The Washington Times Pulls A McCain On Hastert

Maybe the Washington Times thinks the Democratic Party is going to take over in November and they want to get on their good side or maybe they just want to hold their heads high for once when they go to DC cocktail parties with their liberal pals. But, whatever the motivation behind it may be, the editorial that the Times wrote demanding that Dennis Hastert step down in response to the way the Foley scandal was handled is completely and utterly irrational. Here’s a taste:

“The evidence was strong enough long enough ago that the speaker should have relieved Mr. Foley of his committee responsibilities contingent on a full investigation to learn what had taken place, whether any laws had been violated and what action, up to and including prosecution, were warranted by the facts. This never happened.

Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, the Republican chairman of the House Page Board, said he learned about the Foley e-mail messages “in late 2005.” Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the leader of the Republican majority, said he was informed of the e-mail messages earlier this year. On Friday, Mr. Hastert dissembled, to put it charitably, before conceding that he, too, learned about the e-mail messages sometime earlier this year. Late yesterday afternoon, Mr. Hastert insisted that he learned of the most flagrant instant-message exchange from 2003 only last Friday, when it was reported by ABC News. This is irrelevant. The original e-mail messages were warning enough that a predator — and, incredibly, the co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children — could be prowling the halls of Congress. The matter wasn’t pursued aggressively. It was barely pursued at all. Moreover, all available evidence suggests that the Republican leadership did not share anything related to this matter with any Democrat.

…House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week’s revelations — or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.”

What the Washington Times is actually calling for is a standard of justice that makes the Salem Witch Trials look calm and measured. What did Dennis Hastert and the House Leadership have back in 2005? Some emails from a congressman to a page that weren’t sexual, didn’t ask for a meeting, and didn’t suggest any illegal activities. In and of themselves, the emails weren’t criminal or an ethics breach, the parents didn’t want the matter pursued, and the newspapers that were given the text of the emails found them to be of such little interest that they didn’t even bother to print them.

Yet, AFTER the explicit instant messages become available, then the Washington Times determined, with the full benefit of hindsight, that the original “overly friendly” emails were such ironclad proof of sexual misconduct that the House Leadership should have started a far ranging investigation. The standard that the Washington Times is suggesting is so irresponsible that it would make even Tailgunner Joe raise an eyebrow. If that sort of flimsy evidence of misconduct were all it took to prompt a congressional investigation, you’d literally see thousands of investigations every year.

It’s really a sickening spectacle. You have a scumbag like Foley who is preying upon pages and yet, the Democrats, for purely political purposes, are trying to pin his sick activities on the Republican Leadership and the press is going along with them. Meanwhile, Hastert, who seems to have handled this thing very well given what he knew at the time, is being pummeled by other Republicans as much as anything — in my opinion — because they don’t think he’s done a good enough job of restraining spending and because they don’t like how he handled the William Jefferson investigation. In other words, a lot of the attacks on Hastert from the right have much more to do with political opportunism than they do with the particulars of this case. Although I’m not a big fan of Hastert either, falsely accusing him of covering up for a sexual predator so he can be kicked under the bus and replaced is a little too vulgar, even for the brass knuckled world of Washington Politics.

PS #1: Isn’t it time to kill the page program? This is the second sex scandal related to these pages. Moreover, do we really want 16 year olds “learning about the real world,” from the likes of Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Tom Foley, Robert Byrd, and William Jefferson?

PS #2: Just in case you’re wondering, “Pulling a McCain,” means to criticize a fellow conservative or Republican, undeservedly, for no other reason than to try to score points with liberals.

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