Friday, May 29, 2015

Dennis Hastert: The elephant in the room

By now, you probably know that former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has been charged by the FBI for lying to agents about a blackmail scheme. An unnamed person, called Individual A in the indictment, was blackmailing Hastert for unspecified prior "bad acts" committed long before. Apparently, Individual A got together with Hastert in 2010 to discuss their history...
In the indictment, Hastert is accused of agreeing to pay one individual $3.5 million.

Although the indictment does not specify the “bad acts,” sources said they could be from before Hastert, who is now a lobbyist in Washington, entered politics in 1980.
Before Hastert went into politics, he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach. It does not take much imagination to guess what kind of acts a schoolteacher might get up to that would be worth $3.5 million in hush money 30 years later.

The actual indictment is here.
a. From approximately 1965 to 1981, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois. From approximately 1981 to 2007, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT was an elected public official, including eight years as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. From approximately 2008 to the present, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT has worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

b. Individual A has been a resident of Yorkville, Illinois and has known defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT most of Individual A's life.

c. In or about 2010, Individual A met with defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT multiple times. During at least one of the meetings, Individual A and defendant discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.

d. During the 2010 meetings and subsequent discussions, defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT agreed to provide Invidiual A $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.
The likeliest scenario is that Hastert had engaged in an improper sexual relationship with a young person. The report that Hastert knew this person "most of Individual A's life" indicates a relationship with the child of a friend or neighbor. Even though the indictment carefully avoids assigning a pronoun to Individual A, we have good reason to believe that the relationship with homosexual.

Most people now forget that, in 2006, the Mark Foley scandal engendered much talk about outing other secretly gay Republican congressfolk. The Republican voting base was then more intolerant toward gays than is the case today. (Yes, I'm well aware that many conservatives are still quite gay-unfriendly.) Here's what I wrote at the time:
A couple of days ago, Americablog reported rumors of another secretly gay Republican congressperson involved in scandal. John Aravosis refused to divulge the name (even in private correspondence -- yes, I was nebby enough to ask), although his published piece cleverly hinted that the "mystery gay" was House Speaker Denny Hastert himself. Now, a number of web sites -- and even Randi Rhodes! -- have reported that Hastert is indeed the man on the hot seat.
Lawrence O'Donnell also strongly indicated that Hastert was homosexual. In fact, O'Donnell came that close to making the claim directly.

At the time, Hastert lived with his Chief of Staff, Scott Palmer. The two were inseparable. When Dennis Hastert's wife Jean made one of her rare visits to Washington DC, she stayed in a hotel -- on Valentine's Day.

The rumors of homosexuality swirled around Hastert throughout 2006. The next year, he announced that he would not serve out his time in office.

Normally, I would have considered a man's sexuality to be his own business. What irked me at the time was a factor that irked a lot of other people: The reek of hypocrisy. Hastert had been one of the leading voices calling for Bill Clinton's impeachment over the Monica Lewinski affair; moreover, Hastert had not been friendly toward measures expanding gay rights.

Although I may regret this decision, I think we should take a look at a report from a not-terribly-reliable writer named Wayne Madsen, who formerly worked for the intelligence community. He specializes in uncredited swipes from other writers (including my humble self), mixed with unverifiable -- and often quite outlandish -- revelations from unnamed sources who may or may not exist. In short, Madsen has written many things that I simply do not believe.

With those caveats in place, let's hop the barb wire fence and explore the forbidden zone. In 2006, Madsen insinuated that Hastert had an interest in the underaged.
WMR's State Department sources have also reported that the visits of Hastert and other congressional leaders and staff members to certain Southeast Asian nations and the Northern Marianas should come under the scrutiny of the House Ethics Committee, now officially investigating "Pagegate." The Northern Marianas became infamous in the scandals involving Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff because of the presence in the US slave labor territory of Asian children being used as prostitutes. Conveniently, Foley co-chaired the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, which would have had authority to investigate charges of child prostitution in the Northern Marianas.
Alas, Madsen's piece then goes off on bizarre tangents involving the JonBenet Ramsay imbroglio and all sorts of other issues. Like most other conspiracy-oriented writers, Madsen never delivers a comprehensible narrative, because he cannot resist filling his stew pot with every single ingredient in his kitchen. As one of my exes used to say: "That's not an essay. That's a brain dump."

