Sunday, March 09, 2008

Oh Denny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling.

Denny Hastert Tales From the CryptAnd if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be.

Irish Folk Song - Oh Danny Denny Boy

As republican former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert retires to his suburban Illinois district, he will now be represented in Congress by Democrat Bill Foster.

James Kimberly reporting for the Chicago Tribune:
"In a stunning upset Saturday that could be a sign of trouble for Republicans this fall, a little-known Democratic physicist won the special election for a far west suburban congressional seat long held by former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Foster had 53 percent to Oberweis' 47 percent with all of the unofficial vote counted... As the winner, Foster is set to enjoy some advantages as the sitting congressman: staffers to perform constituent service, the ability to send mail paid for by the public and easier access to campaign contributions... The 14th District historically has been very Republican, re-electing Hastert with 60 percent of the vote in 2006 and giving President Bush 55 percent of the vote in 2004."
Deanna Bellandi of the Associated Press further notes:
"The district will have a rookie congressmen after years of enjoying Hastert's clout. During his 21 years in Washington, Hastert funneled millions of dollars to the district that stretches from Chicago's far western suburbs to almost the Mississippi River."
There is just so much to see as we watch the slow motion train wreck that is the GOP in 2008. Obama supporter Dick Durban has a predictable explanation for the Il-14 vote - it is all about change: "It tells me that voters are ready for a change. They want new leadership in Washington". Another interpretation is that the voters of the 14th district are so accustomed to suckling on the federal teat under Denny Hastert's beneficent reign, they are voting out of simple self interested recognition that they'll need to switch parties to keep the juice flowing under the single party Democratic rule in 2009.

Poor DumboBut sticking with our musical theme -If this outcome does does not tell my fellow Republicans which way the wind is blowing, then, Bob Dylan not withstanding, they do indeed need a weatherman. Taylor Marsh prefers Barbara Streisand's cover of "Happy Days are Here Again" as a soundtrack to gloat by. Meanwhile, the laughter you hear is the derision in the left leaning blogosphere over NRCC spokeswoman Karen Hanretty's statement:
"The one thing 2008 has shown is that one election in one state does not prove a trend. In fact, there has been no national trend this entire election season. The one message coming out of 2008 so far is that what happens today is not a bellwether of what happens this fall. "
I almost feel sorry for her. I mean, what the hell is she going to say? Complete denial may be the only rational reaction when staring into the abyss. Interestingly, the GOP talking points have departed too far from reality for even Michelle Malkin to parrot. She devotes a blog post to pondering whether the communication from the NRCC is "wishful thinking or hopeless spin?".

Personally I am ready to move on. There is no longer any point in beating this dead elephant. We need to move on to the next phase, which will be even more entertaining - Assigning Blame.

Clearly the legacy of George W. Bush has already been written. The leading entry for his epitaph: "The man who destroyed the Republican Party". Sure, there will be those who will argue that GWB did not have the intellectual capacity to pull this off on his own. They'll want to allocate primary blame to Dick Cheney, pointing to the VP's singular achievement of stampeding the country and the President into the Iraq War, while allowing GWB to think, even to this day, that it was his decision. I'll leave that nuanced debate to future generations. But I will submit another nominee - a man who's role in the destruction of the GOP has been vastly under appreciated. Our very own Denny Hastert.

Ed Morrissey blogging from his new Hot Air platform home examines the "Hastert (non-) Legacy":
"Hastert’s actions created the legacy we see now: no legacy at all. Although he doesn’t deserve the blame for the collapse of the GOP in Illinois, he deserves at least some of the blame for leaving his constituency in a mood for this kind of change. It’s a lesson that the current House GOP caucus needs to learn, and learn quickly, if it wants to avoid losing even more ground in November. "
Oh, I don't know Ed, I think he leaves quite a powerful legacy. In my 10/19/06 post "Hastert goes home", I predicted that Hastert would resign in disgrace and summarized his legacy thusly:
"The Hastert legacy is out-of-control earmarks, corrupt land deals, the Foley cover-up, and the continuing Abramoff investigations."
But that was just the beginning. We can now add responsibility for losing a safe Republican seat in Illinois Congressional District 14. Ironically, Hastert's resignation and the consequent early special election was timed with the intent of giving the Republicans a leg up for the fall election. Instead - advantage Democrats. No, Ed - I must disagree - The Hastert Legacy is huge, monumental, gigantic - a legacy as big and bloated as the man himself. His leadership presiding over the most corrupt Congress in United States history was so profoundly loathsome, that he single-handedly undermined the the 2006 Karl Rove "fear and loathing" campaign against Nancy Pelosi. It was hard for voters to get worked up about Nancy, if the Hastert alternative made them nauseous. If you will permit a brief digression, it was also while commenting on an election eve ghost-written Denny Hastert guest post that I was banned at RedState. I guess I should be grateful.

