mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Squeaky Clean Republican Leader”: After Admitting Sex Crimes, Former House Speaker Headed To Prison

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been accused of sexually abusing four teenaged boys during his tenure as a high school coach many years ago, but the statute of limitations has expired and he cannot face charges for these misdeeds. The Illinois Republican was, however, arrested for lying to the FBI about covering up his sex crimes.

And this afternoon, it was this misconduct that will put Hastert behind bars.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison for illegal cash withdrawals he made for payoffs to cover up sex-abuse allegations after the judge called him a “serial child molester.”

Before issuing his sentence, Judge Thomas M. Durkin pressed the former House Speaker on the details of his misconduct, asking Hastert directly if he sexually abused his victims. “Yes,” Hastert said, publicly acknowledging this for the first time. He added, “What I did was wrong and I regret it. They looked to me and I took advantage of them.”

In an additional gut-wrenching detail, one of these victims, Scott Cross, testified today that Hastert molested him when Cross was a teenager. Cross is the younger brother of former Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross, who looked up to Hastert as a political mentor.

Hastert actually asked Tom Cross for a letter of support as part of his criminal case, despite the fact that Hastert molested his younger brother.

As part of this morning’s proceedings, the judge in the case explained, in reference to Hastert’s political career, “Sometimes actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works.” The judge referred to Hastert three times as a “serial child molester.”

In a breathtaking letter to the judge, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) recently wrote, “We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few.” DeLay added that Hastert “doesn’t deserve what he is going through.”

Evidently, that didn’t prove persuasive.

There is, of course, the human element of this heartbreaking story, and the anguish felt by Hastert’s victims and their families. And then there are the political implications: the longest serving Republican House Speaker in American history, a man who was two heartbeats from the presidency of the United States for eight years, appears to have spent part of his life as a serial child molester, unbeknownst to anyone except Hastert and his victims.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, from 1998 to 2006, House Republicans suffered one ugly scandal after another. Democrats used the “culture of corruption” label to great effect because it was true – from Gingrich to Livingston, DeLay to Cunningham, Ney to Foley, the GOP’s House majority just couldn’t stay out of trouble.

But no matter how many scandals surrounded House Republicans, GOP officials pointed to the humble Speaker from Illinois as the squeaky clean leader, elevated to the post from relative obscurity because of his above-the-fray reputation.

And now we know his conduct was far worse than any of his colleagues’.

In addition to his 15-month sentence, Hastert will also reportedly have to pay a $250,000 fine and take part in sex-offender programs.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog,  April 27, 2016

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Dennis Hastert, House Republicans, Sexual Molestation, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Challenge Of Being Paul Ryan”: He’s Been Anointed As A Savior, And Saviors Often Meet A Bad End

Paul Ryan had excellent reasons for not wanting to be speaker of the House. He’s a smart guy and knows that the Republican caucus he is about to lead is nearly ungovernable. He’s been anointed as a savior, and saviors often meet a bad end.

Moreover, the Wisconsin native (and ardent Packers fan) is still very much a work in progress. He was happy to stay away from the center stage as he mapped out the next steps of his life and the direction of his thinking. As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he could pick his fights and choose the issues he wanted to highlight. As speaker, the issues will often pick him and he may well have to wage battles he might prefer to avoid.

Ryan has always wanted to be several things at the same time, and they have not been easy to keep in balance.

On the one hand, he is, from my experience, a genuinely nice and warm person who wants to be seen as thoughtful, wonkish and willing to delve deeply into policy details. He’s a religious man who knows that his faith teaches the imperative of compassion and the urgency of justice. He has repeatedly given speeches declaring his determination to alleviate poverty.

But he is also an ideologue — one reason the right-wingers in the House could accept him as speaker. He has said that the unforgiving libertarianism of Ayn Rand — whose books include one called “The Virtue of Selfishness” — inspired him to enter politics. In a speech before the Heritage Foundation in 2011, he divided the world between “takers” and “makers” and spoke of government programs as creating “a hammock that ends up lulling people into lives of dependency and complacency.” I doubt that poor people think they spend their lives swaying gently between the trees.

