Denny Hastert: Symbol of an out-of-control GOP Congress

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is a perfect poster child for the Republican Party: Bloated and out-of-control.

With his multiple chins spilling over a too-tight dress shirt collar, Hastert is at once buffoon and bluster – a belching dispenser of contradictory hot air spilling out of an out-of-shape mass of fat. But he’s also very, very dangerous.

100306hastert2.jpgA former high school wrestling coach, Hastert’s girth and weight have mushroomed since he came to Congress in 1987 – much like the federal budget and size of government on his watch along with encroachments on freedom and the Constitution by a House of Representatives under his leadership.

I first met Hastert in 1986, a few weeks after his election to Congress. Peter Vroom, a political operative I worked with in Amo Houghton’s successful Congressional campaign that year, had just signed on as Hastert’s chief of staff in Washington and invited me to dinner to meet Hastert and his Illinois-based chief of staff Scott Palmer.

We met over chili and beer at Hard Times Café in Arlington, just outside Washington, along with Dan Mattoon, a Bell South lobbyist with Illinois connections.

Hastert seemed affable enough as he woofed down chili and talked about the campaign but something bothered me about the man. I couldn’t put my finger on it but an alarm bell went off in the back of my head telling me: "Don’t trust this guy." I saw an arrogance and ruthlessness just waiting to be unleashed.

My instincts proved right. When Newt Gingrich, architect of the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994, fell from grace after revelations of his affair with a Congressional staffer and other ethical questions, Hastert became the dark horse surprise to take over as Speaker of the House. The mainstream media portrayed it as Republicans turning to a loyal soldier stepping up to take command in a time of crisis but GOP insiders said Hastert had helped engineer Gingrich’s downfall with backroom deals and backstabbing plays.

Under Hastert’s leadership, Republican arrogance increased to record levels. Republican moderates and Democrats say it is Hastert’s extreme partisanship that gridlocked Congress and turned the House into a showplace of one-party excess.

Hastert’s rise to power came at the expense of both opponents and supporters who underestimated his ruthlessness. Gingrich was just one of his victims. So was J.C. Watts, the black Oklahoma Republican who represented a rare moment of diversity for the GOP. Hastert despised Watts, even referring to him in private as the "Republican House nigger," and made life so miserable that Watts gave up his seat in Congress.

"Hastert has exhibited the arrogance of power that leaves him clueless both as to ethical concerns and as to the political damage such arrogance can cause to his own party," writes Quin Hillyer of The American Spectator. "The House GOP’s hubristic culture, the culture that makes its members feel immune to expected mores and to any blowback from a disgusted public — the culture that, even after the Abramoff and DeLay scandals, makes them unwilling to pass serious reforms on ethics, lobbyist disclosure, and earmarks — is what has led the House overall into even-worse poll ratings than the stupendously low scores President George W. Bush has been receiving in recent months."

Hastert goes out of his way to keep Democratic members of Congress out of the decision-making process on Capitol Hill, creating Republican-only conference committees to finalize legislation and keeping not only Democrats but other Republicans out of the loop when it comes to issues that affect Congress.

Republicans members of the committee that oversees the Congressional page system say angrily that Hastert did not inform them when he learned now former Rep. Mark Foley was sending sexually-suggestive emails to young male pages. Hastert claims he didn’t know the extent of the problem with Foley but other Republicans dispute that claim.

In other words, Hastert lied – a tactic that has served him and his President very well.

Just another reason why Denny Hastert is the perfect symbol for a Republican Party gone amuck.


  1. ebbtide

    YIKES! Now there’s a picture for ya. It does speak volumes though, does’nt it? I hav’nt seen a face like that since some of the old Dems were tossed out/quit…maybe there’s some sort of poetic justice in all this political madness after all?

  2. Can anyone say, “Animal Farm?” What animals were more equal than the other animals?
    Unfortunately, you can put a “D” behind his name and there wouldn’t be too much difference.

  3. Richard W. Shubert

    Does anyone remember Gingrich’s Contract On America who said that if they defalted on any one of those things to vote them out of office?

