Thursday, November 23, 2006



Last weekend, our old pal John Laesch joined us for another Blue America chat at Firedoglake. It's been looking clear that Denny Hastert is planning a quick exit from the congressional back bench he was just elected to. Today John Hulse discusses the Planet Denny problem in the New York Times. "Speaker J. Dennis Hastert made history this year when he became the longest-serving Republican in that post. Now he is about to go into the books again as one of the few House speakers, and the first in almost 50 years, to rejoin the rank and file. Defying expectations that he would immediately retire if the Republicans lost their majority, Mr. Hastert is preparing to remain in the House for at least the early months of the 110th Congress while he helps orchestrate a line of succession at home in Illinois and seeks to shape a political ending beyond his party's defeat."

Do you think the residents of IL-14 are sympathetic about being played the fool? Hulse claims Hastert is "dejected and embarrassed." I wonder if he's read the recent issue of Rolling Stone, where he is named the #1 worst member of Congress, "The Highway Robber."
Hastert could well be the weakest House speaker in history. Tapped by Tom DeLay to serve as the mild-mannered frontman for the GOP leadership, the former wrestling coach ceded most of his power to the now-disgraced majority leader, allowing Republicans to treat the Capitol as their private piggy bank. Last year, Hastert got in on the action himself, secretly inserting $207 million into the budget for the "Prairie Parkway"--a highway that will speed development of 210 acres he owns in Illinois. Before the year was out, Hastert sold part of his land--soon to be the site of a sprawling subdivision--for a profit of $2 million.

"Here's a guy who saw a chance to profit from his official acts and took it," says Bill Allison, who uncovered the late-night earmark as a senior analyst for the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group. "Most of us aren't speaker of the House, and most of us don't have a $200 million earmark running through our back yard. Hastert does, and he made a fortune from it."

The highway earmark isn't the first, or even the worst, instance of gross criminality on the part of Hastert. Armenian-Americans are unlikely to forget that Hastert took a half-million-dollar bribe from the Turkish government to derail bipartisan legislation in regard to the Armenian genocide. And Inside the Beltway, there is an uneasy awareness about how the deeply closeted ex-wrestling coach Hastert covered up for years and years the use by other closeted gay Republicans, particularly Mark Foley and Jim Kolbe, of the congressional page program as a dating service. The DeLay-and-Hastert-appointed Ethics Committee, run by the ethicsless Doc Hastings, is . . . investigating. Don't hold your breath.

Hulse points out that Hastert didn't really want to run to begin with this year, and that he was pressured into it by the president. And now he "would like to end on a brighter note than losing the majority that he has led since 1998. Just as important, Mr. Hastert wants to make sure that no Democrat, or even a Republican he does not anoint, slips into his Congressional seat through the short campaign preceding a special election. 'I think if he left and we lost the seat, that would be adding insult on top of injury,' said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia."

Hastert likes his perks, and is giving them up with great reluctance. "Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he has rarely if ever flown on commercial planes because of security concerns, and he has been surrounded by a staff of 60 or so, including Congressional and political workers. For the last eight years, he has stood behind the vice president in the constitutional line of succession to the presidency. Now he will be just one of 435 and a member of the minority in the House, where, as Mr. Hastert knows too well, the majority clearly rules." No one expects him to serve for more than a few months at the most. He has been eager for an appointment as ambassador to Japan.

Hastert raised over $4 1/2 million from his corporate backers to beat Laesch--and spent an astronomical $37 per vote. Laesch, 32, spent less than $2 a vote and came closer than any other Democrat to beating Planet Denny, increasing Democratic margins in every single county and even winning in Whiteside County for the first time. Laesch built a classic grassroots campaign and has become well-known and well-liked in the district. He is well-situated to beat back a challenge, first from Democratic Party boss Rahm Emanuel (D-Tomczak), who will be eager to insert a like-minded shill as the party candidate, and then whatever right-wing stooge the Republicans hand-pick to replace Hastert.

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At 10:25 AM, Blogger Bil said...

THAT's a big turkey! Yummy...

My fingers are crossed.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger john said...

And that big turkey is stuffed with dollar bills!

On another note, W's daughter had her purse snatched in Argentina after a trip she had made to Paraguay for UNICEF? That's the Paraguay where DWT was talking about the new Bush mega water rights ranch? UNICEF trip huh? Take some pictures Howie.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

John, I have a poster Cindy Sheehan gave me when I went to visit her last year at Bush's ranch in Texas. I hope to get a photo of myself with Cindy's poster in front of his Paraguayan refuge.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger john said...

Make sure it's digital so we can use it for computer wallpaper.
Need a security team?

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