What did Speaker Hastert know about former Congressman Foley’s lurid communications with a former page, and when did he know it? This is an open question that will be resolved through investigations by the House Ethics Committee and the FBI. Yet before all the facts are known, "The Early Show" continued to clamor for Hastert’s resignation. The "Early Show" has raised the subject of Speaker Hastert resigning in at least two stories in each of the last four days. On Thursday’s program, Hannah Storm spoke with CBS’s idea of a balanced panel-- a Republican and a Democrat who agree that Hastert should resign his position.
In the 7:00 half hour of today’s program, Hannah Storm spoke with Republican strategist Bay Buchanan and Democratic strategist Kiki McLean. Storm focused her first questions to each of her guests on whether Hastert should resign:
"Kiki, let's start with you, a former Congressional aide has said that he told Hastest's office more than three years ago about inappropriate behavior on behalf of Foley and Hastert says that he didn't know about concerns regarding Foley until Friday. Should Hastert resign?"
The staffer Storm refers to is Kirk Fordham, a one time Chief of Staff for Foley. The problem with Fordham’s statement, which Storm ignores, is that just a few days ago Fordham claimed he had never observed any inappropriate behavior from Congressman Foley. So it seems Fordham is contradicting himself. Nevertheless, Storm followed her question with this inquiry to Bay Buchanan:
"Well, this is now an FBI investigation, Bay. It continues to be the top headline. The midterm elections are just weeks away. What would your advice be to Republican leaders about managing this scandal? Do you think they should force him to step down?"
Of course this Foley scandal continues to be the top headline; the media won’t let it die. New revelations are discovered everyday, and there are revelations that the media fails to report. For instance, according to Hastert, the original text of the e-mails in question were not made available to him at first, and that the situation was handled to the satisfaction of the young page’s parents. But, the "Early Show" has only alluded to this fact once this week. The fair thing is to allow an investigation to proceed and all the facts to be gathered before condemning anyone other than former Congressman Foley, instead of rushing to judgement on the basis of the slow drip of information being reported by the media.
The transcript of Hannah Storms segment with Bay Buchanan and Kiki McLean follows:
Hannah Storm: "Could the Mark Foley scandal lead to the resignation of Republican leaders in Congress and will it have a big impact on next month's midterm elections. Bay Buchanan is a Republican Party strategist; Kiki McLean is a Democratic Party strategist. And good morning to both of you. Kiki, let's start with you, a former Congressional aide has said that he told Hastest's office more than three years ago about inappropriate behavior on behalf of Foley and Hastert says that he didn't know about concerns regarding Foley until Friday. Should Hastert resign?"
Kiki McLean, Democratic Strategist: "Without question at this point. I mean, ultimately, the members of his caucus will make that decision, but apparently Denny Hastert is the only person, be they Republican, Democrat, or Independent, who doesn't think he should resign. But I have to make clear, apparently he has one other backer and that's President Bush. This is the ultimate in a case of failed leadership and failed character. We can debate social security. We can debate the deficit. We can debate on how we ought to get out of Iraq, but I can't believe Denny Hastert or anyone around him believes that there should be any debate on protecting our children."
Hannah Storm: "Well, this is now an FBI investigation, Bay. It continues to be the top headline. The midterm elections are just weeks away. What would your advice be to Republican leaders about managing this scandal? Do you think they should force him to step down?"
Bay Buchanan, Republican Strategist: "They should have forced him to step down the beginning of this week in my personal opinion. Hannah, the situation here is critical for Republicans. We were losing steam and have been losing steam for the better part of the year. But, in the last month or so, we had picked up great momentum. You could see <inaudible> numbers closing. A lot of energy in the rank and file. This scandal has stopped that. Momentum has halted. It's come to a complete stop. And it will not, we cannot regain any momentum until the American people see Republicans will take care of their own. When their leadership makes a critical error, like to become aware of a predator in their midst, and does not take the necessary actions, they can no longer be our leaders. It's just that simple. The American people, parents across the country, expect more aggressive behavior from adult, mature, responsible people when they find out that in their midst there's somebody who's preying on children."
Hannah Storm: "And, Kiki, should Democrats use this scandal to their advantages in debates and out on the campaign trail right now or essentially for the time being just sit back and watch?"
Kiki McLean: "We don't have to. That's not the point. That's the amazing thing about this. Political, yes, this is the kind of Republican leadership that President Bush and Denny Hastert and Bill Frist have had over the Bob Ney scandal, the Duke Cunningham scandal. I mean, The list goes on and on. Tom DeLay. It just continues to grow. But the reality is, you know, Bay and I disagree on a lot of things, but we're both mothers and agree on this. The red flags were up, and the fact that these people did nothing about is inexcusable and unforgivable. That's not political. That's about character and morals."
Hannah Storm: "So, Bay, if Hastert does resign is that enough to calm this down? Is that going to be enough or do you expect this still to be an issue in five weeks or so when people arrive at the polls?"
Bay Buchanan: "Well, if the Speaker is to step down, new leadership comes in very, very rapidly, speaks out, explains that we're going to investigate this entirely, our hope would be is it becomes yesterday's story. The concern is that more revelations will come out. They're very salacious. It'll be on the television. It means that the president and our other leaders cannot get their message through. And, without getting that message across we can't regain that momentum and we're behind right now. We have to turn this around, gain momentum in the next four weeks. I recommend strongly that Republican Congressmen step in, do the tough thing. The guy's a good man, the speaker's a good man. I know they feel loyal to him. He made a mistake. A very, very bad, irreversible mistake. He let children be vulnerable because of his inaction. Therefore, let's put this behind us as quickly as we can."
Hannah Storm: "And Bay, Kiki brought up the president earlier in this debate. He has not said much other than to support Hastert as a father and a teacher and a coach. He did express dismay at these reports. Should he do more, Bay?"
Bay Buchanan: "No, I think the president, obviously, this is a matter for the House. The president does not need to get into when who knew what, where. He needs privately, possibly, to advise the House, 'it's time to move on, fellows if you want to keep the majority.' But I think this is a House matter. It's a Republican House matter. They should take care of it, the president should stay removed."
Hannah Storm: "Kiki, quickly, final word, Kiki."
Kiki McLean: "Bay if you can't ask the president to take the same position you are taking, that's a real problem of leadership that goes right to the White House. And look, even if leadership is replaced tomorrow in the Republican Party, you still have a drum beat of problems. Yesterday a group called VoteVets.org released a poll that our 21st century veterans from Iraq say they didn't have what they needed when they went to war. Republicans still want to privatize social security. That's not in the best interest of our seniors and the baby boomers moving who are moving into retirement."
Bay Buchanan: "And the Democrats have no answers. The Democrats have no answer."
Hannah Storm: "All right. We're going to have to leave it at that. Bay Buchanan, Kiki McLean, thank you very much."