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Should Hastert and Frist Go?

Should Speaker of the House Denny Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist resign or otherwise be removed from their posts? Given that their inept leadership has made it far more likely that the Democrats will take over their respective Houses of Congress, perhaps the question is academic. And Frist has term-limited himself out of a job come January, anyway, so there will be a new Senate Majority Leader regardless.

Still.

The Washington Times editorial board (aka, Tony Blankley) joins a growing chorus of bloggers calling for Hastert to go after what appear to be an attempt to do a Cardinal Law on Mark Foley’s
solicitation of underage male pages while chairing the committee in charge of protecting our kids from people like Mark Foley.

The evidence was strong enough long enough ago that the speaker should have relieved Mr. Foley of his committee responsibilities contingent on a full investigation to learn what had taken place, whether any laws had been violated and what action, up to and including prosecution, were warranted by the facts. This never happened.

[...]

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. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.

It sure looks that way. (Now, as to whether Henry Hyde is the guy to replace him, I part ways with Mr. Blankley. But that’s another column.)

The WSJ editorial board, curiously, defends Hastert on the grounds that he can be excused for not having investigated a gay congressman too hard because it might have led to charges of insensitivity.

But in today’s politically correct culture, it’s easy to understand how senior Republicans might well have decided they had no grounds to doubt Mr. Foley merely because he was gay and a little too friendly in emails. Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert’s head are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys. Are these Democratic critics of Mr. Hastert saying that they now have more sympathy for the Boy Scouts’ decision to ban gay scoutmasters? Where’s Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on that one?

Barney Frank notwithstanding, however, most Democrats I know would happily ban a gay scoutmaster after finding out he had been sending inappropriate emails to the troop. Let’s reverse it: What if a straight congressman were soliciting 16-year-old girl pages? Would that have been okay?

AllahPundit has video of Michelle Malkin on Bill O’Reilly’s show yesterday joining the chorus. Personally, AP demurs, noting the distinction between the merely weird e-mails and the more sexually explicit IM’s later made public. Lorie Byrd also thinks the email/IM thing enough for Hastert to keep his job.

While that’s a fair enough point, the emails alone should have thrown up a bright enough flare as to cause a committee switcharoo for Foley and bar him from contact with the pages. Did Hastert learn nothing from the Catholic church?

Ed Morrissey gets it right:

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.

Quite so. Hastert has had several days to explain himself, too, and has been unable to do so.

Meeting with reporters Monday, Hastert said his aides and Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., heeded the wishes of the parents of the former House page, who wanted such questionable e-mails to stop but didn’t want the matter pursued. Shimkus and the House clerk told Foley last fall to cut off all communication with the former page, who lived in Louisiana.

Hastert says neither Shimkus nor his own aides saw the 2005 e-mail, noting that it was far less sexually explicit than the electronic messages that ABC News revealed last week.

“There wasn’t much there other than a friendly inquiry,” Hastert said of the 2005 message from Foley, R-Fla., described as “sick” by the boy. The message asked for a photograph and mentioned a different teen who was in “great shape.”

So, because the parents of the one kid who reported Foley’s “sick” behavior didn’t want to risk anyone finding out about it, Hastert decided that it wasn’t particularly unusual for a middle aged man to be sending emails to his teenage subordinates asking for photos while talking about hot some other teen was?

When the Trent Lott-Strom Thurmond scandal broke a few years back, my instinct was that Lott was merely buttering up an old man upon his retirement rather than saying that segregation was a good thing. Regardless, I thought he should resign simply because he displayed such poor judgment as to be demonstrably unfit to hold such an important office.

Ditto Mr. Hastert. At worst, he covered up a serious crime and should be censured. At best, he’s got such a poor grasp of the things going on around him that I question whether he should be allowed to drive, let alone be second in line to the presidency.

What about Senator Frist? Surely he can’t be blamed for this?

No. But how about calling for bringing the Taliban back into the Afghanistan government, as he did yesterday? Yikes. His hasty backtracking without backtracking doesn’t help much, either.

