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Ways & Means: Denny, Johnny & The Beav

Just as you couldn't count on the local press to adequately scrutinize Dennis Hastert when he was merely the frickin' Speaker of the House and just a couple skipped heartbeats away from the presidency, the national press is still out front getting to the heart of the role of Hastert (and Illinois Rep. John Shimkus) in the Mark Foley congressional page scandal. The latest example comes from Vanity Fair, whose reporting reveals Hastert to be less than the lovable old wrestling coach the local media is in love with. But those who have been following Hastert's career closely beyond the parochial press already know what a venal pol he is. Vanity Fair excerpts to follow.

And when it comes to Bill Beavers, well, nobody tells it like it is when it comes to Beavers than Beavers, as you will see in excerpts from his appearance last week on The Friday Night Show. Too bad the local press lost interest in Beavers - who in addition to his role as political fixer, opportunist, and first-rate hack is the city vice-chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party - before they even got started.

So let's take a look at these stellar role models, and see what they're teaching the kids.

"By now, apparently believing he was totally protected by his institution - like the depraved priests protected so long by the Catholic Church - [Foley] was using his position to repeat with congressional pages the priest-pupil dynamic of power and control. Around 2003, [former chief of staff Kirk] Fordham recalls, he took a call from Jeff Trandahl, then clerk of the House: 'We have a problem The congressman showed up at the page dorm last night. He appeared to have been drinking, and he was turned away at the door.' Fordham remembers agonizing with Trandahl over what to do about this overt display of uncontrolled behavior. Obviously his mild warnings to Foley were not having an impact. Fordham asked for a private meeting with Scott Palmer, chief of staff to Speaker Dennis Hastert. According to Fordham, Palmer said it didn't bother the party that Mark was gay: 'We think he's a rising star here, he's got so much potential, and he's great on television.' Fordham says of the meeting, 'We sat facing each other. It was pretty uncomfortable. I'm going behind my boss's back. I knew that Scott knew that I was gay. I told him I was concerned that Foley seemed to be too chummy with pages, interns, and young male staffers I asked Scott if he wouldn't mind either speaking with the congressman himself or having Speaker Hastert have a chat with him. That might alarm him enough to realize other people were watching, and not just his staff.' A couple of days later, Fordham says, he checked back with Palmer to see if he had met with Foley: 'He said he had taken care of it, and he had brought the Speaker in the loop. I believe it happened, but apparently it didn't have any effect . . .

"In the spring of 2006, Representative Alexander discussed the Foley e-mails with Majority Leader John Boehner and New York representative Thomas Reynolds, the quick-tempered head of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Reynolds says he, in turn, went to Hastert. Boehner claims he also informed Hastert around the same time. But after the Foley affair exploded in the media, in September 2006, Hastert said he had no recollection of any of this. Not of Boehner's conversation with him, nor of Reynolds's. 'If Reynolds told me, it was in a line of things, and we were in another crisis this spring,' said the Speaker. 'So I just don't remember that.'

"Hastert, believing the leadership needed to present a united front, as one by one his colleagues were repudiating his foggy recollections, called a Republican-leadership meeting. That same day, an ethics-committee investigation was pressed for by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (over the objections of those who wanted an independent counsel), its purpose to discover who knew what when about Foley. Blunt, Boehner, and Reynolds were all summoned 'to basically get their stories straight for the press,' according to a knowledgeable source, who adds, 'That to me is where Hastert attempted a cover-up.'

"Reynolds balked at having such a meeting. 'This is stupid! We can't all go and meet privately and try to get our stories straight, because this matter was just referred to the ethics committee,' he told Hastert, according to the same source. 'In fact, none of us are supposed to be talking to each other, because we are not supposed to talk to potential witnesses.' Worse, added Reynolds, 'I can tell you anything we say at this leadership meeting is something we have to share with the ethics committee.'"

"Shimkus never told the other members of the page board about Foley's e-mails," Vanity Fair reports.

Here was the Tribune's endorsement: "It wasn't exactly an apology, but Rep. John Shimkus has acknowledged that GOP leadership mishandled the Mark Foley matter . . . There's probably more to learn about this scandal. But we know this: Shimkus is a decent, honorable man."

The Sun-Times also endorsed Shimkus.

The Beav
And now, the Beav, who appeared with John Callaway on The Friday Night Show last week. The inspiring highlights (not Callaway's actual questions, but essentially his questions):

* On the Todd Stroger maneuvering: "I'm the person that made this machine work."

* Is county government bloated? "I don't know, I haven't looked at how the county operates." He has just been elected a county commissioner.

* "I learned [the patronage system] from white folks. They taught me well."

* How many city jobs should be patronage jobs? "If I was the mayor, I'd want them all. That's what white folks had."

* Isn't patronage the old way of doing things? "Everything is patronage, even in private industry. If you don't know anyone, you're not going to get a job."

Um, not exactly.

* Why is patronage the best system? "You can designate that certain people go here, certain people go there. And people become loyal. They become loyal to a certain organization and the party."

What Callaway didn't say: "Um, like the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Saddam's Iraq, and North Korea?"

At his point, Callaway's questioning takes on a slightly patronizing tone, as it's clear Bill Beavers does not have a very sophisticated worldview.

* On Robert Sorich et al: "I think they were wrongly convicted. I don't see where helping people get a job is a crime," he says, shortly after arguing that patronage is superior to civil service because in civil service, the people grading the tests do so unfairly. He doesn't seem to know the facts of the Sorich case, or is unaware of the concept of irony.

* "Nobody was denied" a job because of Sorich, he says. Despite the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, were denied.

* "I'm looking at being power. If I were in power, I'd do the same thing."

(Callaway didn't ask him if he believed in democracy, or preferred one-party, totalitarian rule.)

* Why didn't you become Cook County president? "It was mine for the asking. It was mine for the taking."

* Ald. Dick Mell told U.S. Rep. Danny Davis to get in the race, Beavers says. Beavers told Davis he was too old for the job. He also said Bobbie Steele was too old for the job.

* "Black folks got the votes to do what we want to do."

* "Pension laws were created for white folks."

* "I believe in God. I was born and raised in the church."

Callaway didn't ask if Beavers if he though God preferred the patronage system. Maybe you can't get into Heaven without a connection.

* "We've had our problems," Beavers said of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. "I told him he would be a one-termer. He's inconsistent. I don't think he's too trustworthy."

Bill Beavers is the vice chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. John Shimkus is a United States congressman. Dennis Hastert is United States congressman and the former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. You pay their salaries.


Posted on December 11, 2006

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - Locked Out And Loaded.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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