Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

EDITORIAL>>Speaker Hastert should resign

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, widely criticized for doing nothing about Rep. Mark Foley after learning of the Florida Republican’s sexually suggestive correspondence with teenage pages, asked the FBI Monday to start a criminal investigation of Foley. Conservative critics said it was a little late.

Indeed it is. Hastert should have done that months ago, when other Republican congressmen say they reported the messages to him. Instead, he told Republican Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, that he already had heard about the problem and that he had “taken care of it.” At least that is Boehner’s insistent claim. Hastert says he does not remember ever hearing about Foley’s conduct from Boehner or anyone else until Foley resigned last Friday ahead of media revelations about emails and text messages to several boys who were serving as congressional pages.

Hastert’s reluctance is understandable, if inexcusable. Three high-ranking Republican congressmen, starting with Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have resigned recently in the midst of bribery and influence-peddling investigations, which endangered other Republicans running for election this fall. Hastert and other leading Republicans implicated in the coverup wanted to protect Republicans from still another debacle just before the midterm elections. Control of the House was at stake.

He now has what he dreaded. Hastert’s craven attitude and that of other leaders who knew of Foley’s conduct and simply kicked it up to Hastert, reflect the crisis in American government: politics and power come ahead of everything else, including the welfare of children.

The right-wing Washington Times called for Hastert to resign. That would be a start toward redemption. It might even help his party hold power. That is the argument that might persuade him.