“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
“The GOP’s Dirty Little ‘Post Truth’ Secrets”: Trump Forces Questions Republicans Don’t Want To Answer
During the 2012 GOP presidential primary, Newt Gingrich got in a lot of trouble with Republican base voters for saying that we should allow some undocumented immigrants to stay in this country and go through a process of legalization. Mitt Romney’s position was ridiculous – proposing actions that would lead to “self deportation.” All of that was a cover for a messy reality among Republicans: their position on immigration was to “seal the border” (which is not a reality) and avoid talking about the 11 million undocumented people who are currently in the country.
If you want to know just how uncomfortable they were talking about that question, take a look at the lengths to which Rep. Tim Huelskamp went to dodge it. Then along came Donald Trump with his “deport ‘em all” position and all of the 2016 candidates had to take it on. For example, here is Ted Cruz being asked the question directly because of Trump’s proposal.
Last week in an interview with Chris Matthews, Donald Trump unearthed another dirty little secret the GOP has been trying to keep under wraps for a long time. We all know that they want to make abortion illegal and that the case they make is that it kills an unborn child. If, as they believe, it is such a serious crime, who gets punished for it if it is banned? That is the very real outcome of their policy that they wanted to avoid.
Along comes Donald Trump with the response initially to Chris Matthews that women should be punished and then a later correction saying that it should be the doctor who performs the abortion. That blew the lid off the GOP’s cover. And this weekend, John Kasich was put on the spot (very uncomfortably) about it.
Obviously Kasich didn’t want to answer the question. We’re left to wonder what kind of process governors like him would work out with state legislatures on this one if Roe v Wade was ever overturned. That has traditionally been the Republican response to questions like this…keep people in the dark about the consequences of their position because it leads to places that most people don’t want to go. It’s what David Roberts called “post-truth politics.”
One way to understand what is happening with these issues is to see it as the result of Donald Trump’s rejection of political correctness. He often uses that word to describe the position of Democrats. But a post-truth party is filled with questions they don’t want to talk about. Trump is doing a good job of exposing all of them.
But lest we get tempted to give Trump credit for that, it is important to keep in mind that on most of these issues, he embraces the retrograde policies. The difference is that he just comes right out and says so. That is an improvement in honesty but not so much when it comes to decency.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 4, 2016
The system failed. That’s what they say about the establishment Republican party, such as it is. For me, there is a logical progression from Newt Gingrich’s harsh revolution to the present moment. The tea party brought Donald Trump to the 2016 dance with its angry outsider rhetoric. Six years ago, the tea party whipped up a frenzy that Trump has furthered with every passing day as the Republican primary front-runner.
Count me out of mourning for the Republican party. This is the party that produced Richard Nixon, a vicious spirit, schemer and liar. Please don’t tell me about China, or I’ll bring up Vietnam and Cambodia. This is the party that gave us George W. Bush by one Supreme Court vote over the popular vote. The Iraq War was the longest, and for what? It has tied the Middle East up into knots and power vacuums. This is the war nobody won. Bush left messes for his successor, Barack Obama, to clean up for eight years, not to mention junking good will from our allies and military morale.
This is the party that has given us hundreds of members of Congress that, to a man, oppose reproductive rights for girls and women. There’s only one Republican woman defined as a pro-choice moderate: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. One. This is the party that gave us Clarence Thomas. Need I say more?
But there are tears that another system failed, a system just as central to democracy. Despite great debate coverage, the press has failed and fallen down on the job of covering Trump, and I’ll tell you how. First they – we – snidely covered him as head of the “clown car,” assuring readers and viewers that he could never win the nomination despite his strong poll numbers from the start. That was a strong chorus from friends and foes alike. Don’t worry, nobody could take him seriously as a standard-bearer.
I belong to this tribe, some of my best friends are journos, but I did not share this complacency. I had actually watched Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice,” with a reluctant respect for his deal-making and character judgment. Like him or not, he is a formidable player. And, clearly, the climate was just right for him. Now the confessions and apologies are coming up for air, from white male pundits who never saw Trump’s swath coming. Like a lifeguard who misses a tidal wave coming to shore. I won’t name names, but I will say the reason for this short-sightedness is that the media viewed Trump through the spectacles of our own class privilege.
For my part, I wrote that Trump might be a “textbook demagogue” fully ahead of the wave. And I give him credit for vociferously criticizing the Iraq War, which may be part of his populist appeal. He is the only candidate to decry that foreign policy folly, except for his fellow populist, Sen. Bernie Sanders. To me, the scary thing is that he wasn’t even the worst in the Republican line-up. I’d take him over Jeb Bush any day, or the other Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio, the pretty darling of the pundits.