Given that the current session is all but over and there will be a new leader come January even if the Republicans hold on, there’s not much point in changing horses now. But Hastert can’t be ousted fast enough.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. 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. Link. Hugh Hewitt disagrees; be sure to read his whole post. OTB agrees, as does La Shawn Barber. Dean Barnett agrees: Link

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  2. Dennis Hastert’s (D-IL) is getting wide play on the left and right. Some righty bloggers, including, La Shawn Barber’s Corner, were ahead of the curve. Other rigthy heavy hitters calling for Hastert to step down: Outside the Beltway’s James Joyner, Captain’s Quarters, and Ankle Biting Pundit’s Bull Dog Pundit. Michelle Malkin is also highly critical of Hastert’s handling of the issue, but is not ready to throw him under thus bus.

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  3. , Today’s Editorial, October 3, 2006, Washington Times. Mr. Speaker, You Must Resign, La Shawn, October 2, 2006, La Shawn Barber’s Corner. Blankley Says Hastert Must Go, Captain Ed, October 3, 2006, Captain’s Quarters. Should Hastert and Frist Go?, James Joyner, October 3, 2006, Outside the Beltway.

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  4. This is not me (although I agree), it is the following list of solid or lean GOPers: Robert George Tony Blankley and the Wahington Times Steven Taylor James Joyner Ed Morissey LaShawn Barber David Bossie My prediction: He is gone by Friday night. (Bonus points if you can find the White House fingerprints on his back.)

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  5. [...] Ever since moving to Southwest Florida about 4 months ago I noticed a trend on local news and media outlets. At first I was shocked to hear about it and thought this was just a once in a long while incident. For where I was living back in central New York you never heard of these stories to often in the media. What I am talking about is child predators and sex offenders. Boy was I in for something. I have to say that Southwest Florida has a major problem and many people might not know of it because it is so often reported in the media. It’s not a shock anymore to sit on the couch and watch a late edition of the local news and hear about someone being arrested for child molestation or pornography. It’s almost a weekly maybe daily news story. Some of you maybe thinking I am crazy, but just do a local search of Florida’s Sex Offender Registry, you’ll be amazed. For instance let’s take a look at the local unsolved murder of Coralrose Fullwood from North Port, Florida that happened just a month ago. Immediately after she was found dead just down the road at a housing construction site a total of 67 registered sex offenders and five registered sex predators where all under investigation and questioned. This is a small town with approximately 23 thousand residents making it 1 and every 319 person is a registered sex offender. It’s really sad that we have to worry about these people ruining our lives. Tougher laws need to be enacted or current ones improved. NBC Dateline a short time ago did piece entitled “To Catch a Predator” in Fort Myers, Fl. Fort Myers is located in the Southwest portion of Florida and current counts account for 488 Sexual predators (for Lee County Florida) or offenders. In the NBC sting jointed with Perverted Justice the Fort Myers police department netted 2 dozen or so people. Most have proven not guilty but one has pleaded guilty with a plea deal and accepted to serve nine months in jail and then spend three years on sex offender probation. Is this harsh enough? This is why I have entitled this entry why I’m not surprised about Foley! I’m sure I am not the only one in Florida that isn’t either. This happens all the time. Florida needs to step up there priorities and start to protect there children. However, on the other hand the news media including national media has made us aware and maybe to aware of these predators. With all the stories in the news every day people just don’t take it as a serious problem. They have grown aware of seeing it every day and it gets reported just like a car accident on I-75. [...]

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  6. Wizbang says:

    Will There Be Foley Backlash?…

    There was a lot of talk over the weekend about who in the Republican party knew what about the Foley emails and when they knew it. It was learned that Dennis Hastert and others in the leadership knew about the……

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  7. Anderson says:

    Okay, let’s do a public, nonpartisan service here. I’ll stay out of what Hastert should do, but one thing needs to be made clear:

    The e-mails (not just the IM’s) were such as to DEMAND immediate investigation.

    That’s not debatable. Only a troll would think otherwise.

    You cannot tell me that Hastert, finding such an e-mail sent to one of his *own* children, wouldn’t think it needed looking into.

    And if you tell me that anyway, and are sincere, then you have no business raising children, and should drive any you’ve been blessed with to the orphanage, where they’ll be safer than they are with you.

    So, whatever else you think about this mess, don’t say “well, the e-mails weren’t enough to go on.” Because that is just nonsense, on a subject where we really shouldn’t have to be partisan about the truth.

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  8. [...] For a round-up of responses to WaTi’s call for Hastert to resign see OTB. Filed under: US Politics | |Send TrackBack [...]

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  9. [...] A feeling of resignation. Some want more than Hastert to step down. [...]

