Dennis Hastert’s Conspiracy Theory

Posted: October 6, 2006 in 2006 Elections, Beltway Drama

One of the few comical aspects of the Foley scandal [beyond the endless fodder for the late night comedians] is watching Republicans try to somehow blame the whole thing on Democrats, their allies or associates because of the proximity of the leak to the November congressional elections. Dennis Hastert in a phone interview with the Chicago Tribune published yesterday:

When asked about a groundswell of discontent among the GOP’s conservative base over his handling of the issue, Hastert said in the phone interview: “I think the base has to realize after a while, who knew about it? Who knew what, when? When the base finds out who’s feeding this monster, they’re not going to be happy. The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by [liberal activist] George Soros.”

He went on to suggest that operatives aligned with former President Bill Clinton knew about the allegations and were perhaps behind the disclosures in the closing weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm elections, but he offered no hard proof.

“All I know is what I hear and what I see,” the speaker said. “I saw Bill Clinton’s adviser, Richard Morris, was saying these guys knew about this all along. If somebody had this info, when they had it, we could have dealt with it then.”

Even Republicans are starting to get weary of Hastert’s conspiracy theory. From the Chicago Tribune:

Comments that Hastert made in a Tribune interview suggesting the scandal had been orchestrated by ABC News, Democratic political operatives aligned with the Clinton White House and liberal activist George Soros were considered a serious misstep in national Republican circles, an official said. Senior Republican officials contacted Hastert’s office before his news conference Thursday to urge that he not repeat the charges, and he backed away from them in his news conference.

“The Chicago Tribune interview last night–the George Soros defense–was viewed as incredibly inept,” a national Republican official said. “It could have been written by [comedian] Jon Stewart.”

Hastert, a former high school teacher and wrestling coach, really should re-read Shakespeare. In particular, he should heed the Bard’s wisdom in this famous scene

“Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings” – Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II

The idea that this scandal was the plot of Democratic operatives and financers with ABC News as their enabler is absolutely laughable on its face. ABC even admitted that their sources were Republican congressional staffers and former pages, not Democratic operatives. Even Hastert’s office admitted they had no evidence to back the assertions. CNN last night:

ZAHN: So, Dana, let’s talk about Speaker Hastert’s allegation, that, in some way, Democratic operatives and ABC News are behind the dumping of the documents, even going so far to say that Bill Clinton had something to do with this. Is there any proof of that?

BASH: No, there isn’t any proof of that.

And the — the speaker’s office is saying that they — they haven’t been able to back that up. He also went after George Soros as well. George Soros, in the last campaign, did a lot of funding for Democratic causes and campaigns.

Essentially, what he is trying to do, and what he did today, Paula, as you mentioned, is take it to a whole ‘nother level, is throw red meat to the Republican base. He even said today, point blank, that, when the base finds out who’s feeding this monster, they’re not going to be happy.

So, he’s trying to — to — to say: Look, don’t be mad at me. You know, it — it’s not necessarily us. It’s the — the Democrats who are trying to raise this at this time, in order to — to hurt us in the election.

Having said that, I talked to several Republicans today, who said that might be a good argument, but it shouldn’t be coming from the speaker himself. That really is not necessarily going to play well, especially with some conservatives, who say: Look, the bottom line is, you didn’t do enough to — to protect young boys, essentially, on Capitol Hill.

ZAHN: Sure.

BASH: And that’s what matters here.

Hastert is not the only congressional Republican or political ally to speculate about a Democratic conspiracy, but given his role in the scandal as the head of the House GOP caucus and that his leadership position is in very real and potentially irreversible political danger, he and his staff should think of words and actions that can contain or minimize the effects of the scandal on his party, not give ammunition to the late night comedians.

In the end, Hastert’s conspiracy theory talk is unwittingly reinforcing what Democrats have been arguing for years about Republican-controlled Washington: that people refuse to admit error or accept responsibility for their mistakes. It is this aspect of his handling of the Foley scandal, along with the scandal itself and the perception of a cover-up by the House GOP leadership, which will be the 10-ton anvil hanging from the neck of every congressional Republican candidate on Election Day.

Update: Glenn Greenwald cites comments by Billmon, which I think effectively summarizes in one sentence why this whole scandal couldn’t possibly be a Democratic operation.

If the wing nuts are right for a change and this really was a Democratic covert operation (it would be churlish to call it a dirty tricks operation, since it’s all true) it’s the best one I’ve ever seen. Which, knowing the Democrats, is a pretty good reason for believing it’s NOT their doing.

Greenwald also cites comments by John Podhoretz, whose entire column is worth taking the time to read as well.

THIS column is directed entirely to the sleazy, skuzzy, unprincipled and entirely Machiavellian Democratic political operative who helped design the careful plan resulting in the fingerprint-free leak of Mark Foley e-mails:


This whole Foley business is one of the most dazzling political plays in my or any other lifetime – like watching an unassisted triple play or a running back tossing a 90-yard touchdown pass on a double-reverse.


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