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Toby Barlow

Toby Barlow

Posted: October 7, 2006 12:40 PM

The Hastert Show


Remember the end of "Dr. Strangelove" when Slim Pickens went riding the atomic bomb down from the plane? That's Hastert in a nutshell.

God bless Mr. Speaker for hanging on though, in doing so he provides a nice, clear portrait of power, clutching to it with the tenacity of a feverish, shaking junkie hunkered wild-eyed over his dose or Gollum drooling for his ring.

All set to go down in history as the man who lost the Republican Majority, Hastert is now going to be remembered as a man who got his job because of one poorly managed sex scandal (not Monica but fellow Republican Livingston, remember him?) and lost it because of another.

It makes sense it would come down to this guy. Bush, Cheney and Frist are comparatively smooth and polished while Hastert has always been the bumbling weak link, the one the event photographers would rather crop out of the big group shot. Clearly the most human of all the Republican leaders and the most prone to easy failings, he possesses a loose sloppiness that almost makes you feel sorry for the man. It just doesn't take much to imagine him overindulging on the cheese dip and the whiskey sodas at a local fundraiser.

Up till now, any presence by him in the public eye must have irritated the more serious Republicans. You could almost feel Roger Ailes and the other masters of spin wincing painfully whenever the Mr. Speaker waddled his burly frame on screen. Neither articulate nor particularly noble, Hastert has had the proud honor of serving as the Chris Farley of his party. And just like some big, loud pratfall right out of "Tommy Boy," the Speaker's current flailings have managed to wipe out any GOP pretension of being the national stewards of strength and piety.

So, thanks in no small part to Hastert's leadership, right now it's the whole Republican Party that looks like a fat man in his underwear running around the motel parking lot.

When Pickens fell from the skies, yelling, "Yee-haw" all the way down, the soundtrack played Vera Lynn's velvety "We'll Meet Again." And though it's mighty entertaining to watch this perfectly timed political bomb explode on the eve of mid-terms, I have to say - with our national debt rising almost as fast as our greenhouse temperatures - I honestly hope we don't meet up with the likes of this guy again any time soon.