Doc asked me once, when I was in the middle of covering the priest sex abuse scandal, how I could tell if a victim’s story was real.
There was all this pushback at the time, because the story spread out from Boston all over the country and the church was running scared, about victims making things up and the damage done by false accusations. The institutional church needed doubt to keep itself alive, and doubt was easier for many of its followers than understanding they’d been lied to and cheated for years.
I told him, “Leave aside the ones who think a 17-year-old is 18 or the ones who are just gay and don’t know how to handle it. The sickos? The ones who are into 10-year-olds or their students or who seek out kids with single moms who are less likely to speak up? Those fucks don’t do it once. They do it over and over and over so when you hear one accusation, listne up. Another will follow, and another and another.”
I thought of that conversation when I read my old friend Ted’s excellent column about poor old Denny Hastert and how it’s just been so hard for him, being accused of illegal payments to cover up stuff like child molestation which could happen to anyone, right?
Here are the words Hastert’s attorneys used in their plea for mercy:
“What we do know is that he will stand before the court having deteriorated both physically and emotionally, undoubtedly in part due to public shaming and humiliation of an unprecedented degree.”
“Mr. Hastert knows that the days of him being welcomed in the small towns he served all of his life are gone forever,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing. “He knows that, for the rest of his life, wherever he goes, the public warmth and affection that he previously received will be replaced by hostility and isolation.”
Forgive me for tempering my sympathy for Hastert, but his friends and neighbors and the people who voted for him would never have extended him the “warmth and affection” he enjoyed as an influential public figure had they known the truth about his conduct in the first place.
No shit. Hastert benefitted personally and financially from his position of power, a position he would never have been given had his victims felt they could come forward and trust they’d be heard. His whole life was based on his image and his political clout and those things were predicated on the silent suffering of those weaker than him, so spare me how his life sucking now somehow takes away all the years he enjoyed at the top of the heap.
Also? “Public shaming and humiliation of an unprecedented degree” is NOT A REAL THING. Some people said mean things about Dennis Hastert. Dennis Hastert raped kids under his tutelage. These two things are not the same, and to say the former wipes out the latter … I just don’t know what to do with people who are so divorced from the idea of actual consequences that they really think mean newspaper articles are JAIL TIME.
Plus even if you go by just his political actions, he’s an amoral scumbag:
Hastert’s power translated to clout after he left office to work as a lobbyist. He was criticized for partnering with speculators who earned more than $3 million by buying and selling land along the Prairie Parkway route, the Tribune reported when the Federal Highway Administration rescinded its approval of the road and killed the project in 2012. That left Illinois taxpayers on the hook for $21 million the state spent acquiring 15 parcels, including 300 acres and four homes for the project.
No one is likely to ask the judge to consider those actions when he is sentenced.
Read the whole blistering, entirely true thing.