Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Ray LaHood: Hastert's staffers did the speaker ``disservice.''

| No Comments

On CBS ``Face the Nation'' Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) says the staff of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) did him a ``disservice'' on how they handled what they knew about Mark Foley.

CBS' BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, but--I mean, should the speaker then get rid of some of
these staffers? I know that the man who was a clerk at the House, he departed
quickly. There's been some rearranging of chairs on the deck there. But
shouldn't the speaker, once he found out about this, have told his staffers,
`How in the world could this have happened and you didn't tell me about it?'
And some of those people still work for him.

Rep. LaHOOD: Well, Bob, I'm sure that he's had a very serious talk with his
top staff people, and I'm sure he's very angry about the fact that they
withheld this information. I'm a former staffer of two members, and if this
would have been disclosed to me as chief of staff to Bob Michael, I would have
taken it to him. And I guarantee you, Michael would have handled it just the
way Hastert would have handled had he known about it. So I hope he's talked
to his staff. He deserves better than that.

for transcript, click below

รพ 2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc.
All Rights Reserved

PLEASE CREDIT ANY QUOTES OR EXCERPTS FROM THIS CBS
TELEVISION PROGRAM TO "CBS NEWS' FACE THE NATION. "

CBS News

FACE THE NATION

Sunday, October 8, 2006


GUESTS: Rep. TOM DAVIS (R-VA)

Rep. RAY LaHOOD (R-IL)

DAN BALZ
National Political Reporter,
The Washington Post

STUART ROTHENBERG
Editor and Publisher,
The Rothenberg Political Report


MODERATOR: BOB SCHIEFFER - CBS News


This is a rush transcript provided
for the information and convenience of
the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
In case of doubt, please check with

FACE THE NATION - CBS NEWS
202-457-4481

BOB SCHIEFFER, host:

Today on FACE THE NATION, could the Foley scandal cost Republicans the House?
A Newsweek poll out this morning shows that more than half of Americans now
believe House Speaker Dennis Hastert knew of Congressman Mark Foley's
overfriendly messages to a teenage page and tried to cover it up. If House
leaders knew of Foley's actions, why did they urge him to run for re-election?
And should the speaker step down? We'll as two influential Republicans,
Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois, and Tom Davis of Virginia, who is a former
page.

How will all this affect the midterm elections, only a month away? We'll talk
with two of the best political minds in Washington, Dan Balz of The Washington
Post, and political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.

I'll have a final word on, can you believe it, the White House is reminding us
of all those mistakes after Hurricane Katrina.

But first, the Foley fallout on FACE THE NATION.

Announcer: FACE THE NATION with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob
Schieffer. And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Well, from the day this scandal about
pages broke, the question among politicians has been, will this have an impact
on the coming elections? Well, we have the first indication, a poll out this
morning from Newsweek, and the answer seems to be yes. More than half those
questioned told Newsweek they believe the Republican speaker of the House was
aware of all this and then tried to cover it up. And not just Democrats
believe that. Nearly 30 percent of Republicans felt that way.

(Graphic on screen)

Newsweek

52% of all Americans
29% of all Republicans

Now Believe
Speaker Hastert Knew

SCHIEFFER: And it is not just a Washington inside-the-beltway scandal for
sure, now. This poll says that 80 percent of Americans knew about this story.

The poll is very bad news for Republicans on every front. On the major
issues--moral values, the war in Iraq, the war on terror, the economy, health
care, gas and oil prices, and the deficit--more Americans now favor the way
they are being handled by Democrats than favor the approach the Republicans
have taken on these issues. On the war on terrorism, for example, 44 percent
now favor the Democratic approach, while only 37 percent favor the Republican.
Two months ago, 44 percent favored the Republican approach, 39 the Democratic
approach. So that means that has flipped. As for the president, his job
approval rating in this new poll is now down to 33 percent, which is an
all-time lie--low.