  4. Corallady

    Just think of this–if Bush and Cheney were removed from office, Hastert would become president. There’s a grim thought.

  5. Maybe our national elections should model themselves after the “Miss America Beauty” pageant, because it wouldn’t be all that different. The candidates can do their talent thingy or whatever, maybe some political speech, but please spare me the bathing suit competition!

  6. Doubtom

    I recall a recent photo-op where IdiotBush was walking (arms akimbo as usual) with Hastert on his left and Frist on his right.
    I still think IdiotBush’s eyes are too close to gether; Frist looks exactly like Stan Laurel of “Laurel and Hardy” comedy team, and Hastert, well, he looked like a stuffed walrus as he waddled along trying to keep up. What a sight!

  7. carol

    Oh. My. God. Now there’s the face of a madman, and pervert if I ever saw one. I was sitting here eating some Chex mix, suddenly I don’t know if I have an appetite left or not.

    Hastert definately needs to be thrown out of office ASAP and tried for criminal charges. There should be plenty to charge this creep with.

  8. A crook is a crook is a crook. They are blind to facts, ideas, and honor unless they can be used for dress up. They love darkness and the crook media gives it to them.

  9. Jim B.

    I’m as sick as anyone about the corruption in Congress and throughout the White House, but I don’t think it’s right to attack someone’s appearance. That turns me off. But, I found the rest of the article interesting and damning because they concerned Hastert’s actions. That should be what’s attacked. I don’t think people should be judged per se, but by the choices they make. And, Hastert’s made a lot of bad choices, and that’s what will condemn him.

  10. B Harmon

    Lets also dump Roy Blunt – he is as guilty as Hassert and Missouri would be so much better!

  11. David Rosenberg

    Could this be the final blow that removes the Repigs from power? Will voters finally see, it’s not just a few Bad Apples, but Bushels of them, starting at the top?
    The entire Repig leadership knew what Foley was doing months ago but, kept quiet. How Dumb was that? This will be very fresh in the minds of voters, a month from now.

  12. dave

    I should point out that if Hastert really wanted to clean this kind of perversion out of Congress, that all e-mail and IM messages leave copies on the server handling it. If NSA can spy on you and me, it should be a no-brainer that Congress would have the FBI come in to get copies of all the server copies of the IMs and e-mails, and check them out. Lets see just how badly they really want to clean house….

    Oh, and David, Bush-els of bad apples? Nice pun. Thanks.

  13. I don’t know about the rest of you but this display of “Christian and family value’s” from the repukes is getting scarier every day…I”m far more scared of them then I ever was of Osa Bin Laden. peace.

  14. Tom Joad

    I can’t help but wonder about Hastert’s old wrestling coach days with all those sweaty young boys. Repulsive as that is, there sure seem to be a lot of Republicans so far in the closet that they end up expressing a perveted dsire for young boys. I don’t care what adults do with each other, but leave the kids alone.

  15. Disgusted

    The Nixon strategy of PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY AND OR DEFLECTION of responsibility and accountability has been adopted by politicians from both parties.

    How much longer will these cowardly politicians engage in this activity at the expense of their dignity and our sensibility?

    Right up to the point where the cell door slams shut on a President or Senator and BubbaJoe his new cell mate wants to first play “Beat the Child Molester” and then play “Mama and Papa”.

    That just isn’t going to happen with the current judicial system we have.

    I suspect President Bush will pardon all involved in the Foley scandal and all his other scandals in January 2008 before leaving office and claim that forgiveness is a Christian Family Value that he has always promoted.

  16. Bob

    Hastert needs to check out of Congress — permanently — and check into an obesity rehab setting, perhaps sign up for gastric bypass surgery.

  17. Bob

    Oh, and by the weay, if Foley’s an alcoholic (“drink made me do it”), and so are other congresspeope, then isn’t LUI (Legislating Under the Influence) actionable, too?

  18. Bob

    Oh, and by the way, if Foley’s an alcoholic (“drink made me do it”), and so are other congresspeope, then isn’t LUI (Legislating Under the Influence) actionable, too?

