Tag Archives: speaker of the House

Sex takes center stage in Hastert drama

Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News — no fan of conservatives, to be sure — has identified, I think, the reason that sex has become the No. 1 media issue in the Dennis Hastert controversy/scandal.

Hastert, the former speaker of the U.S. House, has been indicted on a felony charge of making illegal hush money payments to someone.

It’s the reason for the hush money that’s become the focus here, not the charges spelled out in the indictment, according to Carlson.


Hastert allegedly sexually abused at least one young man when he was a teacher and coach in Yorkville, Ill. There could be more, the late victim’s sister alleges.

Why the keen interest?

It’s the context of how Hastert became speaker of the House.

He succeeded a serial adulterer, Newt Gingrich, who had to quit his position after admitting to an affair with a staffer — all while he was ranting, raving and railing against President Clinton’s indiscretions with a White House intern.

Then came Bob Livingston, another Republican from Louisiana. Livingston was supposed to succeed Gingrich as speaker. Oops! He, too, fooled around with women other than his wife. Multiple times. One of his paramours was a lobbyist. He was out.

The House then looked for a Boy Scout, a man whose reputation was beyond reproach. Poof! There was Hastert. Hey, he’s as clean as they get.

Except that he wasn’t.

Hastert didn’t make a big show of his reputedly upstanding past. He didn’t prance around proclaiming himself to be without sin. He allowed others to say it.

Carlson, though, does say that Hastert proved to be as duplicitous about morality as Gingrich and others in Congress: (H)e followed in the hypocritical footsteps of his predecessors, devoting much energy to shaming others about their sexual behavior. He advanced the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act through the House and proposed a constitutional amendment to annul same-sex unions in states that allowed them.”

Therein, throughout all of this, likely lies the reason for the fixation on the sex and not the money.


Sex and money aplenty in Hastert drama

Dennis Hastert was a high school teacher and coach. Then he went into politics.

After that he rose to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, earning a couple hundred grand a year while serving as Man of the House.

Now it comes out that he’s been indicted on various charges alleging illegal payments of money to keep someone known as Individual A quiet.

The money totaled, according to the indictment, about $3.5 million.

Here’s my question: How does a former teacher/coach-turned politician come up with that kind of alleged hush money?


Oh, and there’s this issue of sexual abuse of at least one young man.

The man’s sister has come forward to allege that Hastert abused her older brother when the boy was in high school. The boy grew up, but then died of AIDS complications a few years ago. He’s not around to corroborate any of the allegations, but sis is making plenty of noise about it now.

Hastert has been hiding since news of the indictment broke. He’ll supposedly come out of hiding on Tuesday when he’s arraigned on the charges brought. The indictment doesn’t accuse the former speaker of sexual abuse; it centers only on the money part.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a seriously weird case that could turn into one of the bizarre scandals of modern times.


Stop making me laugh, Mr. Speaker

John Boehner might be the most unintentionally funny politician in Washington, D.C.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, for instance, told conservative journalists that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Benghazi/e-mail kerfuffle just won’t go away.

Imagine that. They won’t vaporize. Become old news. They won’t be relegated to the back burner.

And why do you suppose that’s the case?


It’s because Boehner and other Republicans won’t allow it.

That’s the short answer. Indeed, it’s the only answer I can figure at the moment.

The Benghazi matter will stay in the public eye for as long as Congress wants it to stay there. Boehner, according to the Washington Examiner, intends to keep the focus on Benghazi and the e-mails that have been called into question by the House Select Benghazi Committee chaired by Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.

Boehner said this: “They deleted all the (former IRS director) Lois Lerner e-mails, but they keep finding them. You know, these things just don’t go away. So I don’t know where the server is, I don’t know what condition it’s in, I have no idea, but the American people deserve the facts. That’s all. Just tell us what the facts are.”

So, the hunt will go on. Benghazi will remain in front of voters. Boehner wants the truth, by golly, no matter what.

I don’t know whether to dismiss Boehner’s ridiculous assertions about why these matters won’t fade into oblivion or whether to enjoy watching these fishing expeditions. On one hand, the Benghazi tragedy — in which four Americans were killed in that September 2012 fire fight launched by terrorists at the U.S. consulate in Libya — has been settled. Members of Congress, though, keep looking for more … and then more after that. They seem intent on finding something — anything — that’s going to derail Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

That, I submit, is why the Benghazi e-mail tempest will keep going.

Correct, Mr. Speaker?


Speaker gets past this rocky road

House Speaker John Boehner has had more fun than what he experienced the past couple of weeks.

It’s been like, well, herding cats. His Republican caucus all but went into apoplexy over a plan to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The TEA party wing of the caucus remained dead set against it. Other Republicans joined with Democrats to fund DHS until September.

Without the money, DHS would have had to shut down; 30,000 federal employees would have been furloughed.

Crisis is averted. For now.