Winds of white working-class anger were blowing out there, at Trump’s rallies, but not taken seriously enough as a force. Now that we people in the press have sobered up, I fear that pendulum is swinging the other way, and the press is taking Trump too seriously. Conservative pundit Kathleen Parker wrote this in Sunday’s Post: “Trump is still terrible for the country, and therefore the world.” In Monday’s Post, Fred Hiatt tore into Trump as a narcissist, a bigot and yes, a demagogue. So now the clown is being demonized.
Here in the world’s oldest democracy, let’s let the party decide without undue hysterics from the establishment media. Yes, the press is compensating for reading the winds so wrong when the stakes are so high. But it happens all the time.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2016
Just as Donald Trump did a Super Tuesday stomp on the Republican establishment, the establishment showed why it deserved the rough treatment. The Republican Senate leadership yet again announced its refusal to consider anyone President Obama nominates for the Supreme Court until after the presidential election.
It is the job of the U.S. Senate to hold hearings on, and then accept or reject, the president’s choice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said they will not take on the work — while showing no inclination to forgo their paychecks.
Talk about “takers.”
Yes, talk about “takers.” That’s how Mitt Romney described Americans benefiting from Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare and other government social programs during his failed 2012 run for president. Never mind that most of the “takers” have also paid for some of what they have received.
Working-class Republicans have finally rebelled against the notion that everything they get is beneficence from the superrich — and that making the superrich super-duper-rich would drop some tinsel on their grateful heads. They were done with quiet protest and ready to take down the Republican bastille, stone by stone. And the angrier Trump made the establishment the happier they were.
The Bastille was the symbol of France’s Old Regime. The storming of the prison in 1789 kicked off the French Revolution.
Republican disrupters from Newt Gingrich on down liked to talk about a conservative revolution. They didn’t know the first thing about revolutions. This is a revolution.
Back at the chateau, Republican luminaries were calmly planning favors for their financiers. They assumed their party’s working folk would fall in line — out of both hostility to Democrats and through hypnosis.
So you had Jeb Bush amassing an armory of campaign cash over bubbly and hors d’oeuvres at the family estate in Maine. You had Marco Rubio devising a plan to do away with all capital gains taxes — the source of half the earnings for people making $10 million or more. You had Ted Cruz concocting a plan to abolish the IRS. (Without the IRS, only the working stiffs would be paying taxes, the money automatically deducted from their paychecks.)
Not much here for the alleged takers, who actually see themselves as “taken from.” Unlike the others, Trump wasn’t going after their benefits. He even praised Planned Parenthood, noting it provides a variety of health services to ordinary women.
Trump would be a disastrous president, of course. But he knows how to inspire the “enraged ones.” In the French Revolution, the enraged ones were extremists who sent many of the moderate revolutionaries to the guillotine. (The enraged ones also ended badly.)
As the embers of Super Tuesday still glowed, The Wall Street Journal published the following commentary by one of its Old Regime’s scribes:
“To be honest and impolitic, the Trump voter smacks of a child who unleashes recriminations against mommy and daddy because the world is imperfect,” Holman Jenkins wrote. Take that.
No responsible American — not the other Republicans and certainly not Democrats expecting strong Latino support — would endorse Trump’s nasty attacks on our hardworking immigrants. But large-scale immigration of unskilled labor has, to some extent, hurt America’s blue-collar workers, and not just white ones.
Democrats need to continue pressing reform that is humane both to immigrants already rooted in the society and to the country’s low-skilled workforce. Do that and the air comes whooshing out of Trump’s balloon.
Back in Washington, the Republican leaders will probably continue to avoid work on this issue or a Supreme Court nominee or anything else Obama wants. They should enjoy their leisure. After Election Day, many may have to look for real jobs.
By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, March 3, 2016
“A Stew Of Resentment And Hatred”: Republicans Say Obama Has Been Historically Divisive. That’s Very, Very Revealing
There’s no doubt that when historians assess the Obama presidency, they will pay a great deal of attention to the deep political divisions within the country, and how those divisions shaped political events. There are racial divisions, class divisions, and, most of all, political divisions. Within Congress, for instance, the parties have been moving apart for the last 40 years, as fewer and fewer moderates get elected and the median of both parties moves toward the edge. But the reality is that while Democrats have moved left, Republicans have been moving right much more sharply — a fact not only established by political science but evident to anyone remotely familiar with Capitol Hill.
Yet Republicans are sure that the fault for all this — long-term trends and recent developments alike — can be laid at the feet of Barack Obama, who is terribly, appallingly, despicably divisive.
If we are divided, it’s only because Obama has divided us. “We have not seen such a divisive figure in modern American history” as Barack Obama, Marco Rubio said in 2012. Four years later, his opinion hasn’t changed; last week he tweeted, “This president has been the single most divisive political figure this country has had over the last decade.” After Obama’s recent State of the Union address, Ted Cruz fumed, “He lectures us on civility yet has been one of the most divisive presidents in American history.” Or as one Republican congressman said last week, “There probably has not been a more racially-divisive, economic-divisive president in the White House since we had presidents who supported slavery.” You won’t find too many Republicans who would disagree.
