Throw Denny from the Train

Posted: October 5, 2006 in 2006 Elections, Beltway Drama

Before we get to today’s developments, I’m going to quote this little nugget I wrote, from the Department of Hate to Say I Told You So:

At a minimum, I expect that aide to be out of a job before Election Day, because he just brought the whiff of scandal onto his boss, who is in the middle of a tough re-election campaign which will now draw the attention of the national political press corps.

Well it happened – Kirk Fordham quit his job as chief of staff to the now-embattled Congressman Tom Reynolds, and admitted he was resigning essentially for the reasons I wrote yesterday.

Like so many, I feel betrayed by Mark Foley’s indefensible behavior. Again, I will not allow the Democrats to make me a political issue in my boss’s race, and I will fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation.”

That might have been the end of it, if House Republicans hadn’t decided to make him their fall guy:

Those sources said Fordham, a former chief of staff for Congressman Mark Foley, had urged Republican leaders last spring not to raise questionable Foley e-mails with the full Congressional Page Board, made up of two Republicans and a Democrat.

“He begged them not to tell the page board,” said one of the Republican sources.

As I wrote previously, no one wants to be pegged as helping to cover up for an Internet sex predator and be the one holding the Foley hot potato when it’s all over, and sensing he was being made a scapegoat, Fordham decided to drop a massive bombshell on Dennis Hastert:

A senior congressional aide said Wednesday that he alerted House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office two years ago about worrisome conduct by former Rep. Mark Foley with teenage pages.

Kirk Fordham told The Associated Press that when he was told about Foley’s inappropriate behavior toward pages, he had “more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene.”

The conversations took place long before the e-mail scandal broke, Fordham said, and at least a year earlier than members of the House GOP leadership have acknowledged.

Not surprisingly, this has turned into an all-out feud between Fordham and Hastert’s office, each accusing the other of lying. CNN has a good recap of the back and forth accusations flying around here. I hope they all get their stories straight before the federal investigators start knocking on doors and asking for statements.

This scandal is radioactive to anyone it touches. My guess is that if anyone else is going to get tossed over the side in the days and weeks ahead, it will be the current and former Hastert aides who were warned by Fordham in 2004, assuming that Fordham’s story checks out.

Although more people have called for Hastert to resign, I’m not sure he’s going to since the scandal as it relates to his own leadership position has not reached a critical mass within his own caucus yet. When big name House and Senate Republicans, particularly any with presidential ambitions for 2008, start calling for Hastert to go, that’s when I’ll say stick a fork in him.

If Hastert decides to buckle down and wait it out, which by all indications appears to be his chosen course of action for the moment, and more revelations trickle out to the media about who knew and what they did about it, Hastert will arguably become the Democrats’ biggest political piñata for the next four weeks. You can already see this strategy in action in this entry at Daily Kos, which tracks how several Democratic congressional candidates have already incorporated the Foley scandal into their campaign attacks.

Stay tuned, this one is not over by a long shot.

Update: Reuters has a story on this:

A senior party aide said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who oversees the congressional intern program at the center of the scandal, could be forced out after the November 7 elections, instead of immediately, as has been urged by some critics. Hastert has said he intends to stay on the job.

“Looks like right now he will keep his job for a maximum of one and one-half months,” said a top party aide, adding that in the meantime Hastert may fire some staffers. Other aides said it remained unclear how long he would stay.

ABC News did three stories on Foley-gate tonight, all worth checking out.


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