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Hastert Tells Conservative He’ll Resign If It Helps GOP

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.cqpolitics.com/2006/10/hastert_tells_conservative_hel.html Hastert Tells Conservative He’ll Resign If It Helps GOP By Alan K. Ota | 9:59 PM;
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 5, 2006
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      Hastert Tells Conservative He’ll Resign If It Helps
      By Alan K. Ota | 9:59 PM; Oct. 04, 2006 |

      House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told a
      leading conservative Wednesday that he would resign as
      the top congressional leader if it would help the
      Republican Party stave off defeat in November.

      But conservative activist Paul Weyrich said Hastert
      has rejected calls for his resignation because he
      believes it would prompt “a feeding frenzy” that
      ultimately would lead to the downfall of other GOP
      leaders as well.

      “He said if he thought that resigning would be helpful
      to the Republicans maintaining the majority, he would
      do it. But he did not think it would be helpful for
      Republicans,” Weyrich said in an interview after
      holding what he described as an emotional telephone
      conversation with Hastert, who is home in Illinois
      campaigning and trying to deal with the fallout from
      the Mark Foley scandal.

      “He said he thought his resignation would just lead to
      a feeding frenzy where they would go after (Majority
      Leader John A.) Boehner, then (Rep. Thomas M.)
      Reynolds, then (Rep. John) Shimkus," Weyrich added.
      "And he said we would have the story running right up
      to the election.”

      Weyrich, who was one of the first to publicly call for
      the Speaker’s head, said the conversation has led him
      to retract his day-old demand that Hastert resign.

      “I changed my mind after talking to the Speaker,”
      Weyrich said. “I feel now that he ought to be given
      the benefit of the doubt. He has never, ever lied to
      me or dissembled. I regard him as one of the good
      people up there.”

      Weyrich, a bridge to conservative constituents, said
      Hastert expressed anger at Boehner, R-Ohio, who has
      maintained that he warned the Speaker about Foley last

      “The Speaker was ticked by that one involving
      Boehner,” Weyrich said. “Boehner threw it in his lap,
      and said he warned him. The Speaker said no such
      warning ever came from Boehner.”

      The conversation with Weyrich appeared to be part of a
      Hastert offensive aimed putting an end to calls for an
      immediate resignation over his handling of the
      scandal. But there is still increasing talk of
      Republican leadership challenges after the Nov. 7
      midterm elections.

      Such a shake-up is virtually assured if Democrats gain
      control of the House, but Hastert could step down even
      if Republicans hang on.

      As lawmakers, lobbyists and pollsters probed the
      impact of the Foley case on the elections and the
      future makeup of the GOP leadership, the Justice
      Department ordered House officials to “preserve all
      records” related to Foley’s electronic correspondence
      with teen-age congressional pages and former pages.

      Hastert Stands Pat

      Hastert appears to have dug in against calls for his
      resignation, at least in the short term.

      In an interview Tuesday with radio talk show host Rush
      Limbaugh, Hastert said he has no intention of
      resigning and said calls for his ouster are clearly
      tied to the elections.

      “I’m not going to do that,” Hastert said when asked
      about demands for his head. “This a political issue .
      . . and there are some people that try to tear us
      down. We are the insulation to protect this country,
      and if they get to me it looks like they could affect
      our election as well,” he said.

      Social conservatives have been the most vocal critics
      of Hastert’s handling of the Foley case. But two
      prominent House conservatives said Wednesday that he
      should not resign.

      Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Pence of
      Indiana and Pennsylvanian Joe Pitts, chairman of the
      Values Action Team, said: “Regardless of our
      reservations about how this matter was handled
      administratively, we believe Speaker Hastert is a man
      of integrity who has led our conference honorably and
      effectively throughout the past eight years. Speaker
      Dennis Hastert should not resign.”

