After less than a year as a rank-and-file House member, former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is expected to call an end to a political career that made him the longest serving Republican Speaker in the history of the House of Representatives.
Several Illinois newspapers, including the Aurora Beacon News and the Chicago Tribune, reported Tuesday that the Illinois Republican has scheduled a Friday announcement on the steps of the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville, Ill. While Hastert aides are refusing to discuss what he plans to say, he is expected to announce that he will not run for a 12th term in 2008, according to Republican sources.
Remember when the name of Dennis Hastert was constantly in the news? As the Republic Speaker of the House in the pre-2006 Republic Congress, it must have been because of all the accomplishments of his tenure, right? After all, unlike Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker, he had the benefit of a like-minded majority in the House and Senate, as well as a Republic president to rubberstamp every bill. Not only that, but he was the longest-serving Republic Speaker in the history of the House. He must be so proud of his service to his country!
Well….maybe not. CQ’s summary of his career is quoted below. Notice the incredible disasters he’s been a part of, as well as the personal scandals that blossomed, like turds, around his giant body (oh please, they say Al Gore is fat, so Hastert’s fair game). Heckuva job, Denny!
Hastert, 65, was first elected to Congress in 1986 after GOP Rep. John E. Grotberg retired. He quietly worked his way up the ranks in the House, propelled into the Republican leadership in 1994 by then-Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
Hastert ran DeLay’s successful upstart campaign for majority whip after Republicans captured control of Congress, and DeLay in turn named Hastert as his chief deputy. Four years later, in 1998, DeLay helped to elevate Hastert to Speaker after Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., stepped down following the loss of GOP seats in that year’s elections and Robert L. Livingston, R-La., withdrew abruptly from contention after acknowledging an extramarital affair.
As Speaker, Hastert led the House Republican majority for eight years during which the GOP solidified its power and aggressively pursued conservative policies.
He presided over the House through the Sept. 11 attacks and the start of the Iraq war, and shepherded through the massive 2001 and 2003 tax cuts (PL 107-16, PL 108-27) that pleased the conservative majority. He managed to float above various scandals and public discontent with Republican policies while many of his colleagues fell by the wayside — including, ultimately, DeLay.
Throughout his time as Speaker, Hastert was personally popular with rank-and-file Republicans, who never saw him as part of the ethics problems that plagued DeLay and former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. (1995-2006), or the criminal misdeeds of former Reps. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif. (1991-2005) and Bob Ney, R-Ohio (1995-2006).
The impact of the scandals added up, however, and became campaign fodder for Democrats, who made the “culture of corruption” in Congress a 2006 campaign mantra. When Democrats took over at the start of the 110th Congress, Hastert made no attempt to remain in the leadership. He has spent this year as a mostly silent back-bencher.
Ah, how the mightily corrupt are falling. The Schadenfreude is thick and deep this week, my friends. Enjoy!