NYTimes Showers Pity on Former Speaker Dennis Hastert—One Last Kick for the Speaker


By: Warner Todd Huston

The New York Times cannot make up their mind if Dennis Hastert should be despised or laughed at, apparently. Neither can they decide if he is “rumpled and weary” or if he is “healthier and more relaxed” — they confusingly say both in the very same article. But one thing is sure, their underlying sentiment toward the former Speaker of the House seems to be one of pity. And this article was simply an opportunity to kick someone they think is down.

But Dennis Hastert is neither seeking nor requiring such special attention or emotion to be wasted upon him. Furthermore, he never has. The pity party thrown for him by the Times is a pointless jab at a man who has given his life to the community. Hastert should be celebrated, not pitied. Least of all from as cynical an organization as the New York Times.

The Times starts their portrait of Hastert as bedraggled, forlorn, and down and out with the very fist paragraph of “The Entourage Is Gone. The Jet Is Gone. But for the Ex-Speaker, the Work Goes On”. Even the title seems to cast him as a man longing for lost glories.

WASHINGTON, March 27 — Former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert usually trundles through the Capitol’s hallways alone these days, his head down, chin buried in his chest, without the coterie of aides who trailed him just a few months ago when he was second in line to the presidency.

“Trundles”, “head down, chin buried in his chest”, all as if he is a shunned man or embarrassed to be seen. The tone of pity drones on throughout the piece with his return to the rank and file of the House being described as “what many might call an ignoble return to being just one of 435 members in the lower chamber.” His rise to Speaker was “accidental” and his candidacy “unlikely”.

“Ignoble”? Shouldn’t it be admirable that he willingly returned to his elected position as representative of the 14th district for the State of Illinois without his ego being so badly wounded that he could not do his job?

The Times also seems to find significance in Hastert’s new work schedule saying “the contrast between his working life now and his time as speaker can be startling”. Why it might be “startling” they do not really say.

The Times seems to revel in Hastert’s diminished status pointing out that his large staff is gone, he lost his Military air travel, and he was only able to “inject his one question” at a recent subcommittee meeting. They also seemed delighted to observe how he had to line up “dutifully at the microphone like everyone else” to be heard on the floor of the House.

Naturally, they take a few moments to kick him in the teeth about the Mark Foley “scandal” all over again, too. Of course, to the Times, no politician’s career can be summed up with his successes or his long service but only over the last scandal he might have been involved in.

Close to the end of this somewhat pointless piece, though, they jarringly divert from their portrait of a bedraggled, “rumpled” and beset Hastert to a Hastert of good health and vigor.

Now that he is no longer burdened by the relentless schedule that comes with being speaker, friends and colleagues said Mr. Hastert looked healthier and more relaxed.

Which is it New York Times? Is the Speaker worn out and solitary or “healthier and more relaxed”?

Fortunately, we get one tiny glimpse of the real Dennis Hastert in the piece, but you have to look closely or it passes by and is gone before you know it.

“People elected me in my district to run and to be a congressman, whether I was speaker or not,” Mr. Hastert said. “I’m going to fulfill that responsibility.”

That is the Dennis Hastert I know.

Dennis Hastert, whether you agreed with his policies or not, did an admirable job as Speaker of the House treating the job as just that; a job. He did not assume the Speaker’s position was a platform for his own personal political aggrandizement. In fact, one can say Hastert’s whole career has been built on stolid public service with a hallmark of that service being that of a serious legislator and not that of a showman, politician. And, if one reads this article properly, one cannot help but realize that Dennis Hastert is a man admirably dedicated to those who entrusted him with their votes.

Far from the pity the Times doles out, he deserves respect for his service. It was never about Dennis Hastert’s needy ego. It has always been about the job.

So, as one who has had the privilege to vote for and meet the Speaker many times, I say, thank you Mr. Speaker. Thank you for your service to the State of Illinois and the country. You deserve far better treatment than this mean-spirited swipe from the New York Times.

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