In what has to be considered something of a shocker, the Washington Times is calling on House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign for his inaction and dissembling over the Foley matter:
Now the scandal must unfold on the front pages of the newspapers and on the television screens, as transcripts of lewd messages emerge and doubts are rightly raised about the forthrightness of the Republican stewards of the 109th Congress. Some Democrats are attempting to make this “a Republican scandal,” and they shouldn’t; Democrats have contributed more than their share of characters in the tawdry history of congressional sexual scandals. Sexual predators come in all shapes, sizes and partisan hues, in institutions within and without government. When predators are found they must be dealt with, forcefully and swiftly. This time the offender is a Republican, and Republicans can’t simply “get ahead” of the scandal by competing to make the most noise in calls for a full investigation. The time for that is long past.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. 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.
Hastert has presided over what will probably go down in history as the most inept, corrupt, cynical, and arrogant Congress since perhaps near the turn of the 20th century when the robber barons held sway in Washington and openly bought and sold votes on the floor.
Hastert himself – a genial, if clueless sort – is probably one of the least blameless members in this camper’s stew of corruption and irresponsible lawmaking. His leadership style has been one of staying above the fray while allowing his whips full reign to twist arms and necks to get Republican majorities on major legislation. This allowed stronger personalities like Tom DeLay and Roy Blunt to dominate at times, making Hastert appear to be an appendage, especially to the publicity hungry DeLay. In short, Hastert never really seemed to be in charge – something that was exposed during the Foley matter as it still isn’t clear whether anyone ever bothered to inform the Speaker personally about Foley’s emails to the former page, telling his staff instead who may or may not have informed him.
I’m not sure the resignation of Hastert is either necessary or desirable. The voters will almost surely take care of Mr. Hastert and the Republicans come November. In fact, it seems pretty much of a lead pipe cinch at this point as the universal disgust over Foley and the leadership’s tone deaf response to the emails and their potential import becomes widely known. The only question now is how big a majority the Democrats are likely to be handed as the new Congress sits next January.
It should go without saying that if the Democrats presented anything like a positive agenda for the country, their victory would be of historic proportions, almost certainly surpassing the Republican gains of 1994 and approaching their own electoral tidal wave of 1974. But a combination of Republican advantages in redistricting and voter doubts about their national security bona fides will probably hold Democratic gains to a narrow majority in the House and a possible one seat advantage in the Senate, the latter by no means a certainty but the polls breaking that way of late.
None of the blame for this should necessarily fall entirely on the shoulders of the Speaker. But as a symbol of Republican malfeasance in the Foley matter, it may be hard for him to escape walking the plank. Most conservatives have expressed disgust with the leadership over everything from earmarks to their curious incuriosity when it comes to oversight – my own beef being the horrific waste already revealed in war reconstruction spending. New leadership will hardly have time to get settled before their almost certain replacement by Democrats. So I suppose my point is – what’s the point?
If it is to make a statement that we won’t tolerate this kind of malfeasance then we are all a little late to that party. These people have been playing patty cakes with the truth, with parliamentary procedure, with House rules, and with the faith and trust of the American people for going on 6 years. It is a little late for resignations and mea culpas.
What is needed is a reckoning – a settling of accounts by the voters for all the broken promises, the wasteful spending, the arrogant mismanagement, and the irresponsible lawmaking which have combined to bring the Republican party to its sorriest state I’ve seen in my 30 years of membership.
Let the voters change the leadership in Congress. And then let the chips fall where they may.