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  10. cian says:

    Hopefully the republican leadership will follow the WSJ’s rationalization and be totally crucified come November. The ‘overly friendly/naughty’ email exchange is a perfect example of what child psychologists call ‘grooming’, whereby the perpetrator first befriends the young person, then gains his/her trust, and finally initiates them (as per the messaging).

    Experts could have been called in quietly to assess the emails and advise. Instead Hastert and others took the low road, protecting themselves rather than those in their care.

    Shameful, but not surprising.

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  11. legion says:

    I’ve seen a number of things over the past few months hinting that Mitch Mcconnell is the likely successor, should current Senate ledership implode. Has anyone seen him connected to the Foley fiasco in such a way that this might not happen?

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  12. Anderson says:

    Has anyone seen him connected to the Foley fiasco in such a way that this might not happen?

    I haven’t seen any Senate involvement, tho maybe I’m not looking … I think we’d have to see him connected to an actual page.

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  13. G.A. Phillips says:

    Yes I can do without people like this in my party. Just plain wrong.

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  14. Why Foley Teen Boy Scandal Can Fuel GOP Defeat (UPDATED)…

    What’s the most basic issue that goes back to the days way before there were political parties? Back to prehistoric times? Protecting your family. Protecting your kids. And, if you don’t have kids, protecting kids.

    An……

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  15. Cernig says:

    James,

    Frist term-limited himself as a Senator years back, but it was always expected that after he left the Senate he would make a presidential bid in ’08. Has his embracing of the Taliban and weasel-worded retraction killed that possibility?

    Regards, Cernig

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  16. Anderson says:

    To be fair, Yglesias points out that Frist is not being an idiot, necessarily. Except in the “there’s an election in a month, and you’re sounding objectively pro-Taliban???” sense of “idiot.”

    If there’s a Taliban sect that will play ball in the new gov’t and renounce al-Qaeda, then they should be included. That’s kind of a no-brainer, actually. Tho as Yglesias says, it would sure help if they found something else to call themselves: “The Afghan Republican Party” is my suggestion.

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  17. Steven Plunk says:

    It looks as though contrary opinions will not be tolerated on this subject. If you don’t agree you are a “troll” and “have no business raising children”. Wow, that’s open minded debate at it’s best.

    Hastert did not investigate further because the parents asked it be dropped. Who is the responsible party to make a decision, the parents or Hastert?

    Hastert also had the dilemma of investigating a commonly known gay congressman. Who would be the first to cry witch hunt or to complain about the ever shrinking “big tent” of the Republican party. Picking on a closeted gay would have brought scorn from the opposition. After all it’s a lifestyle choice ala Franks and Studds.

    It’s good Foley is disgraced and gone but it is wrong to blame others for his sick behavior.

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  18. Bandit says:

    Didn’t Foley know if he was going to do this he would have to switch parties first?

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  19. Derrick says:

    steven Plunk,

    The point that you’re obviously missing is that Hastert didn’t just have responsiblity to this particular page but also all of the pages in this program. Let’s not be naive, we’ve seen this story before. Man gets caught grooming/seducing children, investigation finds that Man has been doing this for 8 years to 30+ other children. You’re right that this is sick behavior and not a sick incident, so Hastert owed it to the rest of the pages and their parents to clearly make sure that this sick behavior never happened again.

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  20. Anderson says:

    The point that you’re obviously missing is that Hastert didn’t just have responsiblity to this particular page but also all of the pages in this program.

    Just so. Not to mention that the problem wasn’t “Foley’s gay,” but “Foley’s hitting on kids.” The indubitability of my first comment stands unimpaired; yea, verily.

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  21. [...] And I’m not the only one who sees this. I join notable bloggers like Dean Barnett, James Joyner, Ed Morrissey and Michelle Malkin who think it would be wise for Hastert to resign. Since Dean famously resurrected the wisdom and knowledge of Frankie Five Angels, he gets the money quote Is there any doubt that any Republican who has miss-handled this matter, including the Speaker, should step down? Even if their hearts were in the right place, which you’d have to be awfully credulous to buy, they blew it and did so big time. They put the welfare of a colleague above that of vulnerable kids. [...]

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  22. cian says:

    Its amazing really to see just how wrong republican apologists are getting this. Those that shouted loudest for Clinton’s head over the Monica affair are the same people excusing Foley’s behaviour now. The American people got it then and are getting it now- Clinton/Monica involved ‘consent’ between adults which is why his poll numbers continued to go up throughout his impeachment farce, Foley was trawling for underage sex, no doubt, and the republicans are scrambling to blame others as is always their way.

