Even if we grant, for argument’s sake, that there was negligence on the part of Hastert and the leadership, I think throwing Hastert under the bus for this smacks of the very line of thinking National Review has quite correctly challenged for three years running on Bush and Iraq — namely, the suggestion that reliance on faulty intelligence (which there was reason to know was faulty) should now be seen as malevolent or reckless because, as it turned out, we didn’t find WMD in Iraq.
Everyone condemning Hastert, like those libeling Bush (who “lied” so “people died”), already knows how the story turned out. That’s not what Hastert knew at the time. If you could look only at what Hastert knew and be certain you could have accurately predicted those vulgar instant messages, you are a better investigator than most people who investigate for a living.
Further, it’s not fair to pronounce what Hastert should have done without weighing what the cost to him might have been had it turned out that Foley was not as bad as we now know he was. If Hastert and the leadership had harrassed a suspected homosexual who was not “out,” if they had leapt from their suspicions to a conclusion of pedophilia — in a climate where the media and Democrats have spent a decade making sex-based investigations taboo — what would have been said about Hastert? American Taliban? Ken Starr reincarnate? Sex-obsessed Republicans at it again?
I am not a big Hastert fan — a lot has not gone right for the last few years. But I just think it’s terribly unfair to judge the guy based on everything we know now, without much sympathy for his much less perfect knowledge and the potential downside to him if he had done the kinds of things everyone now insists he should have done.