October 4, 2006

Whither Hastert?

I'm not the hugest fan of the Speaker, but I'm not calling for his ouster. I'll admit I was surprised when I heard that the Washington Times Ed Page was. It seems to me he has a reasonable defense.

John Fund piles on today in the WSJ political Diary:

GOP mishandling of the political firestorm created by former Rep. Mark Foley's behavior threatens to demoralize the conservative base, preventing the vaunted GOP get-out-the-vote machine from doing its job this fall.

The problem the Foley scandal represents is that it's so simple to understand -- a powerful lawmaker preying on underage pages whom parents have placed in the care of Congress. But it's also a scandal difficult to convey the nuances of. It may be true that House GOP leaders only had suggestive emails in front of them last year when they agreed to accept Mr. Foley's assurances that he hadn't gone further. But voters aren't likely to get to that level of detail.

Regardless of the brave front that Republicans are putting up, their confidence in Speaker Dennis Hastert has been shattered. He will likely be gone as Speaker when Congress convenes next January, either replaced by a Democrat or swept aside for new GOP blood.

At a minimum, Mr. Hastert has revealed a fundamental weakness in his staff operation. He admitted to reporters that a portion of a Foley email asking a page for a photograph that GOP leaders saw last year was "a red flag." But he said his staff didn't need to "bump it up to me at that time." That proved to be a fatal error.

I cannot believe it will be politically expedient to step down now, either. That is just handing the other side an admission of guilt and complicity. Allow the Democrats to make angry homophobic comments all election season. It may not work but it should be fun to watch.

If he steps down, we'll have three Republican Speakers of the House toppled by sex scandals since President Clinton survived his. I'm just sayin'...

UPDATE: I meant to mention that Larry Kudlow called for his resignation last night on his TV show and today on his blog. Today, it appears that Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt are split. It's all politics anyhow, there is only a two week lame-duck session to swing the gavel.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at October 4, 2006 3:29 PM