So a poll Democrats are going to like a lot, and one the Republicans won't
like very much. To talk about it and the fallout from this latest scandal,
from Peoria, Illinois, Congressman Ray LaHood. He is close to Speaker
Hastert; and in Washington, Congressman Tom Davis, himself a former page.
Joining us in the questioning this morning, Dan Balz from The Washington Post.

Well, Congressman LaHood, you have said that the page program should perhaps
be suspended for awhile, but you have also said you didn't think the speaker
should step down. After seeing these kind of numbers that we just reeled off,
are you rethinking any of that?

Representative RAY LaHOOD (Republican, Illinois): Well, not really, Bob.
Look it, I give Speaker Hastert high marks for strong leadership. He took
care of Tom DeLay, his best friend. When Tom was having ethical problems, the
speaker went to him and asked him to leave. When he appointed Duke Cunningham
to the Intelligence Committee, he went to Duke and made sure he wasn't on the
Intelligence Committee after it was disclosed he took $2.3 million. And when
Bob Ney was appointed chairman of the House Administration Committee, he was
appointed by Speaker Hastert. Speaker Hastert went to him and told him to
step down from that committee after the Abramoff disclosures.

Hastert had the ability to take on these big, ethical challenges that our
party has faced, and I believe he stepped up this week with his statement
apologizing, taking responsibility, and saying that there would be an
evaluation of the program. And I think he's done what he should have done,
maybe a few days too late, but he's shown the strong leadership that he showed
in other instances when we've had these ethical challenges.

SCHIEFFER: But what you're saying when you list all that, Congressman, is
that he did appoint some of these people who turned out to be crooks. So
doesn't he have something to answer for there?

Rep. LaHOOD: Well, they weren't crooks when he appointed them, Bob, or
certainly he wouldn't--they would have never gotten the positions they got had
they had these ethical challenges. And when it was disclosed that they did,
he took care of it. And particularly when you think of what he--he went to
Tom DeLay and said, `Tom, you have to leave the House.' This is the fellow
that made him speaker on the second day of impeachment, when DeLay rounded up
the votes for him.

And look it, Denny Hastert has shown strong leadership when it's been--when
he's been called upon to do it. There's no dispute about that, and I think he
did it late this week with a very strong statement that he made from his
office in Batavia, Illinois.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's turn now to your colleague, Tom Davis of Virginia.
You were once the chief strategist for Republicans, the chief fund-raiser for
House Republicans. How do you think the speaker handled it?

Representative TOM DAVIS (Republican, Virginia): Well, I think they were slow
out of the starting blocks, there's no question about it. Now it's going to
be investigated, everybody's going to be sworn under oath, be interrogated,
and we'll have a complete report. But you know, it's taken a week of fumbling
around to get to where we are. And so instead of talking about how we have
the lowest unemployment rate in the world, the stock market hit a new all-time
high, oil prices are down 25 percent, we're fumbling, talking about these
other issues, and that's not good for us.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think that Speaker Hastert ought to stay on, Mr.
Davis?

Rep. DAVIS: Well, I just think--let's wait till the investigation. There's
so much finger-pointing at this point. We're going to have an investigative
report very soon. I think this: I think anybody that hindered this in any
kind of way, that tried to step in the way of hiding this or covering it up is
going to have to step down, whoever that is, and let's wait for the report.

Mr. DAN BALZ (National Political Correspondent, The Washington Post):
Congressman, last week, Speaker Hastert suggested that the news media and the
Democrats may have been behind this. Is there any evidence that this was some
kind of Democratic plot to do in the Republicans, or wasn't this something
that was made by the Republicans?

Rep. DAVIS: Well, it was made by Mark Foley. And the--it was his actions.
I mean, I'm sure the Democrats would love to stir this thing up and keep it
going. That's politics. But at this point I think we need to go regular
order, we need to focus on what are the facts of this case and investigate it
and get the facts out there.

