The Hastert Scandal

I’m becoming annoyed that this is all being called the “page scandal,” and that we’re talking about reviewing the “page program,” because, you know, the pages didn’t actually do anything wrong, and the problem isn’t that there wasn’t a “system” in place, as Hastert tried to say this morning. It’s that the people in charge of other people on Capitol Hill were stone stupid and so craven they put the interests of their own above the interests of constituent kids.

That’s not a “page scandal.” That’s a “House leadership scandal.” It’s a “Republican Congress scandal.” It’s a “Denny Hastert scandal.”

Watching this play out, watching the press conference this morning, I’m shocked by the to-the-letter similarity with the Roman Catholic Church abuse scandal, because the response from the bishops was almost exactly the same as Fat Denny’s has been.

The best of the bishops knew right away that this was a huge problem and responded with openness, compassion, and a willingness to talk to whoever they needed to talk to for however long they needed to do it in order to get their shit straightened out.

The worst of them did exactly what Denny Hastert is doing. First, they denied ever being informed. Then, when presented with letters in their own handwriting that say, basically, let’s sweep this under the rug and not tell anybody, they floundered around for a while giving conflicting statements while the victims got more and more pissed. Then the bishops got pissed off themselves and blamed the press for, variably, digging up old history, stirring up trouble, having an anti-Catholic bias, trying to “collect scalps,” or just plain lying.

That’s usually when the press got pissed right back. I’ll never, ever, ever forget Brian McGrory’sBoston Globe column:

Enough, cardinal, enough. Enough of the brazen disregard for the believers in your midst. Enough of the tens of thousands of dollars you’re throwing at public relations companies. Enough of the self-centered hope that you can salvage your reputation before you ride off to retirement in Rome.

No longer are you part of the problem. No longer have you contributed to the problem. You are now, as one disgusting revelation after another tumbles out, the core of the problem. There is no criminal act committed by any pedophilic priest that’s worse than your practice of repeatedly and knowingly putting children in harm’s way.

And now there is no possibility of reform, no measure of organizational penance, no ability for the thousands of victims to reconcile the past until you are finally done and gone. So please, cardinal, for the sake of a city and the church that in many ways dominates it, pack up and get out of our town.

Then came the show of contriteness. The “I’m sorry, and I’ll fix it” moment we got from Hastert today. The attempt to put the bees back in the nest. Trouble is, reporters still had questions. “I’m sorry” is not enough, you have to explain yourself. That’s when the bishops would revert to anger at the press, and it would all start all over again.

What the bishops figured out is what Hastert’s counting on happening in his case: that in the long run, it won’t matter all that much. When the Boston church scandal broke I told my now former employers, “this is the end of the Roman Catholic Church in this country.” But it wasn’t. The bishops dug in, with the patience of officers of a corporation that measures time in millennia, and they waited out the storm, most of them. Cardinals Mahoney and Egan should be in prison, but they’re plugging along just fine. Bishop Joseph Imesch of Joliet was allowed to resign honorably, as though none of what he did ever happened. Cardinal Law quit, sure, but he’s living the sweet life in Rome right now, and the only way he’ll get his is if my childhood priest was right and there really is a pit of fire beneath the earth into which the sinful sink.

Hastert’s counting on what has buoyed Bush for so long: that the polls don’t matter. So what if two thirds of the country thinks you suck? You don’t have to change your tune one bit if you don’t want to. It’s not like they’re gonna come for you with pitchforks, are they? You can sit back and say, “So what are you going to do about it, white boy?”

I’ll tell you what we’re going to do about it.

Write to your congressmen. Ask them to publicly demand Hastert’s resignation. Not from his leadership post. From Congress. Ask them to put out a statement, to talk into a microphone, post something on their web site, go on record in some way asking Dennis Hastert to quit, and to do it now.

Give money to John Laesch. Do what the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wouldn’t do, and make this race against Denny one of the top-tier races in the country. He chuckled today about expecting to win re-election, Denny did. Wipe the smirk off his face.

Give to your favorite House candidates, too. Make Denny the speaker of nothing when the Democratic Congress comes back to work.

Get back up.


11 thoughts on “The Hastert Scandal

  1. I think I heard this from Josh Marshall. This is what we say to them, this is what we say about them, this is what we say when they are not around:
    “How can they keep us safe, when they can’t even keep 16 year old boys safe from the congressmen?”
    It easy for the wingnuts to understand. We can use it in any situation. It almost fits on a bumper sticker. Start now. Use it often. Security is the only leg they have a chance to stand on. Let’s cut it out from under them.
    You know they’d do the same for us.

  2. Oh please leave Fat Denny in office until Election Day. He is such a humongous point of focus for voter discontent. And please call it the Hastert-Reynolds Scandal. You don’t really think that Fat Denny was smart enough to do this on his own?

  3. Like many problems, when you look carefully and consider all of the possible solutions, the correct solution just jumps out at you. In this case it certainly does: ELECT A DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS! If we do that, Hastert is back to being an irrelevant man, with nothing to do but bring home the pork his constituents think is his primary job. So, lets double our contributions to our local Democratic candidate, and if that candidate is a shoo in, donate to a Democratic candidate in a neighboring district where there is a tighter race. That has been my plan for several months now.

  4. “You know they’d do the same for us.”
    Isn’t it the truth?!!

  5. I’ve been doing the same. John Laesch, Ned Lamont, Sherrod Brown, Patrick Murphy, among others as well as to the 50 state strategy. I’ve been a regular ATM for the last few months. By the way, to Holden, A and Tena; Attaturk and Watertiger: I haven’t donated on your sites lately. After election day (after a brief rest of the credit card) I’ll do my part to help support the great work you all do. Right now, I think the candidates need it more.

  6. My question to Fat Denny (if I were a reporter) would be: Why would there have to be a system in place to keep middle-aged Congressmen and women from having inappropriate contact with underaged pages? Isn’t that illegal regardless?”

  7. You have to admit,though, that Pagefucking-Gate has a nice ring to it.

  8. I like Mastergate, but the papers won’t use it.
    I’m going to be collecting 100’s of quatloos from all the people who were betting that Hastert will resign. I’m too fucking cynical.
    These fuckers can do and say pretty much anything and get away with it.
    I do hope that they find some ACTUAL laws broken by others. That would be nice. But I ain’t holding my breath.
    These bastards are NEVER held accountable especially after they “take responsibility”

  9. I’m not willing to let some of these pages or their parents totally off the hook. Some of these kids come off like precocious little Republican creeps-in-training. The children should not be held responsible under the law, but entertaining this kind of conversation, i.e. about dick-measuring, with a 52-year-old man merits a grounding at least. Permanent internet removal if it was my kid. A 16-year-old should know better, and there were undoubtedly many who didn’t respond to him but they have no evidence of it. I am appalled that the Louisiana family is trying to paint themselves as “heroic,” when they did nothing to get this man out of congress. They just wanted him kept away from THEIR son. I’m sure all the Republican parents who later sent their sons to Washington really appreciate that irresponsible act of cowardice. Everyone who allowed this man to remain in congress after they knew about his behavior is guilty, guilty, guilty.

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