  19. bill Robinson

    George Bush defending and approving Hastert rings of the time Bush said: “Brownie, you’re doing a hell of a job.” Putting Hastert in charge of the investigation is like putting that milkman on guard at that Amish schoolhouse armed with AK47s and unlimited ammunition and telling him that nobody will come in for the next ten hours. Let’s all send Hastert his favorite foods and hope he will burst and really cover the room with excrement. Then let’s see if anyone will notice. I’d bet noone will.

  20. recent history the 1994 landslide in the U.S. House caused the then Democratic speaker of the House to be voted out of office.

    I feel that Rep. Haster may suffer the same fate.

    click on my name for a new Congress person named Jeeni Criscenzo 49th Ca.

  21. South Point Man

    The eyes say it all. That there is something terribly, terribly wrong and putrid inside.

  22. rbank

    This is god’s own party. The one’s who are worried about gays getting married and they impeached OUr president for having oral sex preformed on him. This is really sad. I feel sorry for Foley’s WIFE>

  23. Shag

    I have no dislike for people who overeat, but am convinced that, when you eat way too much, you can’t think properly.
    He comes across as just a bloated oaf, who is a tool of his party, and unable to think for himself.

  24. D. Mauriello

    Let us bow our heads in prayer to Saint Hastert, patron saint of perverts, child molesters, and sexual predators

  25. South Point Man

    All day long I was trying to figure out where I had seen that face before…

    Then I remembered… Napoleon the pig from the movie Animal Farm…

    Some animals are more equal than others. Lest any of us should forget…

    And I’m not referring to Hastert’s size. I don’t care about that. It’s the look of sheer contempt and disdain towards the value and dignity of the lives of others that grosses me out. Just like Napoleon the pig had. That look of the mental illness of total egotism that becomes true and genuine evilness.

    What’s with all this total egotism crap that’s been going on? It’s more than a little bit completely, totally, utterly, absolutely dishonorable…

  26. Rice Farmer

    The paragraph used as the photo caption is entertaining, but is it journalism? For example, instead of writing about Hastert’s multiple chins (not necessarily a sign of evil, as Bush doesn’t have them), why not give us an example of his backroom deals or backstabbing?

  27. Idiotland

    Actually, the photo reminds me of the old soviet leaders; bloated and corrupt. The republican party has become just like the old soviet communist party. Lincoln must be spinning in his grave.

  28. dave

    What I’m wondering about is if the ‘religious right’, aka ‘the base’ is starting to feel betrayed yet by this? I mean, a member of the GOP (Guardians of Our Purity) has been caught trying to put his winky in somebody’s son’s cookie jar. He even wrote that he wanted to yank the kid’s crank. Maybe now those born-again saps will realize the entire GOP has been jerking THEM off – for years?

  29. harry johnson

    its the gop that is in power, they hold all the branches of government – whatever happened and happens is on their watch. if the tables were turned it would be the right on a feeding frenzy. i recall how people went on and on about bill clinton and his indescretions – now this matter is far far worse because it involves minors and the real partisans on this blog who would give the gop a pass by saying stuff like “well i’m sure you could find stuff the dems did just as worse.” – that is crap – jim wright was forced to step down because of a book deal for pete’s sake, how much worse is pedophilia and rampant deceit. the gop is made up of mindless zombies who beleive whatever their dog handlers tell them. pitiful.

  30. Steve

    I am reminded that justice is often served in unpredictable ways. All the things the Republicans have done and have become over the past 6 – 10 yrs is coming back on them. These are the worst specimans of humanity to be found on the planet, including to the liars, corrupters, theives, and villians in the White House. Hastart exemplifies this perfectly, and will step down soon in dishonor and disgrace.

  31. Greg Hamrin

    Are you willing to stand by this story? Will people
    go on record saying Danny
    Hastert used the N Word?
    Maybe in Washington this
    is not a big deal, but here
    in Illinois it maybe enough
    to change a district even
    if Representative Hastert
    is Speaker of the House.
    Please either get the sources to speak openly
    so voters can make informed
    decisions or filter out
    the loose gossip.