Gingrich: Hastert followed protocol in Foley matter
Posted by ssbg on October 4, 2006
By Ryan Alessi
HERALD-LEADER POLITICAL WRITER
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said any calls for current Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign as a result of the scandal over a Florida congressman’s transgressions are “very premature and very inappropriate.”
In doing so, Gingrich firmly disagreed with his former press secretary and current editorial page editor of the conservative Washington Times newspaper, which yesterday asked that Hastert step down.
Gingrich, speaking to reporters before the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging Foundation’s dinner at Lexington’s Marriott Griffin Gate, said Hastert followed the proper procedures when rumors surfaced that GOP Congressman Mark Foley was engaging in sexual conversations with teenage pages.
Hastert dispatched Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois to interview Foley about the charges last fall.
“In this case, we now know that Congressman Foley lied,” said Gingrich, who served as the Republican speaker from 1994 to 1998.
He said the key political question is why Foley’s e-mails and messages came out only days after the deadline passed for Foley’s name to be taken off the Nov. 7 ballot.
Gingrich, who said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll run for president in 2008, called Foley’s sexual messages to a 16-year-old boy “disgusting” — the same term President Bush used to describe them yesterday.
Still, Gingrich said he was pleased that Foley resigned after the messages went public Friday — a sign that such incidents are being taken more seriously in the U.S. Capitol.
In 1983, two congressmen, Illinois Republican Dan Crane and Massachusetts Democrat Gerry Studds, had sexual relationships with two 17-year-old pages. At the time Gingrich called for their expulsions, but the House instead formally admonished them through censures.
“The mood was that it was almost a joke,” Gingrich said.
He said it’s unclear what effect the Foley scandal might have on the Nov. 7 election, in which control of the U.S. House and Senate is at stake. The Democrats must gain 15 seats in the 435-member House, and Gingrich said their chances are “50-50” right now. It depends on voters’ moods at the polls.
“If they think, ‘Am I happy with Washington?’ they’ll probably vote no. If they think, ‘Do I really want a San Francisco liberal to be third in line for the presidency?’ they’ll probably vote Republican,” he said, referring to Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi.
Gingrich, who has been traveling the country talking about health issues, praised Kentucky’s broad Medicaid restructuring under Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration as well as programs aimed at curbing obesity and educating residents about diabetes.