To ring in the month of June, we’re gonna party like it’s 1998. Thanks to the indictment of erstwhile “family values” exemplar Dennis Hastert, we now have the hypocrisy trifecta.
Three House Republicans spearheaded the impeachment of Bill Clinton. First up was Speaker Newt Gingrich – who, it turned out, was having an extramarital affair with an aide (as he said many years later, “There were times when I was praying and when I felt I was doing things that were wrong”). Newt quit the speakership in autumn ’98 for unrelated ethical reasons. Next up was Speaker-designate Bob Livingston – who was speedily outed for having conducted four extramarital affairs. He quit because of those reasons.
Last up was the brand-new Speaker, Dennis Hastert – devout evangelical Denny, with his (get ready for it!) 100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition. Who, it now turns out, was concealing secrets that would have seriously messed with that seal of approval from the Christian Coalition.
We learned long ago that “family values Republican” is a fraudulent phrase. The list of miscreants is too lengthy to recount, although my personal favorite is still Indiana congressman Mark Souder, who made a video endorsing sexual abstinence – and was interviewed in the video by a young female aide with whom he was having an extramarital affair. A close second is John Ensign, the Nevada senator who constantly hailed the saintliness of marriage, while conducting an extramarital affair with the wife of one of his senior aides.
But anyway, about Hastert: After allegations surfaced on Friday that the speaker-turned-lobbyist had sexually molested a student – back when Hastert was a wrestling coach – and that (according to a federal grand jury) he had recently paid hush money to this person in violation of federal banking laws…I felt compelled to check the guy’s voting record in Congress. Just to see if, by any chance, there was a chasm that separated private Denny from public Denny.
Turns out, public Denny was all about protecting kids from the evils of sex and sex abuse. As he said unto the Christian Coalition in 2004, “More kids need to be taught to just say no. That doesn’t just apply to drugs, that also applies to sex before marriage.” As he said in 2003, “it is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives.” As he declared in 2006, “At home, we put the security of our children first, and Republicans are doing just that in our nation’s House. We’ve all seen the disturbing headlines about sex offenders and crimes against children. These crimes cannot persist. Protecting our children (is) as high a priority as securing our border against terrorists.”
Yes, public Denny voted for three major anti-child abuse bills. He was all about “improving sex offender registration and notification programs” – at least for other alleged offenders. No wonder his alma mater, the evangelical Wheaton College, has already changed the name of its “J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy” to the “Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy.” (In terms of speediness, Wheaton College is matched this spring only by the TLC Network, which instant-purged the Duggar family reality show after family-values exemplar Josh Duggar was outed for molesting underage girls.)
Meanwhile, Hastert’s alleged gay behavior back in Wheaton was trumped by his anti-gay voting record. This is another standard con, going back 35 years to the outing of right-wing closested congressman Bob Bauman. For instance, Hastert, in his final year as speaker, endorsed anti-gay bigotry in the workplace. He voted against ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would’ve barred firms from firing or demoting workers “on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Hastert has been heterosexually married since ’73, but he was adamant that uncloseted gays not share the status. He twice championed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as “one man and one woman,” he voted for a bill that would’ve barred federal courts from hearing gay marriage cases, and in 2004 he told the Christian Coalition (natch) that such measures were needed to “send a strong message to liberal activist judges…We will not allow them to put our children’s future at risk.”
Hastert’s ongoing concern for the children of America is touching.
Hastert, Gingrich, Livingston, Souder, Ensign, David Vitter, Vito Fossella, Strom Thurmond, Henry Hyde, Vance “The Kissin’ Congressman” McAllister, Mark Foley (abetted by Hastert’s foot-dragging), and so many more…One of these days, we’re going to open a thesaurus and discover that family values Republican is listed as a synonym for hypocrisy.
Last Wednesday, I mentioned that Rick Santorum – once so lavish in his praise for the ostensibly wholesome Duggar family – hadn’t uttered a word about the downfall of his ’12 family values ally, Josh Duggar. But Santorum broke his silence on Thursday. When ABC News asked for comment about the child molestation story, Santorum replied: “I was sickened by it. I pray for those girls in particular.”
By the way, Santorum will be joined today, in the ’16 GOP race, by Senator Lindsey Graham. Like Santorum, Graham is a two-fisted military interventionist who’s jonesing to confront semi-isolationist Rand Paul on the debate stage. But, as decreed by Fox News, Graham won’t make it to the August stage unless he gets his poll numbers up, pronto.