Hastert on Foleygate: It's all a vast, left-wing conspiracy

As the House speaker tries to hold on, his spokesman delivers another contradictory story on what House leaders did or didn't do about Mark Foley.

Published October 5, 2006 1:00PM (EDT)

As the House Ethics Committee prepares to meet today on Foleygate, Dennis Hastert is still telling anyone who will listen that the Republicans' current woes are the result of evil machinations by Democrats and their supporters.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune Wednesday night, Hastert blamed both ABC News and Democratic operatives for orchestrating an ambush on the GOP. "I think the base has to realize after a while, who knew about it? Who knew what, when?" Hastert said. "When the base finds out who's feeding this monster, they're not going to be happy. The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros."

Hastert was unable to offer any proof of a liberal conspiracy. "All I know is what I hear and what I see," he told the Tribune. "I saw Bill Clinton's adviser, Richard Morris, was saying these guys knew about this all along. If somebody had this info, when they had it, we could have dealt with it then."

Here's what Morris wrote about Foleygate Wednesday: "It is not that the voters believe that all congressmen are child molesters, nor is it the details of what Speaker Dennis Hastert knew, and when he knew it, that makes this scandal so important. Its centrality stems from the sheer arrogance and hypocrisy it demonstrates both on the part of Foley himself and his colleagues who hushed up the affair until it burst onto the public stage ... It is not Foley who is sinking his party. Its own misdeeds have already sunk it."

Hastert repeated Wednesday what he'd said earlier in the week -- that he'd resign if he thought it would help the party, but that he doesn't think that it would.

Meanwhile, his staff joined him in muddying the waters further with more conflicting stories about what he and other GOP leaders did or didn't do about Foley. Hastert said Monday that Foley resigned before anyone could make him do so. He said Tuesday: "We found out about it, asked him to resign. He did resign. He's gone." Now Hastert's spokesman tells the Washington Post that Hastert misspoke because, as the Post says, he "thought someone in the House hierarchy had urged Foley to step down."

Which is all well and good, except that former Foley and Tom Reynolds chief of staff Kirk Fordham says that Reynolds, the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, did in fact tell him to tell Foley that he had to resign. Which is all well and good, except that Reynolds says that he never gave Fordham permission to talk with Foley about anything.

Got it? It's like the speaker says: "The buck stops where I'm at."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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