Nevertheless, other writers have also strongly hinted that when Abramoff took politicians to the Marianas, he made sure that their more unusual sexual appetites were satiated. Some wags believe that Washington DC should change its name to Washington BC: Blackmail City.

Right now, I would put the Marianas story in the category of "Maybe; maybe not. More investigation needed." In another 2006 piece, Madsen writes:
WMR reported on old charges that swirled around Hastert when he was a high school wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Yorkville, Illinois. Hastert decided to enter politics in 1980 after rumors surfaced about inappropriate contact with male high school students.
This claim didn't make a whole lot of sense in the context of 2006. I still can't imagine why a teacher who had been subjected to such rumors would decide to seek public office. Moreover, I've yet to see any reputable news source confirm that such rumors even existed; according to one news report that I've seen, the community had a very high opinion of Hastert during his time as a teacher. The indictment is worded in such a way as to suggest that Hastert got to know Individual A outside of school.

Nevertheless, I do think that we should revisit the mystery of why Hastert left his job in such a hurry back in 2007.

Clever: This Washington Post headline calls the Hastert indictment "Jaw-dropping." Nudge nudge. Wink wink. Say no more.


Gus said...

Well, Jerry Sandusky was thought very highly of by 99% of people in the town where he lived. He was always involved with the community and, of course, everyone thought of the Second Mile as a wonderful thing for the children who were "helped" by it. Most people were deeply shocked to learn the truth about him. I expect the same was true with Hassert So it's not exactly unusual for a child molester to have a high public profile and be respected and admired by the community who don't know what that person does when no one is looking.

Anonymous said...

The sexual abuse of children and the blackmail it engenders is what keeps those in titular positions of power from ever exercising said power for good. The cost of true power is corruption, because only the corrupt can be relied upon to play ball.

Anonymous said...

Sibel Edmonds had, among other things, Hastert taking bribes from the Turkish government to influence votes in Congress (and maybe other things--I don't recall now). Edmonds' allegations were buried deep by Bushco and the FBI. It's interesting that they're willing to go after Hastert now.

Maybe Madsen is more reliable than he's given credit for. His claims about Obama's parents and the CIA are interesting.

JustOneMinute said...

1. Very well presented.

2. My biggest reservation (and for full nerd points, I take inspiration from the resolution to Isacc Asimov's "The Gods Themselves") is that in nature "one" is almost never the right answer. Either there ought to be a trail of tears in Hastert's wake (as with Sandusky, where multiple victims were found), or the relationship was something else altogether. Unless we think the FBI is going to drop another shoe on us, this indictment by itself would be a weird denoument to what might be a child abuse case.

Or, if this was a serious relationship with an of-age male, well, times have changed, its not 2006 or even 2008, so just what is Hastert afraid of?

And FWIW, the indictment does say that Hastert was paying (my emphasis) “in order **to compensate for** and conceal his prior misconduct”.

Compensate?!? Why does he owe a consenting adult male money? Or, if it was a traumatized student, why is there only one, and why does this investigation seem to be over?

I am leaning towards these payments being child support from an out-of-wedlock birth, made either to the mother or the child (If the mom was also a childhood friend he could have known her most of her life). And maybe Hastert has been paying for years, but the cash amounts were small, like his Congressional salary (relative to his lobbyist cash-in).

Well - perhaps like Hastert, I can go either way.

JustOneMinute said...

Or, this just in:

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert paid a man to conceal a sexual relationship they had while the man was a student at the high school where Hastert taught, a federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Friday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity. Tribune newspapers reported earlier in the day that two unnamed federal officials said that Hastert paid a man from his past to conceal sexual misconduct.

b said...

Ah, brain dumping! I call it riffing when I do it :-) Not advisable at bus stops.

b (telling his inner organiser to calm down)