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Denny Hastert has left the building.

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Among a rash of Republican resignations, Denny Hastert formally announced yesterday that he will not be seeking re-election to the House of Representatives in 2008. Moreover, according to the LA Times:…he wouldn’t rule out leaving early.” It seems a good time to reprise a DWSUWF post from last October predicting “Denny Hastert will resign in disgrace before his two year term is completed.” I’d say this announcement qualifies.

Now some may argue, in the glow of fawning home state news coverage, that he is not actually resigning in disgrace, and may yet complete his term. But get outside of Hastert’s earmark sphere of influence, and a little clearer story comes into focus. Whether you consider it good, bad or indifferent, it is interesting to to note that it is exactly because Denny Hastert was Speaker of the House, that the Rove “fear and loathing” campaign against Nancy Pelosi failed to have any impact on the electorate in 2006. No matter your politics, Denny made Nancy look good by comparison. The Hastert legacy as Speaker is out-of-control earmarks, corrupt land deals, the Foley cover-up, and the continuing Abramoff investigations.

As Denny Hastert rides off into the sunset, it is worth considering his tenure in the context of George Washington Plunkitt (a corrupt turn of the century Tammany Hall politician pictured at the top of this post) and his concept 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 called “dishonest graft”. Wikipedia helps clarify Plunkitt’s distinction between “honest graft” and “dishonest graft”:

“Most of his [Plunkitt’s] money was made through purchasing land, through his connections, he knew would be needed for public projects. He would buy such parcels, then resell them at an inflated price. This was “Honest Graft”. “Dishonest Graft” according to Plunkitt, would be buying land and then using influence to have a project built on it.”

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.That was all I really wanted to say, but I said it all again in this October, 2006 mash-up, for the more video inclined:



This is why I cannot get very sentimental about Hastert’s resignation. His legacy is one of corruption, putting party before principle, the loss of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and abandoning conservative principles. Hastert is leaving the building, and he leaves it disgraced.

In the spirit of the polarized partisan fairness that is the hallmark of my blog, Let us look to the future. Looking back, Wonkette sums up Hastert’s legacy more succinctly than I, saying “He was corrupt and kinda dumb…” , but looking forward, the Democrats have the majority and control the future in Congress now. They probably do not have enough time in the next 18 months to screw up on the scale that the Republicans did over the last six years – not impossible – mind you, but unlikely. So the Democrats will hold their majorities in Congress through the 2008 election. But the Democratic Congress has already shown that they have not learned the lessons of the Republican mistakes. The much heralded ethics bill was emasculated and the corrupting influence of earmarks continue unabated. Jack Murtha, may not be as “dumb” as Hastert, but he is just as corrupt. Which leads to a new prediction – there is a Hastert-esque Jack Murtha corruption post in DWSUWF’s future.

Excerpted and x-posted from “Divided We Stand United We Fall”