The Unbearable Lightness of Hastert

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Great article in The New Republic by Noam Scheiber, saying what needed to be said – that the Jabba-sized Speaker of the House is dimmer than a geriatric firefly, and that the beltway media hordes hid this fact from the public. Actually, worse than that – they portrayed Hastert, in profiles and columns, as a behind-the-scenes supergenius.

Here is Denny Hastert, master legislative strategist, peerless vote-counter, party-unifier extraordinaire. But, wouldn't you know, absolutely none of these skills is evident in public. Invariably, one of two things strikes you about these stories. The first is that they're so small-bore that they actually underscore the point that Hastert is a nonentity. Many of them even have a faintly patronizing tone, like a mother bragging that her 6-year-old poured his own bowl of Kix this morning. Take a Roll Call story from 2001 noting that Hastert had recently "asserted himself by moving dramatically to restructure two committees to resolve a bitter feud between two Members." Really? Two whole committees? All by himself?

This is a kabuki show that gets replayed many, many times every day across the city. Reporters will know that Leader X or Presidential Contender Y is a lightweight. But they'll be spun by staffs and muscled by their editors to be "even-handed" – i.e., to obscure their subjects' dimness.