Skip to comments.Hastert's Illinois Approach to Politics
Posted on 10/10/2006 11:21:11 PM PDT by RWR8189
Pundits glued to their Potomac seats, applying their usual Beltway explanations for everything that happens in America, would have it that House Speaker Dennis Hastert bollixed up the House page scandal because he is an unredeemed Republican partisan. Or that he doesn't care enough about congressmen hounding boys. Or that his conservatism made him do it.
Blind partisanship, moral failings, hypocrisy, gay bashing or any of those other explanations that don't come close to the reality that Hastert was simply doing politics as it is practiced here, in Illinois.
Hastert knows no other way, having been bred, born and raised in the tradition. Even finding himself elevated to the nation's third highest office hasn't cleansed him. His handling of the Mark Foley transgressions is how he and pols in Illinois handle everything.
How to explain to Time, NPR, Washington Post, New York Times, network news, the McLaughlin Group and others whose elucidations have missed the mark?
First, in Illinois, politics is not to be confused with ideology or principle. Memory searches in vain for the last time that Illinois pols acted on ideology or principle. (When I say Illinois, I also mean Chicago; Illinois politics is the spawn of Chicago politics.) Ideology and principle are for saps, losers and do-gooders. To accuse Hastert of betraying his conservative principles in the Foley run-up is to suggest that he botched the affair because he wears brown shoes. There's simply no connection.
Second, forget partisanship. National commentators who are overheated by partisan politics will scorn that. But if Foley had been a Democrat and even if it was in Hastert's power to ride him out of town, I dare say the Speaker would have acted no differently.
Think of it this way: In football, two teams--the blues and reds--are on the on the field. In Illinois politics, there's only one team; everyone else is a spectator. "Playing ball" in Illinois politics is no metaphor. Party labels here are only useful to describe which door you enter--Democratic or Republican--to share the feast in the same banquet hall. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass insightfully calls this arrangement the Combine.
An example: Republican George Ryan, the former and recently convicted corrupt governor, gave his word to voters that he would never support Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's own version of Boston's Big Dig--the costly and ill-conceived expansion of O'Hare International Airport. But, the project, costing by some estimates more than $20 billion, has enough contracts and jobs for all, so Ryan soon climbed on board, along with many Republicans who hungered for a seat at the feast. (Disclosure: I have worked for expansion opponents, which is like having a box seat at the Wheeling and Dealing World Series.) Hastert, whose Illinois district isn't far from O'Hare, also joined the Combine's support of the expansion. Thus, words to live by: "There's plenty of enough to go 'round."
Consider, Daley has declined the opportunity to join the generalized stomping on Hastert's bones. Asked by reporters if the Foley scandal had handed fellow-Democrats a great opportunity to take control of the House, Daley said: "I hope not on that issue, because this has nothing to do with the election..... Let's look at real issues instead of getting tangent issues." And the real issue is? Daley suggested that all the federal money that Hastert has brought to Chicago and Illinois could dry up (along with their jobs and contracts) if House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi became Speaker. "She hails from California," Daley said. "Rightfully so, and she will take care of California."
So, it was right in character for Hastert to come to the defense of Democratic Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana when the feds discovered the $90,000 stocked in his freezer. Hastert gave us some high highfalutin baloney about the executive branch violating the principle of "separation of powers" by investigating a congressman, when it was a power structure and not the Constitution that really motivated him.
Third, forth and fifth is the idea that "we'll take care of it." Or, "loyalty is the coin of the realm." Lightweight commentators will say, "Oh, that's nothing different than good ol' boy networks." But as the current Potomac cliché would have it: "It's more nuanced than that."
Obviously, there are plenty of good ol' girls in it, such as current Illinois Treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Barr Topinka. With the Combine's support, she easily won the Republican primary as candidates that are more independent engaged in a (another Potomac cliché alert) "circular firing squad." But that isn't the main difference.
This is serious, serious business, not a social club as "good ol' boy network" implies. Governors, mayors and even a Speaker of the House are invested in it, and ply it constantly, for better or worse. (For better, say Chicago and Illinois residents, who constantly re-elect the Combine members.) Businesses, labor unions, "civic" groups, activists are all caught up in it; billions of dollars are at stake. Betray it, and you're gone, as Al Salvi, a former candidate Republican candidate for Illinois Secretary of State, discovered when he slightly implied that the mess that Ryan left in the office before becoming governor needed cleaning up. Salvi was backstabbed as Ryan and his entourage behind the scenes backed the more pliable Jesse White, who beat Salvi.
"Behind the scenes" is the standard business model, and thus the Foley approach was to "give him a good talking to," in private. No messes. No public airings. "We'll take care of it." Routine business that eclipsed ethical or moral questions. So, I wouldn't be surprised that Hastert is being honest when he says that he doesn't remember any Foley warnings. If he did indeed remember, he presumed it was "taken care of."
This is the problem with the approach. There was no moral force behind the private "taking care of." What works is what works, as long as Foley's actions didn't become a problem for the Combine, or whatever it is at the national level that blinds those who go to Washington as to the difference between what works and what is right. Just like in Illinois.
He's a nice guy, but he's third string (as someone wrote the other day).
Newt was dismissed, The Hammer is gone, Hastert is left......he's third string.
He gets it wrong with each passing day. The Republicans have no one who knows how to fight righteously.
Bad days ahead kids, and the media just makes it all worse with each passing day.
The socialist/Marxist/liberal media is the most destructive, relentless, and ruthless enemy of this Republic.
ping for later
Excellent post ... Byrne hits the mark ... again!
Yes, and I'm amused by the convoluted reasoning in the post that justified Hastert's protection of that sleaze William "$90,000-in-the-freezer" Jefferson.
If the post is right about Illinois politics they should remove "Land of Lincoln" from their license plates and replace it with something more appropriate like "Play for Pay State".
This may be Hastert's single greatest flaw. The IL GOP is a corrupt racket from top to bottom. Even if Denny is a nice guy and not particularly corrupt, the "Combine" he comes from stinks to high hell.
LOL....... I think Livingston was looking for a way out. He seemed a little weak.
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