    Steven Plunk needs to lift his head up and out of the Republican talking points and think this thing through for himself.

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  23. Message from a ‘Values Voter’…

    Update: Dennis Hastert is digging in.
    (Note: You may read and discuss Foleygate here)
    This message is for Republican “political strategies” and scared politicians who think Foleygate will “depress” conservative Christian turn…

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  24. Susan says:

    I am going to respectfully disagree with the above article. Personally, I would prefer to have the FBI conclude the investigation before having a witch hunt. Foley is gone, rightly so, being a mother what he was doing is abhorrent to me.
    What happened to fairness though? What happened to waiting until official investigations making their findings and THEN, anyone, Republican or Democrat that has been “proven” to have known the extent of what what Foley was doing, should be ridden out of town.

    In looking at the blogs today, it is like a lynch mob. Everyone is to be hung without benefit of actual proof. Tempers are hot, understandably so, but is that reason enough to ignore the way our justice system works?

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  25. You Can Always Count on Hugh Hewitt……

    …to be a party loyalist no matter what, as the title of this post indicates: Don’t Resign, Speaker Hastert. Swing Back..
    Not only should Hastert not resign, he should use every opportunity to swing back hard at a MSM deeply compromised by …

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  26. Bandit says:

    Who’s excusing it but if he were a Dem he’d be home free.

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  27. John. says:

    An earlier poster put it perfectly. For all those apologists trying to justify and rationalize “If your 16 year old child, male or female, had received a email from a 53 year old man asking for a photo and asking other mildly flirtatious comments – WOULD YOU LOOK INTO IT” For some whackos who seem to have lost all sense of proportion, apparently not. Fortunately this is not hard to get and most of the public get it.

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  28. Steven Plunk says:

    Cian,

    These posts are my own, not Republican talking points. Some of you amaze me with your powers of getting into my brain and finding out what thoughts mine or others. Most importantly I would like to know who is excusing Foley’s behavior? Certainly not me if you read the post.

    The issue is Hastert and how much he should have investigated. My contention is that this is not about pedophilia but about seldom talked about but known gay behavior. Grooming younger males and luring them into affairs. A politically incorrect thing to say but it is what happened. Creepy certainly but not criminal. Hastert had to walk a fine line and not offend members of the gay community by persecuting a gay congressman. I think he should have investigated more but not doing more is not reason to resign.

    If we are to apply such reasoning then we must apply it to all state welfare agency workers who do not properly investigate child abuse claims that later result in harm to a child. Should they all resign? They look into it some but apparently not enough. At least in this case no harm came to this page.

    Foley is sick. Foley is gone. Good riddance. Now somebody explain to me how stating Hastert should not resign makes me an apologist for Foley’s actions?

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  29. anjin-san says:

    Steven,

    So if the parents just want to drop it, that’s OK? Bury the whole thing and let the predator move on to his next victim?

    Or we will look the other way when a gay man to preys on children because if you went after him someone might think you are anti-gay?

    Pretty weak Steven. I think MOST of us agree on one thing, left or right. You don’t f__k with children, and if you are aware someone is, you do something about it. Hastert utterly failed as a leader.

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  30. legion says:

    Hastert did not investigate further because the parents asked it be dropped. Who is the responsible party to make a decision, the parents or Hastert?

    Steven,
    If it is plausible that a federal crime was committed, especially one that might have required a sitting US Congressman to be registered as a sex offender, it could very well have been illegal for either Hastert or the parents to have prevented an investigation and/or failed to report it to law enforcement.

    It may be your strong conviction that this wasn’t technical pedophilia, but I don’t think anyone here (and damn sure not Hastert) knows enough about DC, FL, and fed sexcrime law to simply make that call unilaterally. I’ve been an EMT before, and I know full well that there are some injuries or patterns of behavior that helathcare workers must, under penalty of law, report to the police. While congress isn’t under the same heading as healthcare, depending on just how graphic Foley’s messages got, and just what age kids he was talking to, this could result in serious prison time for a lot of people…

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  31. Anderson says:

    Yglesias argue that, while wrong on many levels, Foley’s behavior wasn’t pedophilia.

