|Speaker Hastert and Rep. Melissa Hart with member of staff in Colonia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The other day Waldo wondered about the propriety of the feds' charging former House Speaker Dennis Hastert with a crime for bungling being the victim of a crime (by, apparently, the victim of a long-ago possible crime by Hastert). Indeed, a story has been leaking the last day or so from the Hastert camp, in which the Speaker is casting himself as the victim in the piece.
In Salon, William Saletan takes the point and runs the other way with it:
The critics have a point. Lying under oath and evading transaction surveillance are derivative crimes. Usually, they’re prosecuted only if the underlying offense is serious and demonstrably true. You can argue that if the core allegation hasn’t been proved, or if the core issue isn’t grave enough, it’s cheap and abusive to proceed with prosecution based purely on derivative charges.
But Hastert can’t make that argument, because he made the opposite argument 17 years ago. He threw the book at President Clinton for lying about sex.
Clinton’s case was complex, and the allegations were different. The initial claim against him was sexual harassment of Paula Jones. But the charges on which Clinton faced possible impeachment—perjury and obstruction of justice—involved consensual sex with Monica Lewinsky. Democrats said the prosecution of Clinton, first by Independent Counsel Ken Starr and later by House Republicans, was really about sex. They complained that the perjury and obstruction charges were derivative, technical, and unworthy of impeachment.
Republicans disagreed. They said derivative crimes were important, regardless of context, because no one was above the law. Hastert, who was then the House deputy majority whip, affirmed this position. On Oct. 8, 1998, he voted to authorize the House Judiciary Committee to investigate Clinton for possible impeachment. The committee must “uncover the truth” and “uphold the rule of law,” said Hastert. “Sweeping the matter under the rug just won’t work.”
On Dec. 18, 1998, the day before he launched his campaign to become House speaker, Hastert announced on the House floor that he would vote to impeach Clinton on all four counts. “The president lied under oath, obstructed justice, and abused the powers of his office in an attempt to cover up his wrongdoing,” said Hastert. He emphasized that the president was not “above the law.”