Politics

Hastert Allegations Cast New Light on His Speakership

In this June 15, 2007 file photo, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., sits for a portrait in his Capitol Hill office. On Thursday, May 28, 2015, federal prosecutors indicted Hastert, 73, on bank-related charges. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In this June 15, 2007 file photo, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., sits for a portrait in his Capitol Hill office. On Thursday, May 28, 2015, federal prosecutors indicted Hastert, 73, on bank-related charges. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

 

(Politico) – When former House Speaker Dennis Hastert appears in a Chicago courtroom on Tuesday to answer charges that he broke federal banking law and lied to the FBI, reportedly to cover up sexual abuse, it will amount to more than a personal comedown: It will cast a harsh new light on the GOP-controlled Congress he led and his lax response to the disparate range of scandals that erupted under his reign.

A reassessment of Hastert’s leadership began in earnest following his indictment two weeks ago. In hindsight, it now seems clear his avuncular persona — even political enemies couldn’t work up much animus against the former teacher and wrestling instructor known as “The Coach” — served to deter broader scrutiny of congressional misdeeds, including an Illinois land deal of his own that netted him millions.

A man hiding secrets like Hastert’s had a natural incentive to avoid calling out others, a lesson the speaker could have learned from his predecessor Newt Gingrich, whose efforts to take down Democrats from Jim Wright to Bill Clinton inspired his enemies to dig for — and uncover — scandals of his own.

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