In a surprise move this morning, the notoriously conservative editorial page of the Washington Times called for the immediate resignation of the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. Based on the recent revelations that Hastert and Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and John Boehner (R-Ohio) had prior knowledge of Mark Foley’s inappropriate exchanges with congressional pages, the Times editorial board has concluded that the Republican congressional leadership was either “grossly negligent” or it deliberately ignored obvious warning signs.
“House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once,” wrote the Times. “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.”
The situation is damning, and naturally, bloggers are livid.
There are the predictable, “Mark Foley is filth” condemnations, including one from Wizbang!, who noted, “He’s even more pathetic by trying to hide behind his ‘I’m an alcoholic’ excuse.”
But there are also some more serious analyses of the political motivations behind the calls for Hastert’s resignation.
“It’s possible that the Republican Party may come around to the W. Times’ thinking,” writes Liberal Oasis. “When leaders cease to be of use to them, they readily throw them under the bus. When Newt Gingrich contributed to a loss of House seats in ‘98, he was forced out. And Trent Lott’s segregationist fantasies weren’t worth defending.”
“Whereas the GOP defended Tom DeLay for months, because his ability to bring in corporate cash was seen as essential to the party’s long-term prospects,” adds Liberal Oasis. “The low-key Hastert is no DeLay. He may be seen as replaceable. (Although, Republican leaders may be concerned the other potential Speakers would do a worse job maintaining party discipline.) A quick disposal of Hastert may suck the oxygen out of the story, as he’s the biggest (though not only) scalp to get. The Washington Times is clearly betting that’s the best way to get the scandal off the front pages well in advance of Election Day.”
Conservative bloggers, though, were less concerned with psychoanalyzing the Times’ editorial board and more worried about the GOP’s failed attempts at damage control.
“But let’s put that aside for the moment, and concentrate on what Hastert and the leadership say they did in response to Foley,” urges Captain Ed. “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.”
Others insist that the whole scandal has been blown way out of proportion.
“My wife saw a friend leaving work the other day with a man who wasn’t her husband. Is this a red flag? What should we do with such information? There is a high risk in such situations of jumping the gun and making matters worse,” warns Mark Noonan of GOP Bloggers.
“I believe that this was the case as regards Foley,” adds Noonan. “I’m never going to agree to punish people for things they didn’t do. Neither Speaker Hastert nor any other member of Congress is responsible for Foley’s reprehensible behavior unless they were 100 percent informed of all that Foley had done and then they did nothing about it. All reports I have seen indicate that while there were strange stories swirling around Foley, there wasn’t anything concrete to be acted upon. Furthermore, Hastert is Speaker of the House, not Dictator — he can’t just snap his fingers and get rid of a sitting congressman.”