    Worth clicking the link for the picture of 16-year-old Scarlett Johansson which he appends. I must say, his case is a persuasive one.

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  32. Steve Verdon says:

    I also liked the commenters point that linking this to both the homosexual nature of the incidents with pedophelia could have negative consequences for the gay community.

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  33. Frist Misquoted…

    There is an old expression ” Consider the source”, that should be applied liberally to this situation with Frist. The source in question is Associated Press, and the writer himself, Jim Krane.

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  34. Susan says:

    On one hand we have the Foley FireStorm, on the other hand we have news on North Korea’s announcement that it will be conducting a nuclear test. We also have Iran’s refusal to stop enrichment.

    The Nuclear weapon threat has somehow managed to barely get a mention since the Foley FireStorm is much more important in the scheme of things. Have we managed to enter the twilight zone or what? In what Bizarro world is this acceptable? Glad I asked! The answer? POLITICS. Seems that politics and elections are more important than the Nuclear threat that Iran and North Korea pose to this world. How silly of me to think it should be any different. Shame on me.

    Lets keep our eye on the ball folks, there IS an investigation going on from the FBI, how about we wait until it is done before we start lynching people? This way we can get back to the issues facing us globally.

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  35. Pug says:

    Who’s excusing it but if he were a Dem he’d be home free.

    Posted by: Bandit at October 3, 2006 13:10 Permalink

    Not exusing perhaps, but diverting. One difference between what happened with Mr. Foley and Mr. Studds: the Foley revelations happened last week. The Studds issue was twenty-three years ago.

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  36. anjin-san says:

    Susan,

    If you are worried about keeping ones eye on the ball, how do you feel about the fact that Mr. Bush has us bogged down in Iraq, where there were no WMD, while he has basically done nothing about N Korea, which does have them, and Iran, which appears to be working hard at getting them…

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  37. Anderson says:

    there IS an investigation going on from the FBI, how about we wait until it is done before we start lynching people?

    Due-process lynching?

    But if anyone suspends Mr. Foley from a noose, it will be Mr. Foley (which I hope, of course, he doesn’t do, even for autoerotic-asphyxial purposes).

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  38. [...] James Joyner draws an appropriate — and blog-related! — parallel: When the Trent Lott-Strom Thurmond scandal broke a few years back, my instinct was that Lott was merely buttering up an old man upon his retirement rather than saying that segregation was a good thing. Regardless, I thought he should resign simply because he displayed such poor judgment as to be demonstrably unfit to hold such an important office. Ditto Mr. Hastert. [...]

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  39. ATS says:

    You can’t defend this. You just can’t.

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  40. just me says:

    I think Foley hung himself.

    I think the lynching of Hastert et al is a bit too soon, I would like to see the facts without the hyperbole.

    If it is plausible that a federal crime was committed, especially one that might have required a sitting US Congressman to be registered as a sex offender, it could very well have been illegal for either Hastert or the parents to have prevented an investigation and/or failed to report it to law enforcement.

    Now I haven’t read any actual news updates on this since this morning, but this morning I read that the FBI was given these emails in July, and the FBI determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant further investigation.

    I think mostly where the ball seems to be dropped and what I don’t understand is why nobody talked to the Pages to see if anyone else was receiving emails, and honestly I think the chairman of the Page board is more culpable based on the evidence than Hastert.

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  41. Blankley Says Hastert Must Go…

    The Washington Times’ Tony Blankley has joined a small chorus of voices calling for the resignation of Denny Hastert as Speaker of the House: The facts of the disgrace of Mark Foley, who was a Republican member of the House……

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  42. Foleygate…

    It’s always about the coverup, or the incomplete investigations, isn’t it….

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  43. [...] and Frist Go?, James Joyner, October 3, 2006, Outside the Beltway.   [Permalink]  [Trackback URL]  [Printer Friendly] Filed under: General Technorati Tags:  [...]

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  44. Conservative paper calls for Hastert’s resignation over Foley scandal…

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other GOP leaders are dismissing suggestions that they should have …

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  45. Bandit says:

    ‘One difference between what happened with Mr. Foley and Mr. Studds: the Foley revelations happened last week. The Studds issue was twenty-three years ago. ‘

    A couple of other differences, Studds was actually boinking underage interns and he never resigned and served until 1996. Since the Dems knew about Foley for over a year and Studds continues to serve for 13 years I have to disregard their faux concern for the children.

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