Mr. BALZ: Do you think it would be helpful if Speaker Hastert said now he
will not stand for re-election whether the Republicans win or lose the House?

Rep. DAVIS: I don't think that's going to satisfy the Democrats, I think it
just keeps the feeding frenzy going. I think we just need to go regular
order, get this investigation over. Let the chips fall where they may, and
get out in the next 30 days and talk about the other issues that are important
to the American people. And right now, there's no oxygen for those issues,
and that's hurting Republicans.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, both of you, and I'll go to you first, Mr. Davis.
The job you used to have, and that was as the chief fund-raiser and
strategist, is now held by another congressman, Mr. Reynolds, who actually
went to Mark Foley--and we now know he apparently knew about all of this--and
urged him to run for re-election. Had that been up to you, had you known what
he apparently knew at that time, would you have urged him to seek re-election?

Rep. DAVIS: Well, you know, hindsight's great in this business. At this
point--obviously at this point, knowing what we know now, we wouldn't have
urged him to seek re-election. His name's on the ballot and it's radioactive.

SCHIEFFER: But he apparently knew.

Rep. DAVIS: Well, I...

SCHIEFFER: He knew he was sending overly friendly e-mails to these children.

Rep. DAVIS: You know, I don't want to second-guess Tom at this point. But I
think, in retrospect, as we look back at this point, that decision wasn't a
good decision.

SCHIEFFER: How about that, Mr. LaHood? Would you...

Rep. LaHOOD: Well, look it, Bob...

SCHIEFFER: Had you known what Mr. Reynolds apparently knew when he urged
this man to run for re-election, would you have urged him to seek re-election?

Rep. LaHOOD: Probably not. I think what Tom Davis said is accurate.
Twenty/twenty is perfect hindsight and, you know, I'm sure everyone wishes
they had it.

I think the disservice was really done to the speaker; the fact that his own
staff, the fact that others did not go to him and tell him about this. Look
it, I believe that if Speaker Hastert had known about this, he would have
called Foley in, gave him what we call a Dutch Uncle talk, and then monitored
the situation. I really believe that because of the way that he's handled
these other ethically challenged members. And--but, look it, mistakes have
been made, there's no question about it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, but--I mean, should the speaker then get rid of some of
these staffers? I know that the man who was a clerk at the House, he departed
quickly. There's been some rearranging of chairs on the deck there. But
shouldn't the speaker, once he found out about this, have told his staffers,
`How in the world could this have happened and you didn't tell me about it?'
And some of those people still work for him.

Rep. LaHOOD: Well, Bob, I'm sure that he's had a very serious talk with his
top staff people, and I'm sure he's very angry about the fact that they
withheld this information. I'm a former staffer of two members, and if this
would have been disclosed to me as chief of staff to Bob Michael, I would have
taken it to him. And I guarantee you, Michael would have handled it just the
way Hastert would have handled had he known about it. So I hope he's talked
to his staff. He deserves better than that.

Mr. BALZ: Mr. LaHood, I'd like to ask you about another member of the
leadership, the Majority Leader John Boehner, who last week said on two
different occasions that he had informed--he'd passed this on to the speaker's
office, that it was in the speaker's court, that, you know, that that was his
problem and--the speaker's problem and not anybody else's. Do you think that
he was trying to undercut the speaker in the way he was doing it? Was he
trying to put some distance and protect himself and throwing it on the
speaker?

