The sad, strange case of Denny Hastert

Dennis_Hastert_insert_public_domain

A bent and bowed Denny Hastert, the 73-year-old former speaker of the U.S. House, shuffled through the media gantlet to appear briefly in federal court this afternoon and plead not guilty. It has to be a humiliating experience, seeing a reputation and life’s work washed away so late in the game. For that reason alone I’d like to have some sympathy for Hastert.

But it’s difficult.

Let’s begin by dealing with the partisan political lessons to be learned from this affair: There aren’t any.  In fact, if you take partisan joy from this train wreck, you’ve got a problem. This tragedy tells us nothing about the Republican Party in general, or Republicans in general. It tells us about people in general, about power, and about people in power. It tells us something about the specific individuals involved in this case, not much of it good. And it reminds us that we human beings, like icebergs, hide 90 percent of ourselves below the water line, and what we hide can cause a lot of wreckage.

I’m not a religious person, but I confess to thoughts that what we’re seeing in Hastert’s case is karma, God’s justice, whatever you want to call it — it’s the universe somehow handing out belated justice, and doing so with a cruel twist. As a rationalist, I know that such thoughts are nonsense, that I’m merely trying to impose a pattern on what are utterly random events.

But still ….

We don’t know exactly what happened some 30 or 40 years ago back in Yorkville, Illinois, where Hastert had been a longtime teacher and wrestling coach before entering politics. We may never know, and I’m fine with that. Certainly, the court documents filed against him this month don’t reveal much. Hastert is charged only with lying to the FBI and using illegal “structured payments” to avoid exposure as he paid $3.5 million to an as-yet-unknown blackmailer.

Based on his behavior, though, it’s clear that Hastert himself believes that he had done something extremely shameful back during his teaching and coaching years, something that he was willing to pay a lot of money to keep hidden from public view. Unnamed government sources and a sister of a now-deceased student claim that the “something” involved sexual abuse. With the statute of limitations probably expired by now, Hastert may instead pay the consequences for the alleged coverup of his mistakes, which sets off karmic echoes for several reasons.

Back in the late ’90s. you may recall, Hastert had been a strong supporter of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. As Hastert framed the case at the time, it wasn’t so much about morality, although that too was an issue. It was about the coverup, the lies, the obstruction.

“The president lied under oath, obstructed justice, and abused the powers of his office in an attempt to cover up his wrongdoing,” Hastert said in comments on the House floor at the time, explaining that he had to listen to his conscience, which allowed him no choice but to vote in favor of impeachment. You wonder what else that conscience might have been saying.

Not long after that, in 1999, Hastert rose to the speaker’s podium after the resignation of Newt Gingrich, another impeachment advocate, who was also later discovered to have been carrying on a longtime affair with a House employee. U.S. Rep. Robert Livingston of Louisiana was to have replaced Gingrich initially, until discovery of his own affair forced him to step aside as speaker-elect. Livingston’s House seat was then filled by David Vitter, who several years later admitted to affairs with prostitutes.**

And eight years after becoming speaker, Hastert brought about his own downfall by failing to intervene to protect House pages from sexual advances by U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, an act that the House Ethics Committee described as “willful ignorance” on Hastert’s part.  That failing too looks a little more serious with the benefit of hindsight.

So yes, it is a tale thick with hypocrisy. You’re left with a sense of sadness at the whole thing, but as I noted, also a sense that Hastert may have earned whatever is coming to him. We’ll see.

On a final note, it’s tough to recount such a history with so many players and not address the obvious question: Are politicians really more likely, maybe even MUCH more likely, to engage in sexual misbehavior? I think the answer is yes, although “more likely” does not by any means indict the whole profession.

Part of that susceptibility can be explained by the fact that people drawn to elective politics tend to be gregarious sorts who thirst for the approval of others. That’s what drives them, and it can be hard thing to turn on and off. Another part may be simple opportunity. Maybe you learned it in psychology class; maybe you learned it from your own powers of observation. Either way, sexual attraction is in part a function of perceived power and status. High political office confers a degree of attractiveness upon politicians — mainly of the male variety — that they otherwise would not have.

That creates a temptation to which some succumb. It creates opportunity that others avidly pursue and leverage. And to their credit, many neither succumb nor pursue. All in all, I’m not sure the basic character of most politicians is that different from those they represent; they’re simply put in a different situation, under different rules.

Oh, and their mistakes tend to get a much more public airing.

—–

** Yes, that’s a particularly sordid chain of events. But again, names such as Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, among others, ought to squelch any temptation by liberals to draw false conclusions.

 

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774 comments
Alan Arthur Katz
Alan Arthur Katz

You know, you are supposed to add "alleged" when you accuse someone of a crime for which that person has neither been charged nor convicted. I mean, that's both Journalism 101 and responsible citizenship - and it immunizes you against lawsuit for libel, which you committed in this article.


