Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hastert and Spinach

As everyone now knows, House Speaker Dennis Hastert is is some seriously hot water over the Mark Foley imbroglio. His entire career hangs on one question that always seems to arise during political scandal: what did he know, and when did he know it?

Make no mistake, the what and the when are extremely important. Hastert was not Foley’s boss in a corporate sense and his duties do not include policing the private lives of his fellow party members—so he can reasonably claim to have been in the dark. If all he ever knew was that Foley was a bit creepy, then should we really expect him to have done anything? I mean, “seems to ogle teenage boys” is not really grounds for an investigation.

On the other hand, if he had knowledge of the inappropriate contacts between Foley and teenage pages, then we sure as hell should expect him to have at least requested an investigation into the matter. To ignore such information is inexcusable.

Hastert claims he forced Foley’s resignation as soon as found out about the inappropriate emails and IMs. If true, then Hastert acted properly. But it seems that a fair number of congressional staff members knew Foley was more than just a little creepy, he was predatory. Are we to believe the House leadership never heard this? The Republican Party is, for the most part, pretty mechanized. I can’t imagine something like this never making it up the chain of command.

Problem is, with nothing more than hearsay to go on, there will be reasonable doubt as to what Hastert knew and when he knew it. The Speaker could escape the noose. But the party might still pay the price.

The Republicans are putting themselves in a position where they may end up appearing so irreversibly corrupt that the ineptitude/confusion/idiocy of the Democratic Party won’t really matter come the elections. It’s kind of like all the restaurant patrons who, during the spinach e-coli outbreak, decided it was ok to eat asparagus rather than spinach with their meals. I can’t imagine many diners particularly liked asparagus or found it an exiting or even decent substitute. It’s just that the spinach made people incredibly ill.

No one chooses the option that makes them ill. Not at the table and not in politics.

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