The speaker’s difficulty with his the TEA party cabal is far from over. I’ll just suggest that his fear will be that they’ll be so angry with him they might try to launch an intraparty insurrection to get Boehner removed from his post.

Who would get the gavel? Louie Gohmert, the East Texas chucklehead? Would it be Steve Scalise, the majority whip from Louisiana who once spoke to a David Duke-sponsored outfit?

My hunch is that Boehner will survive any possible rebellion.

But the vote to fund DHS now allows the House of Representatives to get on with more serious matters. Lawmakers ought to focus on things such as, oh, a budget, infrastructure legislation, some national security issues. You know, the stuff to which they all signed on to do on behalf of all Americans.

I’m glad the deal was struck. Boehner actually worked with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the despised former speaker. That, by itself, might be cause for the TEA party wing of the GOP to break out the pitchforks and torches.

Isn’t governing fun, Mr. Speaker?

Let's hear Bibi make his point

Allow me to call him “Bibi,” OK?

He is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, aka Bibi. He’s going to speak Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. I am opposed to the way he was asked to speak — invited by Speaker John Boehner without giving the White House a heads up, thus violating a longstanding rule of diplomacy.


But now that he’s coming, let’s hear what he has to say.

A key Republican congressman, Mike Rogers of Michigan, and Michael Doran, a policy wonk at the Hudson Institute, have written an essay laying out the reasons for hearing the prime minister’s remarks.

The chief reason, according to Rogers and Doran, is that Bibi’s speech will spark an important debate about how to deal with Iran and its desire to develop a nuclear program — and virtually everyone agrees means a nuclear weapons program.

Rogers and Doran are incorrect in asserting that President Barack Obama is indifferent about fighting the bad guys of this world. They are correct, though, in suggesting that Bibi is making a courageous stand against his country’s arch-enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

My main problem with his speech is its timing, given that the United States is in the middle of negotiations with Iran to end is nuclear program development.

Still, the prime minister is a key world leader with a vested interest in a permanent Middle East peace.

It cannot happen if Iran develops a nuclear bomb. Let’s hear what Bibi has to say.


What became of a strong House speaker?

John Boehner seems like a decent enough fellow. I’ve long thought of him as someone whose instincts lead him toward working with Democrats, not against them.

But the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has this problem: It is that some of his fellow Republicans don’t like working with the other party. There seems to be enough of those types to make governing quite difficult for the once-affable speaker.


Boehner today said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the House is a rambunctious place. It’s full of members with competing ideas on how to get things done. He said “I think” I can lead the House.

Interesting, yes? Well, yes.

The speaker was handed a big defeat this past week when the House defeated his plan to fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks. The “rambunctious caucus” of the House, aka the TEA party wing, bolted from his idea, along with a number of Democrats. Some last-minute scrambling enabled the House to approve a DHS funding bill that expires at the end of this week. Then we get to do this all over again.

I’m trying to imagine how past speakers would handle all this rambunctiousness. Would Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas allow it? How about Speaker Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts? Hey, do you think Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia would stand still for this foolishness?

These three gentlemen — two Democrats and a Republican — were among the stronger-willed men to run the House. They all governed with considerable effectiveness. Their secret? My belief is that they all knew how to work with members of the “other party.” They also worked well with presidents of the other party, working overtime to search for common ground.

Speaker Boehner is being whipsawed by his own caucus. It’s not a pretty sight.

By definition, Speaker Boehner is the Man of the Entire House, not just of his or her political party. The partisan roles are filled by the majority leader and the majority whip of the party in charge. The speaker, though, is supposed to look after the interests of all House members.

Boehner has to figure out a way — in a big hurry — to get the rowdy bunch in line.

I have an idea: Pick up the phone, call Newt Gingrich and ask him: “Newt, how in the world can I corral these clowns?”

Speaker's future suddenly gets cloudy

It might be that a supposition put forward to me months ago by someone close to House Speaker John Boehner might be panning out.

Boehner might want to throw in the towel on his effort to be the Man of the House. He might just quit and go home.

The speaker got a swift kick in the face yesterday as House Republicans teamed up with Democrats to defeat a short-term funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Those TEA party Rs remain angry with President Obama over his immigration-related executive action — which granted temporary delay in deportation of 5 million illegal immigrants — so they want to defund the DHS to stick it in Obama’s ear.


Boehner sought to stave off a DHS shutdown. The measure failed, but then the House and Senate came up with a one-week funding plan. We’ll be back at this at the end of next week.

So … now the chatter has turned to whether Boehner could be tossed out by the raucous Republican rabble-rousers. Twenty-five GOP members voted against Boehner to be speaker when the new Congress convened. Others might join the anti-Boehner parade.

That source I mentioned who had said he thought Boehner might pack it in was speculating about whether the speaker could contain the rebel wing of his party. His thought this past fall was that Boehner would be re-elected as speaker, then he would resign from Congress and do something else — such as become a lobbyist or a K Street consultant.