You wrote: "to avoid exposure as he paid $3.5 million to an as-yet-unknown blackmailer." Blackmailer? FBI says there was no blackmail. Federal Prosecutors agree there was no blackmail. Even Hastert's attorney confirms there was no blackmail. Apparently, Individual A confronted Hastert about his past crimes and the damage they'd done to his life. Hastert, apparently OFFERED to compensate the victim and OFFERED to pay him money to keep his crimes quiet. He was not coerced, he was not threatened, and therefore there was NO extortion and no blackmail.


It's not nice to make up crimes and then accuse someone of them when the authorities have already cleared "Individual A" and didn't even try to force him to return the money.


Hush money is legal, by the way. It is paid every day in legal "settlements" in thousands of courtrooms across this nation -"terms were not disclosed as both parties agreed to keep them confidential" is the polite refrain you journalists use when you're actually doing your job.


In this case, sadly, not very well. As I said, you libeled Individual A. You are only getting away with it because he doesn't want to make his identity public.

Juanx
Juanx

"** Yes, that’s a particularly sordid chain of events. But again, names such as Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, among others, ought to squelch any temptation by liberals to draw false conclusions."


I beg to point to the obvious...the afore mentioned individuals performed acts with consenting ADULTS. Not children. Bid difference. Also, there are discussions on why Hastert lived with aides from his office away from prying eyes. More to come on this.

SFM_Scootter
SFM_Scootter

VC


From way below.I've never heard of "retiredamericans".Thanks for the link! 

td1234
td1234

Keep writes: Perhaps you should consider some sensitivity in your posts and thoughts about racial issues and it might open your mind to a better understanding of the tensions, problems and ultimately sought after solutions to these issues. 

*************************************************************


That is because I see "racial issues" as making excuses and leads to not becoming successful. I have stated several times that I am married to an Asian woman and have mixed Asian and white children. We have NEVER allowed their mixed race identity to be an excuse for them not being successful in the classroom or in live in general. Most of this mentality comes from my wife. "Your race is no excuse for not being successful". 

Peachs
Peachs

@td1234 kind of like I make excuses being white, short and slow is why I can't play NBA basketball, silly me is is just in my head.  

josef
josef

Muslin Sheetz...

Peachs
Peachs

The fact that we in the south vote for these perverts and the works of great writers pointing out our degenerate population in works like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or Capote, Tennessee William, man it ain't safe in the public bathrooms around here and we all cover it up by acting like cowboys.  

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

Gotta head out for an appointment. td, I'm gonna hand the mantle of "tormenter of the kooks" back to you. After all, you wear it so well. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Man, race baiters sure do love to run their mouths.

TBS
TBS

Before this year most of Texas has been in a drought for several years

Told a buddy of mine who lives in Dallas that apparently they prayed too hard and too well for rain

Joking aside he said it is really bad in some areas

fedup52
fedup52

@josef Delayed and misguided prayer by Gov. Purdue for rain.

josef
josef

As TD would say...all I did was post a link! 

TBS
TBS

Bro

I have a different take from the article below and those falling all over it as if it were a sign of what is to cobe in 2016.

It doesn't exactly demonstrate much confidence when we are 18 months out of an election and folks of any given party are already clicking their heels together and praying that segments of the opposing party voters don't comeout to vote

Smells more like desperation than any sort of confidence

"Our (kiddie) pool of candidates is so much better than the opposition but damn I hope those people don't come out to vote"

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

@TBS I suppose our Republican bloggers have also come to the realization that they stand a better chance of winning the next presidential election by not talking about their candidates and simply bad mouthing the competition instead.  In short, a repeat of their efforts during the past two elections.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@TBS 
There is that view. 

My take is that the article itself is nothing more than race baiting.  The person posting it multiple times is engaging in race baiting by doing that.

Funny that when conservatives post claims of race baiting, it's supposed to be bona fide.  Yet, when I make such a claim today, you'd think a Victoria Secret truck had wrecked on I-285 with all the panties knotted up in here.

td1234
td1234

Bro writes: "TD made no point.  He simply cut and pasted an article.  The article made a point, but I don't recall any original words in either one of the times td posted it.  If I missed his commentary, then that's my mistake."


As I have stated, you have not been reading my analysis for the past several months about how I do not think Hillary can keep the Obama coalition excited and to come out to vote in the same numbers as came out for him. The article is evidence that my analysis has validity so I guess since you have not read my other post on the subject you did make a mistake.

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

@td1234 Bro clearly made the statement that you made no point with regard to your pointless cut and paste.  Unless of course some of those words in that post were not cut and paste.  Is that the case.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@td1234 
Where was the analysis with the article about Jacksonville?  That was my point.  You have not been reading my posts from today.

td1234
td1234

@Brosephus Like I stated, my point of view has been clearly stated multiple times the past several months and the article provides validation for it. It is your mistake for getting all offended and not taking the article in context with comments I have made on the subject. I do not expect to admit to the mistake but that is nothing new either. 

