Dennis Hastert looked like the clean member of Republican House leadership in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He didn't have affairs, that we knew of, like Newt Gingrich or Bob Livingston. He wasn't indicted for campaign finance violations or involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal like Tom DeLay. Even during much of his time as speaker, he may not have been seen as the most powerful House Republican—that was DeLay—but:
“His reputation as speaker was beyond reproach,” [former Rep. Tom] Davis said after news of the indictment Thursday. Davis served two terms as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee under Hastert and sat at the leadership table with him for four years. “He was seen as a man of total integrity.”
That reputation held up even as Democrats reportedly went looking for dirt on him. That said, Hastert notoriously mishandled a situation involving a House Republican and teenagers: then-Rep. Mark Foley's sexual harassment of House pages. Foley's behavior became public in the weeks before the 2006 elections, but Hastert had reportedly been warned months or even years earlier, and had chosen to protect Foley rather than the teenagers in the House page program. When Foley's abuse became a public scandal, Hastert lashed out at the victims. As more facts about Hastert's indictment for crimes committed in the process of paying off someone from his past emerge, are we going to look back and think it was more than just partisan loyalty that kept Hastert from taking seriously allegations of abuse by a powerful man toward teenagers?