Tag Archives: Congress

Denny Hastert And His Gentleman Farmer Aw-Shucks Persona

Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo.jpg

It was 1986. Seated next to my desk in an old oak armchair was Congressman Dennis Hastert. I worked for a Chicago suburban newspaper group that had just started another paper that was reaching a new readership area and the publisher put me in charge as editor and everything else that went along with starting a new paper. I had never met Hastert.  When he had been in the Illinois House he did not represent our coverage area but now we had expanded and so did he; to the U.S. House. He had just won a close election to replace a congressman who was battling cancer.

I couldn’t initially figure out why he wanted this meeting. While our newspapers were well known and had been around a long time, we certainly didn’t have the clout of the Tribune or Sun Times and besides, he  had already won the election. It appeared to be a simple meet and greet. He said he wanted to congratulate us on starting a new paper and meet the editor. I must say I was surprised, as most members of congress only bother with the big fish. His demeanor was so aw-shucks and laid back I almost forgot he was a politician. I said almost. He didn’t dress like the typical blue-suited red-tied politician either, brown suit, slightly rumpled. He said his friends called him Denny or coach.

He spent a lot of time talking about his humble beginnings doing farm work, his teaching career and wrestling. He didn’t seem in any kind of rush, as most politicians are prone to remind you how busy and important they are while rushing the conversation. He did not speak in political jargon or weigh his words carefully when I asked a few questions. We talked of Wheaton College, where he went to school and I occasionally gave talks on community journalism (I disliked public speaking) because I somehow could never say no to professor Arnold. It was really one of the more pleasant conversations with a politician I had ever had.  When he left my office he said if I ever needed information for a story etc. just give him a call. He said if he was in Washington a staff member at his local Yorkville office would answer questions or he personally would call back and not three days later, as I told him often we are on deadline and many politicians only get back to us after the paper has been published (he laughed).

I found myself thinking about the impression he made and what a nice guy he was. Just like countless people he worked with for decades thought. Just like the wrestling students he sexually abused first thought. They thought he could be trusted, he was a teacher and coach and mentor who they initially looked up to. And as a Federal Prosecutor said recently, his career was “marred by stunning hypocrisy.” But, in the end who cares about his career? What about the lives of the boys who are now men and still struggling with what Hastert did to them?

This is from the New York Times:

“While in Congress, Mr. Hastert also was an outspoken advocate for severe punishment of anyone convicted of abusing minors. He helped push legislation in 2006 that required states to expand sex offender registers, as he declared that “protecting our children from Internet predators and child exploitation enterprises are just as high a priority as securing our border from terrorists.”

Who knew we needed to secure our children from someone who would become U.S. Speaker Of The House for eight years, the third highest office in the land?  The gentleman farmer, aw-shucks persona wasn’t typical for a politician but it sure served as his cover up as a child predator for years. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is indeed an understatement.






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Congress Approval Rating and National Unemployment Rate at 9%

President Barack Obama speaks to a joint sessi...

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A New York Times/CBS News poll broke the news this week that Congress’s approval rating is 9%.  Coincidentally, 9% is also our national unemployment rate for September and most of October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment figure seems almost eerily connected to our do-nothing-for-jobs Congress and their bottom-feeder ratings as they spent this week in session, once again doing nothing for jobs or the economy. It’s like some weird “here is a nine for you too Congress since you won’t recognize and do anything about ours.” Of course, 9% is only the national average jobless rate, some states like Nevada, have a 23% unemployment rate.

They did however, pass a really important bill in the House that would issue commemorative coins for Baseball Hall of Fame. Also, just so you don’t get the idea that they can’t accomplish anything at all together in a big way, the commemorative coins issue was passed overwhelmingly.  See, when the chips-er coins are down and the issue has nothing to do with Obama or jobs or the economy, Republicans can unite and really make a difference.

Remember that old saying about getting out of something what you put into it?  I think our Congress is actually reaping the rewards of what they have, in fact, done for the American people, our jobs and the economic situation.  I think 9% is actually pretty high but of course who knows how many friends, relatives, lobbyists, insurance companies, banks, other corporations etc. were included in the poll (oh wait, corporations aren’t people I hope they didn’t get polled).

Even though the House is a Republican strong hold right now, many polls are showing that the majority of American people, regardless of party affiliation have made it crystal clear they support President Obama’s Job Act, temporary band-aid or not, because it is at least a plan for doing something for jobs and the economy and they feel he is trying.  But, the Republicans are blocking it in Congress and have yet to come up with their own plan other than a big NO because they can’t possibly vote on an Obama plan, even if it will help the American people. Their plan seems to be politics first, people last. I wonder how low their rating can go?

Since the Republicans now seem to represent everything the American People hate about the economy, it is only a matter of minutes before they will represent everything the American People hate. When you become a politician for all the wrong reasons and you vote as a block not to help your own constituents and the American People, you will not only end up humiliated by a 9% approval rating but sooner rather than later–no job.


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Congress Gets a DD–Rating From us Standard Poor

Congress gets DD-Rating

According to our U.S. Constitution, only Congress can spend money and only Congress can set policy. Even the veto power of the President of the United States, is at the mercy of Congress–as they can override his veto power. They can override a presidential veto for political gain (or games), or because they just don’t like him, or because they are self-centered-greedy-drunk-with-power elected officials who want it “their way,” or no way at all.

I only point this out to show that no matter what our President tried-or as some think, didn’t try to do in the month-long debt crisis fiasco–it wouldn’t have mattered. The Republicans had control of the ball and they dropped it right on us. Not just we the people but we the standard poor people. The people who have no jobs, or two jobs, or low wage jobs. The people who don’t get the tax breaks of the rich and can’t afford off-shore accounts. The people upside down on their homes and sinking fast or in default. The people who Congress can’t possibly relate to and therefore refuses to help with anything more than rhetoric.

The fact that Standard & Poor’s  has downgraded the U.S. credit rating a notch is not nearly as important as why? S&P said the downgrade reflected their opinion of our political situation and said the Republicans are not likely to let the Bush tax cuts (for the rich) expire in 2012– so no new money coming in. It is a totally separate issue that S&P is grading on some kind-of fortune teller-astrological-voodoo curve, whereby they predict the future political situation rather than assessing the financial situation as it stands.

Yes, the Republicans got their “deal” and us standard poor people got to watch elected officials play one-upmanship, not play well with others, and sell us down the river so they can report back to the lobbyists, big banks, big pharma, and other big entities that make big political donations. In the meantime the real American crisis of jobs, wages and growth is once again taking a back seat so that the rich can get richer and the middle and lower class can become obsolete.

We can only hope that anyone in Congress that helped create this mess is heavily invested in the big companies that they are supporting with their votes, the “too big to fail” companies that were tanking today in the stock market.  This Congress deserves a DD–rating, from all the standard poor people in America.

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