      Another conservative, Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said
      calls for Hastert’s resignation “are misguided, based
      on the facts as I know them. I believe in my heart
      that neither the Speaker nor any of my colleagues
      realized the content of Mr. Foley’s instant messages
      prior to their release by ABC news last week. Speaker
      Hastert is a man of integrity, and I take him at his

      Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs
      for the National Association of Evangelicals, said
      Wednesday that he saw no reason for Hastert to resign
      “unless there was a systematic coverup.”

      But he said the leadership’s handling of the Foley
      scandal could become “a pretext or excuse, if
      Republicans stay in power, to push for change in the

      Creating Space

      Next in line behind Hastert is Boehner, who has
      provided only fuzzy public accounts of what he knew
      and when about e-mails sent by Foley to underage
      former congressional pages.

      Boehner on Tuesday both defended Hastert in a letter
      to the Washington Times after the Times called for
      Hastert’s resignation in its lead editorial and
      publicly distanced himself from the Speaker in an
      interview with a Cincinnati radio station.

      In the radio interview, Boehner said: “I believe I
      talked to the Speaker and he told me it had been taken
      care of. And, and, and my position is it’s in his
      corner, it’s his responsibility. The Clerk of the
      House who runs the page program, the Page Board — all
      report to the Speaker. And I believe it had been dealt

      On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that
      Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the No. 3 man in the
      leadership, said he would have handled it differently
      if he had known about it. Blunt was the acting
      majority leader when the Foley e-mail to an underage
      Louisiana former page first came to the attention of
      GOP leaders.

      “I think I could have given some good advice here,
      which is you have to be curious, you have to ask all
      the questions you can think of,” Blunt said. “You
      absolutely can’t decide not to look into activities
      because one individual’s parents don’t want you to.”

      House GOP leadership aides said there appears to be no
      move among members to oust Hastert or Boehner.

      “Everything we’ve heard from the members individually
      has been generally positive, and there has been a lot
      of support for the Speaker and the leaders,” one
      Republican leadership aide said. “Obviously members
      have concerns about the specifics of what they’ve
      heard, but in general we’ve gotten a lot of support.
      The problem is, there is no control over what happens
      next, whether another hammer could drop or some other
      lurid detail comes out. There is no control over

      Another House GOP aide said Wednesday, “If the Speaker
      were to step down, or not run again . . . the next guy
      is going to have to be squeaky clean, which is why you
      see Boehner putting some daylight between him and the

      A slate of challengers for other leadership positions
      could develop quickly. Republicans will meet the week
      after Election Day to choose their leaders for the
      110th Congress.

      Mike Rogers, R-Mich., is reportedly considering
      running against Blunt. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and
      Jack Kingston, R-Ga., are both reportedly weighing a
      bid for GOP Conference chairman — a position occupied
      by Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, who is locked in a
      difficult re-election contest back home.

      Other races are possible on the bottom rungs of the

      Latest Polls

      Polls conducted in the wake of Foley’s Sept. 29
      resignation offered a somewhat mixed picture but no
      good news for Republicans. A CNN poll taken Sept.
      29-Oct. 2 and released Tuesday, found 57 percent of
      those queried still believe their own member of
      Congress deserves re-election; 33 percent disagreed,
      while 10 percent had no opinion. Only 38 percent of
      those surveyed said most GOP incumbents should be
      re-elected, while 53 percent said most Democrats in
      Congress deserve re-election.

      A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted last
      weekend and released Tuesday night showed 41 percent
      of those surveyed said news they “have seen and heard
      over the past few weeks” has made them less favorable
      toward continued Republican control of Congress; 18
      percent disagreed. By 34-23 percent, respondents said
      they were more favorably inclined toward Democratic

      At a more partisan level, Democratic operatives Stan
      Greenberg and James Carville said a new survey for
      Democracy Corps, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan
      Rosner, shows a “crash in the standing of the
      Republican Congress.”

      Their survey, they said, shows “Democrats have made
      significant gains on the Republicans on the issues of
      Iraq, national security, and on values. The survey
      also finds a demoralization of Republicans with a
      widening gap in enthusiasm between Republican and
      Democratic voters heading into the November

      Manu Raju, Martin Kady II and Susan Ferrechio
      contributed to this story.
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