I shudder at the thought of someone from that TEA party wing — and I’m thinking of East Texan Louie Gohmert, who actually sought the speakership against Boehner — taking control of the House gavel.

Given the wackiness that hasn’t gone away, absolutely nothing at all would surprise me.

Let’s all watch this one play out.


Boehner, Bibi are dissing the White House

Isn’t it customary to allow the president of the United States conduct foreign policy? And isn’t it unwelcome when other American political leaders interfere directly with sensitive negotiations that are taking place?

Welcome to the new world of political brinkmanship.

House Speaker John Boehner has poked President Barack Obama in the eye by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress — without consulting with the president.


Why is that a big deal?

Well, Boehner wants to impose further economic and political sanctions on Iran while the Islamic Republic is negotiating with the United States and other powers on a deal to disband its nuclear program. Netanyahu is on Boehner’s side, so he’s going to speak to Congress next month to make that case.

Bibi won’t visit the White House while he’s in-country, which is customary, given that he and his Likud Party are about to face parliamentary elections in Israel. Indeed, Netanyahu himself has decried the practice of using foreign visits to further political ends in his country — and yet, here is doing, what he once condemned.

The aggravation comes in large part because Boehner has inserted himself directly into this matter that is underway between the State Department and its counterpart in Iran. U.S., allied and Iranian negotiators are seeking a way to avoid Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, which virtually every civilized nation on Earth says is unacceptable.

Now we have the head of government of our most reliable Middle East ally coming here seeking to undercut that effort — with the blessing of the speaker of the House of Representatives.

It was leaked some time back that a White House aide referred to Netanyahu as a “chickens***.”

That term actually applies to Speaker Boehner.


Democrats tilting toward form of term limits

My views on mandated term limits for members of Congress are firmly established.

I don’t like the idea. Heck, I am wavering on whether term limits for presidents is such a great idea.

But the House of Representatives Democratic caucus is leaning more and more toward an idea that Republicans have adopted, which is term limits for committee chairs and ranking members.

I am warming up to that idea.


A growing number of House Democrats believe their Republican friends have outflanked them on the notion of injecting new leadership into the congressional ranks.

It’s critical to point out that Republicans run the House with a strong majority that was made even stronger after the 2014 midterm elections. The Democratic reform would involve the placement of top-ranking Democrats on these panels.

Politico reports: “Former Caucus Chairman John Larson, who was term-limited from that slot in 2013, agreed. He praised House Republicans’ six-year limit for people to serve atop committees, although Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has allowed some exceptions.

“’A number of people would say Republicans have struck a better formula for advancement,’ the Connecticut Democrat said. “And I don’t think it’s a bad thing for leadership at all. I mean, it’s verboten to say it, but it’s true and I think even our current leaders would recognize it, all of whom I support.’”

Each party makes its own rules that govern how they do business internally. Republicans have for several years instituted this term-limit rule for its own leadership. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, would in theory surrender his chairmanship after three more terms in the House, unless the speaker grants an exemption.

It’s a way to freshen each committee’s agenda, its leadership style and its focus — while preserving voters’ intentions back home of continuing to be represented by individuals they have re-elected to Congress.

Despite my dislike for term limits, these internal changes make sense to me.

Go for it, House Democrats.

Boehner will keep speaker's gavel, however …

John Boehner is going to be re-elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Ohio Republican, though, is going to pay a price. Or, more to the point, rank-and-file Americans are going to pay the price.

It will be because the challenge to Boehner’s speakership is coming from the far right wing of the speaker’s Republican Party caucus in the House. And those clowns are going to pressure Boehner to keep tacking to the rightist fringe of the GOP.


Bank on it.

The question for some of us — including me — is whether Boehner will rediscover the backbone he has shown in resisting TEA party pressure to do foolish and destructive things, such as shut down the government over disputes with President Obama.

Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida have decided to run for speaker. The vote will occur Tuesday. Gohmert is a goofball. I can’t speak to Yoho, other than I know he’s a TEA party guy, just like Gohmert.

Boehner has said categorically that impeachment of the president is off the table as long as he’s speaker. Gohmert says quite the opposite. Is Yoho on board with the Gohmert view? Yeah, probably.

This dynamic reminds me of what might happen here in Texas, with a new governor about to take office. He’ll have a lieutenant governor who’ll push him to the right with the threat of a challenge from within the GOP when the governor’s office is up for election in 2018. I hope Gov. Greg Abbott can fend off the pressure that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is going to apply.

I wish the same for Boehner once he is re-elected speaker in a House that will be even more Republican than the previous one.

And as the GOP takes command of the Senate, we’ll all get to see if the new brand of Republican lawmakers can actually govern, as in can they present legislation to the president that he actually can sign into law.

I am not feeling good about the prospects.