The loss of Dennis Hastert’s seat is a fitting testament to the devastation the former speaker wrought on the Republican Party. He was a terrible speaker (if somebody wants to add the link to my column called Hastert La Vista from a couple of years ago, feel free), taking up the cause of big spending with a passion, begging Bush not to veto any spending bills, and putting up with all sorts of unethical behavior. Now, to top it all off, his retirement (better name for it: QUITTING mid-term) gives up a seat to the Dems. This reflects badly on Hastert on two levels. First, it shows how badly he seeded his own district, where he obviously left a bad taste in voters’ mouths if not even this GOP-leaning district would go for a Republican to replace him. Second, it makes it even worse that he quite mid-term. I have serious philosophical problems with people like Hastert and Lott and Louisiana’s Richard Baker who quit mid-term (UNLESS they are enmeshed in a scandal or unless they have serious family needs that come up, or unless they get a promotion such as a Cabinet appointment). By running for a seat, they effectively promise their constituents that they will serve out their terms. By not living up to that commitment, they force their constituents to pay for another election, and force them to lose valuable seniority mid-term. It is a quitter’s way, a greedy way (if they quit in order to grab a lobbying job), a self-centered way (Hastert couldn’t be speaker so he took his ball and went home), or possibly a coward’s way. It stinks. And Hastert, for whom I originally had high hopes and high respect, will not be remembered kindly as he slinks away.
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