The budgets he has proposed over the years are his signature. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal group that is very careful about its numbers, repeatedly found that roughly two-thirds of the cuts in Ryan’s budgets came from programs for low- and moderate-income people. Take that, you takers!

Had Ryan not been pushed toward the speakership, he would have more room to refine his views and would not face constant pressure to appease the right. That pressure led him to criticize the process that outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) used to save Ryan from having to deal with impossible problems around the budget and the debt ceiling. Being Paul Ryan has just gotten even harder.

But let’s give Ryan a brief respite by focusing on his virtues. When he insisted that he would not take the speaker’s job unless he could protect his “family time,” he showed what kind of person he is and made a statement that could transform the debate about work and family.

I personally identify with Ryan because we were both 16 when our dads died and, like him, I have three kids. Time with my family has been a treasure for me, too. Good for Ryan for placing his family at the heart of his life.

Yet his statement brought him immediate and sharp criticism because he had voted against mandatory paid family leave. Rather than resenting his critics, he should take them very seriously by admitting that he enjoys a degree of bargaining power that so many Americans lack. And he should not pretend that the “flex time” proposals he has endorsed are the answer. They would merely undermine employees’ existing rights to overtime.

Ryan might take a look at a 2006 essay in the Weekly Standard by Yuval Levin, a conservative thinker I am sure he admires, acknowledging the tension between the market and the family. Levin noted that the market “values risk-taking and creative destruction that can be very bad for family life” and that “the libertarian and the traditionalist are not natural allies.”

Sometimes, despite what Ayn Rand says, government action is essential to preserving individual rights in the marketplace and protecting the integrity of family life. Many families are under severe economic pressures. There are times when only government is in a position to relieve them, often through the programs Ryan would cut.

Thus a hope: Ryan could use the first days of his speakership to signal his intention of bridging at least some of the great ideological gaps in our country. A man who so honorably values his own family could start by changing his mind on family leave.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 28, 2015

October 31, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Ideologues, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“For Better Or Worse, You Be The Judge”: Speaker Paul Ryan Is The Tea Party’s Greatest Triumph

People of all political convictions should be excited about Paul Ryan’s assumption of the House speaker’s gavel. Even if you disagree with Ryan’s fiscally conservative politics, you have to admit that the Wisconsin congressman is smart, focused on policy, and generally an honest broker. Regardless of your political affiliation, we should all be happy when the political process puts someone of this caliber in such an important job.

Which raises the question: How did we get such a good speaker?

The short answer is this: Credit the Tea Party.

Without the Tea Party, you wouldn’t have the House Freedom Caucus, made up mostly of rambunctious, hardcore, conservative back-benchers. Without the rabble-rousing Freedom Caucus, John Boehner probably wouldn’t have been driven to resign, and Kevin McCarthy probably wouldn’t have been driven out of the speakership race. Paul Ryan is not exactly a Tea Party firebrand. But he is still highly respected within the Tea Party. And they paved the way to his speakership.

For all of the bleating in opinion columns about the supposed anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party, Ryan’s policy seriousness is very much part of his movement appeal. Tea Partiers (and I count myself among them) are serious about reforming government, and a great many of them actually do understand that you need a serious plan to get it done, not just theatrics. People in the Tea Party also know they’re often disdained as simpletons by elites on both sides of the aisle, and so they very much respect credentialed people who they feel are part of their camp. This is at least partly why the Tea Party likes Ted Cruz (former Supreme Court clerk!) and Ben Carson (former neurosurgeon!).

Another key: The conservative base feels betrayed by politicians they elect who then turn around to pass moderate policies, and they want to see credibility from politicians. The best way to assert credibility is by picking a fight on an unpopular issue. Paul Ryan first became a national figure because he took on entitlement reform, the third rail in U.S. politics. The Tea Party admires his bravery and honesty in sticking to his conservative principles, even when much of the American media and political establishment crush him for it.

