The Political Ramifications Of A Hastert Resignation

by John Hawkins | October 6, 2006 9:00 am

For a moment, let’s set morals aside and coldly consider whether it would be politically smart to get rid of Dennis Hastert right now.

First of all, let’s be clear: this scandal is a negative for the GOP any way you slice it. The American people generally think that Congress is corrupt, partisan, and doing a poor job. Now, they have a sex scandal and allegations, flimsy though they may be, of a cover-up that seem to confirm a lot of the negative impressions that they already have. Moreover, the more time we spend talking about Mark Foley, the less time we spend talking about the war on terrorism and the foibles of the Democratic Party. In other words, the environment for the GOP wasn’t very good to begin with and no matter what happens to Dennis Hastert, this scandal has made things worse.

That being said, you have to realize that if Dennis Hastert is thrown over the side, it will cement a completely false idea into the minds of the voters: that the GOP leadership covered up for a sexual predator. In the minds of the voters, if Hastert steps down, it will mean that the allegation must be true. Why else would he step down?

Furthermore, people need to understand that getting rid of Hastert WILL NOT put an end to the story. To the contrary, the Democrats and these masochistic Republicans calling for blood will just start casting a wider net. After all, if Hastert deserves to step down, even though he handled things properly given what he knew back in 2005, then why shouldn’t Rodney Alexander, John Boehner, John Shimkus, and Tom Reynolds get thrown under the bus, too? Once you get these sort of Salem Witch trials started, there’s no reason to believe that they’ll be easy to stop. The Democrats and the mainstream media have motivation to try to keep this going and let’s face it, if the Republicans calling for Hastert to step down were thinking rationally, they wouldn’t be calling for his resignation in the first place. So, how many Republicans will they want to purge for no good reason whatsoever?

It’s also important to remember that Foley has already resigned and that the drama now is over whether Hastert is going to step down from his leadership position. If it becomes clear that Hastert isn’t going anywhere, then the story is going to start to lose momentum unless something new comes out that shows the House Leadership knew more or that other members are involved. Even if more evidence about Foley comes out, well, we already knew he was a sicko. So, that doesn’t move things forward that much.

So putting it all together, if Hastert resigns, it is in effect a false admission that the GOP Leadership covered up for Foley and it will extend the story as other Republicans that were tangentially involved in the whole thing like Alexander, Boehner, Shimkus, and Reynolds are attacked as well.

That means politically, the best thing the GOP can do is continue to bash Foley for immoral and unethical behavior, continue to push for this whole sorry episode to be thoroughly investigated, and continue to rally around Hastert. Setting politics aside, those happen to be the right things to do as well.

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