Yet if you spend some time investigating what evidence Republicans offer when they call Obama divisive, what you find is not actually evidence at all, but their own skewed interpretations of events. “He says ‘It’s my way or the highway’ on legislation!”, they charge — although he doesn’t actually say that. It’s just that he has a different legislative agenda than they do. “He crammed ObamaCare down our throats!” — this is a sentence that has been written and spoken a thousand times (just Google it for yourself). Back on Planet Earth, the Affordable Care Act spent over a year going through endless hearings, floor speeches, and debates, and in the end passed the House and Senate and was signed by the president, which you may recall is how a bill becomes a law.
Here’s the truth: You might like Barack Obama or you might not; you might think he has been a good president or a bad one. But the idea that blame for the political divisions we confront lies solely or even primarily at his door is positively deranged.
Let’s just remind ourselves of how Republicans have treated Obama over his seven years in office, with a few of the greatest hits. You can start right on the day of his inauguration, when congressional Republicans gathered for a dinner at which they decided that rather than seek areas of cooperation with the new president, they would employ a strategy of maximum confrontation and obstruction in order to deny him any legislative victories.
They followed through on this plan. As Mitch McConnell explained proudly in 2010, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny Barack Obama a second term.”
At Obama’s speech in front of Congress in 2009, a Republican member of the House, acting like a drunk frat boy in a comedy club, decided to heckle him, shouting “You lie!” In the time since, conservative Republicans have regularly acted as though Obama is presumptuous for even acting like the president; they’ve suggested things like not inviting him to deliver the SOTU, or depriving him of the use of Air Force One.
And then there’s the question of how they explain it when Obama does things they don’t like. Before you protest that Obama himself sometimes questions his opponents’ motives, it’s important to realize that when he does so, it’s in a narrow way focused on the issue at hand — they really want to cut taxes for the wealthy, they don’t think women ought to have access to abortion, they’re too eager to start a new war, and so on — to explain their behavior at a particular moment. What he doesn’t do, and what he has never done, is accuse them of hating their country. But this is something Republicans have done constantly — not once or twice, not a dozen times or even a hundred, but constantly for seven years.
“I do not believe that the president loves America,” said Rudy Giuliani last year, in a statement notable only for being a tad more explicit than the way Republicans usually talk about this question.”He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” Often they will argue that the policies they disagree with are part of a secret plan of Obama’s to hamper, diminish, or even destroy the country. Among the things said in the last debate by Marco Rubio — supposedly the reasonable establishment candidate — were that Obama “believes that America is an arrogant global power that needs to be cut down to size,” that when elected in 2008 he “didn’t want to fix America,” that he “doesn’t believe in the Constitution,” and that he “doesn’t believe in the free enterprise system.”
In fact, any time you hear a Republican begin a sentence with “Barack Obama believes…” it’s an absolute guarantee that what follows will be an utter lie about how Obama doesn’t accept the basic values nearly all Americans agree on, that his ideas are alien and threatening. As Newt Gingrich said in 2010, “What if he is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
Their voters believe it — indeed, many if not most of them believe that Obama is not American at all. A recent poll by the Democratic firm PPP found that only 29 percent of Republicans would grant that the president is an American citizen. A majority of Republicans also believe he is a Muslim; in other words, that when he goes to church or talks about his Christian beliefs, he’s just lying. Polls have shown similar findings for much of his presidency. A poll by the same firm just after the 2012 election showed 49 percent of Republicans saying ACORN stole the election for Obama (which would have been quite a feat, since the organization ceased to exist in 2010).
They don’t get these ideas from nowhere. They get them from the leading lights of the GOP, the politicians and media figures who tell them day in and day out that Obama hates them and hates America, and that he is a black nationalist whose policy proposals are about exacting reparations from whites for imaginary racial sins of the past.
If you’re even a marginally aware conservative, you’ve been marinating for seven years in this toxic stew of resentment and hatred. So no one should be surprised that this year Republican voters are angry. But that’s Obama’s fault too, of course — you might have heard many of them blame the fact that their party has been taken over by a xenophobic blowhard on, you guessed it, Barack Obama.
Yes, it was terribly poor manners of him to make them hate him so, to bring out such ugliness in Republicans. But what choice did they have? And this is the best explanation for their argument that Obama is so terribly divisive: it’s projection. They’re blaming him for their own shortcomings, their own misdeeds, the political divisions that they have worked so hard to exacerbate.
“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency,” Obama said in his State of the Union address this year, “that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.” Maybe, but probably not.
Obama could have invited more Republicans to play golf with him, or invested more time trying to convince them that the Affordable Care Act was a good idea. But would those things — or anything he might have done — really changed how they acted? The party who wouldn’t work with him on any legislation, who shut down the government, who vilified him from the moment he took office, who literally made him show his birth certificate to prove he’s an American? Not a chance.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, January 19, 2016