I like John Boehner, but it’s clear that he is an insider politician with little taste for serious policy wonkery. He lacks the courage to put forward an ambitious entitlement reform plan on his own. And so it was with the previous Republican speakers of the House. The Tea Party-backed Speaker Ryan, on the other hand, is serious about conservative ideas, and bold in promoting them.

I point this out because this isn’t just true in the House. In general, the Tea Party has elevated a better class of politician. There’s Marco Rubio, who has put forward innovative plans on taxes, on higher education, on jobs with wage subsidies, and, at least until he got cold feet, was a leader on immigration reform (another third rail). There’s Rand Paul who, as a libertarian, is someone I don’t agree with on every issue, but certainly brings much-needed representation of that perspective in the Senate (along with the admirable libertarian Justin Amash in the House, who personally explains every single vote on his Facebook page). There’s Mike Lee who is quickly shaping up to be one of the most important policy leaders in the Senate, taking charge on everything from tax reform to criminal justice reform and even defeating the Big Government Egg Cartel in his spare time (bet you didn’t know that was a thing).

There have been a few Tea Party misfires, like Ted Cruz and that “I’m not a witch” lady, but seven years into the Tea Party, it is now clear that overall, the movement has brought to Washington a class of politicians that, whether you agree with them on the issues or not, are a refreshing improvement over their establishment predecessors.

That’s something everyone should celebrate. So keep it in mind next time you see another column about supposed Tea Party know-nothingism.

 

By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, October 29, 2015

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Continuing The Charade”: Meet Paul Ryan, Media Darling”; He’s Sensible, Serious, And Totally Made-Up

The beatification of right-wing Republican Paul Ryan has become an almost annual ritual among the punditocracy. This bizarre tradition began when Ryan released his first budget as chair of the House Budget Committee in 2011, and repeated itself a year later when he rereleased it. It occurred a third time when Mitt Romney—under powerful punditocracy pressure—picked Ryan as his running mate for the 2012 presidential campaign. Now we are in the midst of yet another episode in this sorry franchise, as Republicans and their apologists and propagandists beg Ryan to use his superhero powers to save them from the lunatics who have taken over their party. It’s a measure of how deeply the Republicans have dived into know-nothing, do-nothing nihilism—and, no less significantly, how deeply our most prestigious pundits remain in denial about this fundamental fact—that Ryan has been able to continue the charade, despite having been repeatedly exposed as a math-challenged Ayn Rand acolyte.

The congressman’s emergence on the political scene earned him hosannas from both the center-left and center-right. Slate’s Jacob Weisberg led the pack: Writing beneath the headline “Good Plan!” followed by the adjectives “brave, radical, and smart,” Weisberg was particularly enamored with Ryan’s willingness to lower taxes on the wealthy as he subsequently undermined the Medicare payments upon which middle-class and poor people depend for their healthcare. On the other side of the center aisle, David Brooks insisted that Ryan had “set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion,” and credited him with the manly virtue of tackling “just about every politically risky issue with brio and guts.”

Brooks’s fellow New York Times pundits James B. Stewart and Joe Nocera also raised their pom-poms and lowered their intellectual standards to cheer Ryan on. The former misled his audience by insisting that Ryan’s plan would somehow raise taxes on the rich. The latter lamented that Democrats proved “gleeful” when they won a special congressional election that turned, in part, on the voters’ distaste for Ryan’s plan. The man was so wonderful, apparently, that the other guys should simply have forfeited the game and gone home.

Interestingly, some of the smitten already had an inkling that what they were selling was snake oil. Weisberg admitted that Ryan’s budget was full of “sleight-of-hand tricks” and wouldn’t actually come close to eliminating the deficit in the coming decade, “leaving $400 billion in annual deficits as far as the eye can see.” And Nocera dutifully acknowledged that “Ryan’s solution is wrong­headed,” before adding he was “right that Medicare is headed for trouble.”

