s impotent “Millennial” warfare: What Hillary Clinton understands that Republicans simply do not.

    Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker also ripped Kristol to shreds in the WaPo.

    • janicen says:

      Both good pieces but Parker’s was especially so. I normally can’t stand her but she laid him out in this column. Good for her.

    • Sweet Sue says:

      It’s my hope that the GOP’s relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton will convince a number of our conservative sisters to mark their ballots for her.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Bill Kristol is a shill and apparently smoking dope if he thinks Rubio, Walker or Paul has a snowballs chance in hell with millennials. Paul has a good sized group of young Libertarian supporters, but they won’t get him the nomination anymore more than they did his father. They will, however, make a lot of noise before everybody realizes they’re not the biggest crowd in the room, just the loudest. And Rubio’s flip flops on immigration likely mean he won’t even run very well among Hispanics.

      None of these guys, or any of the other GOP candidates, support choice, gay rights or comprehensive immigration reform all of which poll very high with millennials. I see the Democratic party carving out a bigger victory in the Presidential election of 2016 than they did in 2012

      • dakinikat says:

        Libertarians are a fairly small and narrow demographic mostly made up of young men. That’s about all that’s left of young people to the Republicans. Even younger christians don’t like the idea of destroying the planet, hating on gay people, and enriching the already rich.

    • Fannie says:

      What amazes me is how Hastert should be the focus of his locker-room sex scandal. But if you flip the tv stations, you’ll find out that the media is stirring the blood of Paula Jones, she’s back, and Monica Lewinsky,she’s back, all to attack Hillary because she didn’t divorce Bill.

      Snot in the morning is always picking his nose, and moaning and groaning over Monica. It’s the one thing that he couldn’t stomach. He’s trying to push it like she was a 10 years old at time. She was an young adult. And Paula Jones, he needs to buy a copy of playboy when she was spread eagle, and stick that in his nose.
      Mika is doing a book tour, how women need to do this to be that, and all the bullshit to go with. When she herself, didn’t bring one damn woman up with her when she got hers. Didn’t life nobody but herself (don’t believe me, look at the Vanity Fair Photo, as she lift’s her up with one hand). She’s out for Hillary’s blood, because a woman came up to her during a book signing, and told Mika not to treat and talk the way she does about Hillary, because she is bringing all women down. Mika was beside herself that a woman who question her, and she spit out, well I have lots of questions to ask Hillary, and she won’t talk to me. Oh my, let’s all cry tears because Hillary will not talk to Mika. I wouldn’t waste my time on snot in the morning either. Except to know where they are coming from on those days when snot hits the fan.

  5. janicen says:

    My daughter just pointed out the irony in the fact that the Patriot Act was passed when Hastert presided over the House. He pushed it. And now, it’s the Patriot Act with its restrictions on money withdrawals that brought him down. I’m smiling over here.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Beau Biden just died of brain cancer. Joe sure has had a rough life.