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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Republicans on Capitol Hill keep telling everyone how terribly shocked they are by the tawdry tale of Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House indicted last week for violations of federal money-laundering statutes in an effort to cover up alleged sexual abuse of a male high-school student many years ago.

Long upheld as a paragon of Midwestern conservative values, Hastert represented a suburban Illinois district and became his party’s longest-serving Speaker. Like Newt Gingrich, who preceded him in that post, Hastert avidly prosecuted the impeachment of Bill Clinton for trying to conceal an extramarital affair. Unlike Gingrich, whose own serial adulteries became a national joke, Hastert was evidently never suspected of any such “misconduct,” as the indictment described it.

“I don’t see how this didn’t come up on the radar before,” said a former Hastert aide following the release of his indictment.  “It’s sort of beyond belief.”

But is it truly beyond belief, at this very late date, to learn that yet another moralizing politician or preacher was always an utter hypocrite? Not unless you haven’t been paying attention for the past two decades or so. Or you’ve been mesmerized into believing the propaganda that claims only one party — the GOP — represents “family values.”

A decade ago, Hastert was hailed as a partisan symbol of superior virtue, notably in John Mickelthwait and Adrian Wooldridge’s The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, which gleefully predicted endless victories for the Republicans and doom for the Democrats. Written by a pair of British Tories who then held top positions at The Economist magazine, that work invidiously contrasted then-Speaker Hastert with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, his counterpart on the other side of the aisle – and described their districts as emblematic of red and blue America.

Mickelthwait (now editor-in-chief at Bloomberg) and Wooldridge waxed on lyrically and at daunting length in praise of Coach Denny and “Hastertland,” while they cast a censorious gaze upon Nancy and “Pelosiville,” also known as San Francisco or, again in their words, “the capital of gay America.” Their description of Hastert — “a fairly straightforward conservative: antiabortion, anti-gay marriage” – rings with irony today. So does their depiction of Pelosi’s urban constituency as “a peculiar mix of blue bloods and gays, dotcom millionaires and aging hippies,” set against the “resolutely ‘normal’ ” people represented by Hastert, who “think of themselves as typical Americans.”

Key to understanding the two districts and therefore American politics, according to the authors, were differing attitudes toward “the importance of family life,” orthodox religion, and “social disorder.” In Hastertland, churches and families were growing, streets were clean, and vagrancy eliminated – and in Pelosiville exactly the reverse, with secularism rampant, bums everywhere, and even an outpost of the Church of Satan.

“Looking at ‘Pelosiville’ and ‘Hastertland,’“ they concluded, “it is not difficult to see why American politics has shifted to the Right.”

As it turned out, The Right Nation was mostly wrong, about the fates of the two major parties and much else besides. But what was most wrong was the insinuation that Republicans stand for more elevated values than Democrats, or that conservatives are morally purer than liberals. To take their own example, we now know what we know about Hastert – and we also know that Pelosi, mother of five, grandmother of eight, married more than 50 years to the same husband, advocate of gay marriage and reproductive rights, is today far more credible as a symbol of “family values” and family life.

None of this should be surprising, with all due respect to the shocked, shocked, shocked Republicans. In 2003, after Hastert already had ascended to third in line from the presidency, I reviewed the endless ranks of right-wing moral mountebanks – the cheating celebrity evangelists, the homophobic gay politicians, the lecherous legislators, and others too raunchy to mention here – in one chapter of a book called Big Lies. I included many stories about Hastert’s House colleagues, partying amid their pursuit of Clinton; some were amusing, some quite depressing. Of course, I didn’t know about “Coach Denny” back then.

But with or without his sad story, the conclusion would be the same: that liberals “care about families and children just as much as conservatives do – and that their more tolerant, humane policies do more to help families than the selfish and self-righteous approach of the Republican right.”

What should have changed by now, whenever conservatives start to cluck about their rectitude and piety, is whether anybody still listens.

Photo: Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Nov. 4, 2006, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • Stuart

    “Elmer Gantry” was published in 1927. We haven’t learned anything since.

    • whodatbob


    • Someone said “Conservatives pray in public and sin in private. Liberals sin in public and pray in private.” They are all hypocrites. It seems to be a prerequisite for entering politics.

