Hastert: Dead Man Walking

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 9:00 AM PDT

As a practical matter Dennis Hastert is to be the fall guy in the Foley scandal and is pretty much finished politically. The longer he twists in the wind, the more House seats Republicans will lose. Polls this morning are showing Dems either within reach of retaking the House, or winning outright. Zogby/Reuters says Dems are ahead in 11 of 15 key House races held by Republicans. The question now is what happens to at least three other Republicans, including House Majority Leader John Boehner who's also been tainted in the scandal. Who knows how many others will be exposed.

Most vulnerable is New York's Tom Reynolds, who runs the National Republican Congressional Committee. Democrats have been pounding Reynolds since Saturday, when it became known that he had been informed of some of Foley's less-explicit e-mails in late spring. Reynolds says he told Hastert about them, which Hastert denies. Congressional Quarterly Monday downgraded Reynolds' reelection chances from "safe Republican" to "leans Republican," and it's possible he might get beaten by Jack Davis, a Democratic businessman. "I don't think I went wrong at all," Reynolds said Monday at a press conference where he was surrounded by children (perhaps to shield himself from pointed questioning). "I don't know what else I could have done. What's a good citizen to do?" When a reporter asked the children to go outside to permit a more frank discussion of the matters at hand, Reynolds refused. "It's astounding to me as a parent or a grandparent that anyone would insinuate that I would seek to cover up inappropriate conduct between an adult and a child," he said.

Then there is John Shimkus of Illinois. He heads the House Page Committee and claims to have learned of the Foley emails in late 2005. Then he, together with House clerk Jeff Trandahl, met with Foley in 2005 and claims to have told the Florida congressman to cease all contact the former page. Foley supposedly promised to do so. Shimkus did not tell the other members of the Page committee, Democrat Dale E. Kildee and Republican Shelley Moore Capito, about the Foley incident.

Boehner says he first learned of Foley's "inappropriate" contact in late spring. He says he told Hastert and the Speaker assured him the matter would be taken care of. But when Hastert denied any knowledge of the Foley situation, Boehner changed his story. Now he says he can't remember his exchange with Hastert.

-- James Ridgeway

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