In fact, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ryan’s budget would have “likely produce[d] the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase[d] poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).” The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center calculated that people earning over $1 million a year could expect, on average, $265,000 above the $129,000 they would have gotten from Ryan’s proposed extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts. Meanwhile, middle-class and poor Americans would likely see their incomes decline, as Medicare and other support programs would be slashed to the point of destruction. Even Ryan admitted that enactment of his Robin-Hood-in-reverse plan would lead to a significant increase in the deficit, an unavoidable fact despite the transparently dishonest assumptions on which the argument rested. These included science-fiction levels of predicted growth, together with the pie-in-the-sky promise to close unspecified tax loopholes. Those loopholes, it turns out, only seem to increase with every campaign contribution.

By now, the narrative is all but set in stone. Washington’s own St. Paul is saving the Republicans from their out-of-control Tea Party golem. As one of many breathless Politico headlines put it, Ryan “conquered the Freedom Caucus” by forcing its members to cave in on the demands that toppled the hapless John Boehner in return for Ryan’s willingness to accept the crown of House speaker and save the party from catastrophe. Once again, however, the devilish details contradict the story line. Ryan’s deal with the Freedom Caucus crazies, according to Politico itself, rests far more on capitulation than conquest. For starters, Ryan agreed to give the Freedom Caucus more power on the influential House Republican Steering Committee. He also promised to drop immigration reform from the Republican agenda and to follow the “Hastert rule,” by which no legislation can come to the floor unless it is supported in advance by a majority of Republicans—which means guess who? If the Mets had played this well against the Dodgers and the Cubs, they’d be watching the World Series on TV.

This “Ryan to the rescue” fairy tale is merely the latest manifestation of a corrupt bargain made by many members of the mainstream media. Unable to escape the intellectual straitjacket that requires them to cover the Republican Party as if its ideas are serious, they accept a false equivalence between Republican crazy-talk and normative reality. Clearly, no honest analysis can support such coverage of a party whose leading candidates—including Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Ted Cruz—routinely say such nutty things that they make far-right extremists like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio sound relatively reasonable. As the respected (and centrist) political scientist Theodore Mann of the Brookings Institution recently put it, “Republicans have become more an insurgency than a major political party capable of governing.” This “reality of asymmetric polarization, which the mainstream media and most good government groups have avoided discussing,” Mann notes, has come “at great costs to the country.” Quite obviously, it should also have cost its enablers their reputations for honesty, perspicacity, and prudence. But the pontification business in America is apparently a perpetual-motion machine that can run indefinitely on ideological hot air.

 

By: Eric Alterman, Columnist, The Nation, October 29, 2015

October 30, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Yesterday’s Ideological Hero Is Suspect”: Remembering Paul Ryan Before He Became A RINO Squish

A lot of the conservative carping we are hearing about Paul Ryan as he ascends to the House Speakership is interesting, to say the least. As conservative commentator Matt Lewis notes at the Daily Beast today, a lot of the same people were praising him to high heaven when he emerged as the great crafter of right-wing budgets back in 2010 and again in 2012. Since most of the heresies people are now talking about occurred earlier in his congressional career, you have to figure the context has changed more than Ryan has.

Here’s Lewis’ guess:

Much of this boils down to Paul Ryan’s past support for immigration reform—and the fact that this has become the one and only litmus test for populist conservatives.

That could certainly help explain why everybody’s favorite nativist, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been making negative noises about Ryan’s accession to the Speakership.

As it happens, the day after Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running-mate in 2012, I was in Waukee, Iowa, at the FAMiLY Leadership Summit, one of the nation’s biggest and most influential Christian Right clambakes. Steve King keynoted the event, and expressed satisfaction with Romney’s choice of Ryan–as did, it seems, the entire assemblage, which erupted in cheers at the first mention of Ryan’s name. But at that point in history, conservatives were most focused on the fact that Ryan was a down-the-line antichoicer who had shown his “guts” by crafting a budget document (actually two of them by then) that messed with Medicare and took a claw hammer to the federal programs benefitting those people.

Nowadays if you are guilty of having ever supported “amnesty” your other heresies will be uncovered, however old they are. The other way to look at it, of course, is that the GOP continues to drift to the Right, making yesterday’s ideological heroes suspect. The message to Paul Ryan is: keep up.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, Octoer 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: