It’s not hard to believe that rather than start a scandal by publicly ‘opening the door’ to ex-Congressman Mark Foley’s ‘closet’ when he first realized that the man was a walking political time-bomb, Dennis Hastert chose to “handle the situation” privately. The problem is, he didn’t handle the situation by convincing Foley to resign for ‘personal reasons’ or ‘health reasons;’ he handled it by telling Foley to stop propositioning the pages. Dennis Hastert is not a moron and he certainly realized that what he did was equivalent to telling a dog to stop scratching it’s fleas.
The end result of Foley’s caution and sensitivity is that now, rather than starting a scandal that would have only involved one Congressman, Hastert has successfully failed to circumvent a scandal that, for very political reasons, not only involves him but has implications for the entire Republican Party — however unjustified those implications might be.
Ask any 10-year old and he’ll tell you that life is not always “fair;” ask any politician and he’s likely to tell you the same thing.
What makes matters worse for the GOP is the public perception of the situation just a few weeks before the November elections. Republican voters have not seen a single, unified front from their party — mainly because there is none. As Byron York, in a Sunday, Washington Post commentary states:
“. . . the Foley affair has exposed deep fissures within the GOP a few weeks before midterm elections; when the story broke, everyone seemed to be in a different place. Some are in what one top House aide calls the “knee-jerk” camp — those who called for Hastert’s resignation right away. Others are in a camp awaiting more evidence. Still others are in the smell-a-rat camp, suspecting that Democrats were behind the whole thing. And finally, some are in the this-is-proof-of-America’s-moral- decline camp, condemning Republican and Democratic leaders alike.”
He’s right as far as he goes but there is one “camp” that Mr. York forgot: the ‘Dennis Hastert is completely innocent of any wrongdoing’ camp. The members of this camp deny that Hastert would EVER cover up this type of scandal.
Well right or wrong, guilty of something, everything or nothing, Dennis Hastert needs to look at the big picture and, as the Washington Times editorial requested he do, resign for the good of the party.
The public, as it is, does not know what to believe and as this situation progresses they will be even more confused. Hastert, by maintaining his innocence (which, understand, he very well might be proven to be) is more than likely losing votes for his fellow Republicans. The majority of voters do not see well through a smokescreen and by staying in the Speaker’s chair he is providing truckloads of “smoke” to the Democrats.
Byron York’s Washington Post Commentary: Fear and Loathing In the GOP
Washington Times Editorial: Resign, Mr. Speaker