But Hastert's greatest hit may be the new high water mark for personal corruption he established by earmarking $207 million dollars of your tax dollars to enable him to profit personally from the increased value of his personal property near Plano, Illinois. A legacy we explored in a blog post and video reprised here (Soundtrack: Pink Floyd's Money) putting it in the context of Honest vs. Dishonest Graft:
Denny Hastert purchased land near Plano, Illinois in 2002 and 2004 for $2.5 million. In 2005 he earmarked $207 million dollars of your tax dollars to build a highway and interchange that passed within a few miles of his property. Four months after GWB signed the bill into law containing that earmark, Denny Hastert sold his land for almost $5 million dollars. This is a perfect example of what George Washington Plunkitt (a corrupt turn of the century Tammany Hall politician) called "dishonest graft". Wikipedia helps clarify Plunkitt's distinction between "honest graft" and "dishonest graft"...

The point, is that
the 2006 Speaker of the House of the United States of America, the man who was third in line for succession to the presidency of the United States, engaged in activity that would not meet the moral standards of one of the most corrupt 1906 political participants of the most corrupt political organization in the history of the United States.

A blast from the Past
Denny Hastert's Greatest Hits

But let us not dwell on the past. Let us take this opportunity to look to the future that Denny Hastert helped make possible. As we head into 2009 with expanded Democratic party majorities in the both Houses of Congress, a potential filibuster-proof Democratic super majority in the Senate, and a Democratic president flexing the pumped up biceps of new unitary executive branch power - courtesy of Dick Cheney's six years of steroid injections - the players forming a new team of corruption have been called up.

The Democratic Congress have already shown that they did not learn the lessons of the Republican mistakes. The much heralded ethics bill was emasculated and the corrupting influence of earmarks continue unabated. Jack Murtha, will show us the way. He may not be as dumb as Hastert, but he is just as corrupt. Keep an eye on him. Perhaps he may yet match Hastert's legacy of undermining his parties majority in Congress through rampant greed, corruption, and power lust enabled by a single party government. Go for it, Jack.


Harlan Wallach said...

I nominate this for best post of 2008

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Illinois District 14, I have to agree with everything you've said about Denny Boy. However, the real reason this district went to the Dems is that Bill Foster's crew totally outworked Oberwies. I got one measily postcard from Jimmy. However, I got 4-5 calls from the Foster camp including a recording from Obama, and another 4-5 mail pieces -- all told, about 10-1 in promotion. The Repubs got lazy.

mw said...

Interesting. Just another nail in the coffin for the GOP. The linked stories indicate that the GOP + Oberweis loans outspent the Dems + Foster loans - but I am not sure if I got the totals right. Given they are lagging in fund raising - it does not look like money well spent. My guess is that the November result will mirror this one. I wonder if the GOP will be willing to throw good money after bad? thanks for stopping by.

Ben said...

I guess by your logic we can assume for sure Ohio and Virginia are going Republican are going Republican in 2008 because we won special elections there in December.

And we can assume Indiana is going blue, because they won a special House race tonight there.

Why even have the election?

mw said...

Good point Ben -

I wonder if there were any differences or similarities in these three Republican district special elections?

In Va Congressional District 1 - Republicans held on to a seat that was Republican in a district that voted 60% for George Bush in 2004.

In Ohio's 5th District, Republicans held on to a seat that had been Republican since the 1930's and also went over 60% for George Bush in 2004.

According to The Hill:
"On Dec. 11, the NRCC wound up spending $440,000 on a 14-point special election win for Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and another $90,000 on a 24-point special election win for Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.). Those two districts both went at least 60 percent for Bush"

That is what one would expect to happen in those districts Ben.

In IL CD-14 - A district that Republican Speaker of the House Denny Hastert held for 20 years, that voted over 55% for Bush and over 60% for Hastert in 2004 (In the middle of the Foley scandal). In that very district the NRCC just spent over $1M in addition to the $3M spent by the Republican candidate himself... In that district, the Democrat won.

That is not supposed to happen in a District like that, Ben.

What do you think it was Ben? A fluke?