Dennis Hastert, liar or fool?

Media criticism.
Sept. 2 2004 5:27 PM

Dennis Hastert, Liar or Fool?

The speaker's unseemly habit of slandering George Soros.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert stuck his foot in it while appearing on Chris Wallace's Fox News Sunday(Aug. 29), speculating that Democratic Party financier and anti-Bush 527 donor George Soros may be the recipient of illicit drug money. (For the back story, see yesterday's column, "Dennis Hastert on Dope.")

Hastert states in a letter to Soros that he's being misread, maintaining that when he told Wallace, "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where—if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," the groups he was referring to were the "Drug Policy Foundation, The Open Society, The Lendesmith [sic] Center, and The Andean Council of Coca Leaf Producers."

Hastert's explanation is preposterous. Soros gives money to these groups. He doesn't collect money from them. Yesterday, Soros countered Hastert's letter with a new letter repeating his demand for an apology.

If you buy Hastert's line that he's being misinterpreted, I invite you to listen to the last two-and-a-half minutes of Hastert's Aug. 23 appearance on WNYC-FM's The Brian Lehrer Show. In it, he slanders Soros on the same subject, only more explicitly. Click here for the interview excerpt, or read the transcription below:

Brian Lehrer:What do you think of the Swift Boat veterans ads, and John Kerry's calls for the president to denounce them?

Dennis Hastert: Well, you find out that if you look into the record, I was against the Campaign Finance Reform Act because that's what I felt that would happen, that you would push into guys like George Soros, who's dumping in $16 or $20 million. We don't know where that money comes from. We don't know where it comes from, from the left, and you don't know where it comes in the right. You know, Soros' money, some of that is coming from overseas. It could be drug money. We don't know where it comes from.

(Emphasis added.)

Let's review Hastert's comments: 1) We don't know where Soros' money comes from. 2) Sorry, we do know where some of it comes from! Some comes from overseas. 3) It could be drug money. 4) Sorry, again. We don't know where it comes from.

Hastert may sound like a confused, gibbering fool who blurted out something he'd like to take back. But an experienced politician such as Hastert doesn't say something this stupid and outrageous twice by accident. Hastert has purposely painted an ambiguous backdrop against which he can shrewdly slander his political foe Soros. Who will he smear next?

******

Nobody knows where Hastert gets this stuff. Yes, we do! It's inspired by Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.! Send your slanderous speculations about Hastert to pressbox@hotmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.