Brosephus
Brosephus

@td1234 

It's your mistake in thinking that I'm offended.  I simply called out race baiting where I saw it.  If you don't agree, then that's your prerogative.

I've seen you post anti-Clinton and anti-Progressive stuff ad nauseum to the point where I could almost write the posts for you.

My point was that you posted the story twice without any accompanying commentary.  I thought the original story was race baiting in and of itself, regardless of what human nature story they were trying to tell.  Your actions of posting it without specifying WHY you posted it is why I called you out for race baiting.  Had you posted a simple note explaining why you posted it, I wouldn't have called it race baiting as it doesn't appear to be your intent.  However, I'm not a mind reader and you gave no context of why you were posting that story.  You pretty much left it up to us to form our own narrative of why you posted it, and I formed my narrative.  There's no mistake to admit on my behalf.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Aw, c'mon guys (and gals), can we get back to discussing sex? 


I mean. .. . politicians. 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

I notice everybody's replies are being sucked in by the language filter.  Watch your language people! ;) 

Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

Peachs is always on the mark-  hey, maybe google "democrat accused pedophile" or just keep you beautiful head in the sand.

Peachs
Peachs

This is the same stuff that is killing religion, they tied themselves into this partnership with the Republican Party and now all this self righteous stuff has come back to haunt them, both the sorry greedy little men in the party and the church who was used by the greedy little perverts.  

Bulls_3y3
Bulls_3y3

@Peachs excuse me but the DEMs cut religion out of their platform so why would Christians have anything to do with the DEMs???

KUTGF
KUTGF

Fox News psychiatrist and Medical A-Team member Dr. Keith Ablow asserted on Wednesday that President Barack Obama was at least partially to blame for a pool party in McKinney, Texas where black children were inappropriately manhandled by a police officer. ...Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck told Ablow that she had observed that “a new psychological shift is occurring in terms of how teens or people in the streets are reacting to police.”

“I think that some leaders in America have fractured the trust that Americans place properly — or placed properly — in authority, in police officers,” Ablow opined. “You know, when I was a kid growing up, if a police officer showed up, you were quiet, you answered questions.”

“Not so now, things have shifted, and that’s a shift encouraged by some leaders,” he continued. “I don’t think our president or our former attorney general [Eric Holder] did anything to help people out when they seemed to side with folks other than the police or, for that matter, the mayor of New York.” 

___________________


I see Fox is continuing its "blame the media/liberals/Obama" for the concerns of many people in communities about abusive police force and the continuing documentation that some in  law enforcement falsify charges and more.  Its can't be a discussion about what the police need to improve in training to be professionals, to remove those who cannot handle their jobs properly and respect the public and to improve relations with the community and to treat all people equally and not just presume (which means overcoming years of systematic abuse and prejudice). 


No...its all very simple to our Foxies and RWers......  keep it all under the rug and pretend it does not happen and blame everyone else rather than seeking a cure. 


And then wonder why the failures repeat. 

SFM_Scootter
SFM_Scootter

@KUTGF Neither side can claim the moral high ground when it comes to placing blame.(Which you just basically did) 

Peachs
Peachs

@KUTGF all we need now is to find out half the NYPD is gay, it is everywhere and metal detectors won't stop it getting to you. 

Peachs
Peachs

@KUTGF and now we see why the Congress is a do nothing body, they are all out getting all they can get and letting FOX be their cover. 

dreema
dreema

@KUTGF What Ablow-hard was really saying is that the blacks are gettin' uppity. He tries to mask it in superficial jargon, but that's his main beef. Clearly, the problem for him is not innocent people being harrassed, beat up, or killed (by nature of being black they aren't people to him anyway, just 'thugs'), it's that they started to complain about it.

Bulls_3y3
Bulls_3y3

Brosephus - The progressive agenda is what brought Black Americans out of slavery.

Proof please...

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@Bulls_3y3 I wondered the same thing.  Then my father's words came to me in a vision..."Arguing with a fool only proves one thing.  That there are two."

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

@Bulls_3y3 Apparently td takes issue with certain bloggers that use the phrase "proof please".  Did you clear that with him before posting.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@DownInAlbany 

I'll keep that in mind for future debate between the two of us.  If you consider me a "fool", then we'll let things go from there.  Thanks for the clarification.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@Bulls_3y3 

Read a history book.  Liberal Republicans joined with Abolitionists to end slavery.  Liberal Republicans from the North helped Blacks get elected to office during Reconstruction.  During that time, many Blacks that could vote voted heavily for Republicans while Southern Democrats tried their best to ensure Blacks never had to vote.  As the parties have polarized, you can track the rate of polarization along with the migration of the Black vote to the Democratic Party.

It's all there if you simply go in search for it.