The Chicago Tribune this morning had one of the more interesting reads we’ve seen thus far in the mainstream media coverage of the saga of Republican Congressman Mark Foley and the underage pages, scoring a revealing interview with hapless House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
The Trib reports that Hastert has decided to blame ABC News and Democratic operatives for the scandal. Here’s the man himself: “I think the [GOP] base has to realize after a while, ‘Who knew about it? Who knew what, when?’ When the base finds out who’s feeding this monster, they’re not going to be happy. The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros.”
George Soros, huh? This reminded us of another time Hastert used Soros to float some wild theories and lash out at Democrats in general. In an exchange back in August 2004, Hastert told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that financier and Democratic fundraiser George Soros might be a drug dealer :
HASTERT: “You know, I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where — if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. And I —
WALLACE (interrupting): Excuse me?
HASTERT: Well, that’s what he’s been for a number years — George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he’s got a lot of ancillary interests out there.
WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?
HASTERT: I’m saying I don’t know where groups — could be people who support this type of thing. I’m saying we don’t know. The fact is we don’t know where this money comes from.
That’s the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America, folks. Of course, Hastert “doesn’t know” where Soros gets his money, so his guess is as good as yours. He’s just sayin’ , is all.
But the best part of the Trib piece was that reporters Rick Pearson and Mike Dorning did what so few reporters seem willing to do in such cases: call a politician out. They write, “Hastert suggested that operatives aligned with former President Bill Clinton knew about the allegations and might have been behind the disclosures in the closing weeks before the Nov. 7 elections, but he offered no proof.”
No proof. See how painless that was? Instead of letting Hastert’s baseless allegation stand, countered only by a comment from “the other side,” as we’ve seen reporters do time and again with silly statements by politicians on both sides of the aisle, Pearson and Dorning added four little words to put Hastert’s spin into context: “… he offered no proof.”
Finally, since we’re on the subject, there’s the matter of a Washington Post story that ran on the front page this morning. Complaining about story placement is a tricky business, since a whole host of factors go into where a story gets placed (and the Internet has taken away some of the stigma of a back-page story), but the Post’s decision to front yet another transcript of Foley’s instant messages with interns strikes us as a little tacky. Apparently, it took two reporters — Jonathan Weisman and Juliet Eilperin — to cut and paste the transcripts, which were obtained “with the help of a former House page who served with the two male pages who conversed online with Foley.” The duo write that the Post “obtained dozens of America Online instant messages” from their source, who remains anonymous.
Weisman and Eilperin suggest that their source isn’t one of the pages who IM’d with Foley, meaning that the pages involved would have had to forward the transcripts of their exchanges with Foley to the Post ‘s source. This raises one important, as-yet-unexplained aspect of this story: Why were the pages saving transcripts of their IM conversations with Foley in the first place? It’s odd, and no one (as far as we can tell) has answered the question.
Meanwhile, we’re waiting to hear what Dennis Hastert will say next.