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.
The Washington Times editorial board (aka, Tony Blankley) joins a growing chorus of bloggers calling for Hastert to go after what appears 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.