      • Allan Richardson

        At least liberal sins ARE private in nature. Clinton allegedly (and probably) scr*d a willing (and eager) intern of legal age. Bush scr*d three whole countries … ours and two others.

        When liberals commit corruption, it is a deviation from their ideology of helping the whole economy, including all the people.

        For conservatives, corruption IS their ideology: make the 99% too poor to have the strength to fight for themselves, get as many as possible to believe your policies are actually helping them, and make the 1% richer and more powerful every year.

  • The lucky one

    I think EVERYONE who is as self-righteous as Hastert and many on the right is a hypocrite hiding their own peccadilloes.

  • FireBaron

    Denny Hastert was the “sock puppet” of Tom DeLay. I am sure someplace in his files, DeLay had information regarding Hastert’s actions and used it to control Hastert, and through him the House and all legislation that passed through it. What is now referred to as the “Hastert Doctrine” (don’t bring a bill to the floor unless it can pass with just your own party’s votes) was the brainchild of DeLay and ended up the cause for very few pieces of bipartisan legislation ever proposed.
    DeLay would go so far as to penalize any Republican who had the audacity to work with Democrats in developing any legislative compromise that was not directly ordered by “the Hammer.”

    • latebloomingrandma

      Well, it’s time to take a literal hammer to the Hastert rule.

  • Dominick Vila

    I find it fascinating when we learn that the same people who oppose same sex marriage turn out to be sexual predators. Another example of do as we say, not as we do.

    • 13observer

      It sounds as if you are referring to the “Kennedys”.

      • Dominick Vila

        Most of the Kennedys were womanizers. I haven’t heard anything about them molesting young boys..

        • jmprint

          Dominick “molesting young boys” doesn’t mean they are gay, gosh!

      • jmprint

        That’s because you guys are programmed to be in denial. Can’t think for yourself.

  • whodatbob

    Married 50 years to the same man, 5 children and a career! That says it all. Republicans do not like her because she has a career. Lorddy, lorddy! They know know her place is at home bare foot, scrubbing floors and cooking for the master (hubby).

    Way to go Nancy! Those hypocrites should genuflect and kiss your ring every day!

    • 13observer

      Republicans don’t like her because she votes for legislation before she reads it.

      • Paul Bass

        Yes, like all the republicans did when they invited Israel’s prime minister to talk to congress?

        Just another example of GOP hypocrisy.

      • jmprint

        At least she reads before she signs, something your republicans don’t do.

  • 13observer

    Somehow this baggage must have something to do with the 2016 election although Hastert isn’t running but Hillaryous Clinton is!

  • 13observer

    Well I’m surprised, I though all liberal progressive democrats were tolerant of just about everything like drugs, homosexuals, illegal immigration, welfare for everyone, abortion, race baiting, fraud etc. Can’t Hastert catch a break? Maybe someday if enough people come out of the closet and stand up for their pedophile cause, the dems will make it law!

    • jmprint

      Yes, we are tolerant, but Haster just proved what we already know, that republicans are worse sinners, but like to thump that bible.

  • 13observer

    The democrat party really seems to be the party for the “genetic flaws” of humanity! But hey, they need to be dependent on someone and this party aims to please! “Just give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses of illegal aliens and……… oh…………
    most importantly,your votes please!

    • jmprint

      The republicans motto is, “do as I say, not as I do. Because we don’t care about you, just the corporate $.” The republicans are the party of HYPOCRITES.

    • alwaysthink

      Unless your heritage is Native American your are of immigrant stock. Will you be returning to your home country soon?

  • stcroixcarp

    I have always respected Nancy Pelosi. I especially liked how she handled Boehner over the debt ceiling affair in January. Her only fault was that she did not allow the impeachment Bush/Cheney. GOPers hate her because she is a smart, tough-minded woman who can get things done.

  • Karen Bille-Golden

    … chuckle for today. Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to politics as viewed from the “right”,

  • penguintruth

    “we also know that Pelosi, mother of five, grandmother of eight, married
    more than 50 years to the same husband, advocate of gay marriage and
    reproductive rights, is today far more credible as a symbol of “family
    values” and family life.”

    Best part of the article.