Rep. LaHOOD: Look it, there's a lot--there's been a lot of ducking and
dodging and diving and weaving all week long. And I agree with Tom Davis,
this thing should have been handled early week. We had a conference call of
all the Republicans on Monday and I suggested that somebody take
responsibility and we suspend the page program. We needed to take dramatic
action for political reasons and for professional reasons. And, you know,
I've seen what other members have said and other leadership have said, and I
also know that Congressman Boehner and others have put out statements after
the speaker's statement supporting him and supporting him as speaker. So, you
know, there--obviously there, you know, there is a lot of finger-pointing that
had gone on earlier in the week. But I do think people are behind the speaker
now, Dan.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Davis, let me ask you, because you're known in the House as
one of the best people for sizing up the political situation. Do you think
this scandal is going to be wide enough known and will people be so concerned
about it that it could tip the House toward the Democrats taking control? Do
you think Republicans are going to lose the House as a result of this? And
the other things we saw that people feel so strongly about?

Rep. DAVIS: Well, it's certainly not helpful. And I think 30 days is an
eternity in politics. So a lot can happen in the last 30 days. A lot of
candidates are saving their messages, their ads, their mails. And these races
are really going to be joined in the next 30 days.

But this adds to a very difficult atmospheric for Republican candidates going
into the last 30 days, where it's difficult to get what we call oxygen for
your message. And I--again, the message is one where the economy is the best
in the world in terms of our unemployment rate's the lowest in the world, the
stock market's at a new high. And that gets no coverage. At this point, it's
all about scandals and everything else.

SCHIEFFER: Oh, it's also Iraq out there.

Rep. DAVIS: And Iraq is out there as well. And this is not the only, quote,
"scandal" out there. There've been other members of Congress--Republican and
Democrat--but it adds to an atmospheric where Congress itself isn't held in
high esteem right now.

SCHIEFFER: If the election were held today, which it isn't, of course. But
if it were held today, would Republicans lose their majority?

Rep. DAVIS: I think if it were today, but remember, 30 days is a long time.
If you'd asked me 30 days out in 2000, when I was chairman of the campaign
committee, we probably would've lost it, too.

SCHIEFFER: So right now, you think they're running behind.

Rep. DAVIS: I think it's--I think it's a--I think it's a tough lift right
now. But I will just say this. There are so many races in the margins.
Until someone's over 50 percent in polling and you can't cross it. So it's a
tough lift under the atmospherics today. But you don't time elections for
today. You time it for 30 days from now. I think Republicans have good
get-out-the-vote strategies.

SCHIEFFER: What about you, Mr. LaHood? How bad--are Republicans in bad
shape right now?

Rep. LaHOOD: You know, Bob, here in Illinois, we're going to have a bumper
crop. Gas prices have come down dramatically. People are feeling pretty good
about the economy in our area. And that's what I think our--we have three
very competitive races in Illinois and I think our people need to talk about
these issues and really persuade the voters. We have a very short period of
time here. There's a little window of opportunity, but it's closing on us
fast, and we need to really take advantage of the next 30 days and our
resources to persuade the American people that we can govern. But it is going
to be--this is going to be the most difficult 30 days in the last 12 years
that we've been the majority party.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you all both.

Rep. DAVIS: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: And we'll come back. We'll start to Stuart Rothenberg the
political analyst. Dan Balz will join us for a discussion of where it all
stands right now when we come back.

(Announcements)

SCHIEFFER: We're back now with Dan Balz of The Washington Post and Stuart
Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report. And I have to say, those of us
in Washington, when we're trying to find out what's going on, the Rothenberg
Report is one of the first things we turn to, Stu.

Just give us the bottom line here. How bad has this hurt the Republicans, and
where do you think this is all going to wind up in November? Will Republicans
lose the House?

Mr. STUART ROTHENBERG (Editor and Publisher, The Rothenberg Political
Report): I think right now you have to say, yes. The likelihood is the
Republicans will lose the House. Having said that, we still have a month to
go. Things could change.

It's bad, but it's been bad for a long time, Bob. The political environment
for the president, for congressional Republicans. The public wants change.
This is an added burden. I don't think it fundamentally changes the election
cycle, but it's impossible for Republicans to get their message out right now,
and we'll see how long that lasts.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Dan, it looked like the Republicans were making a little
comeback a couple of weeks ago when the president started about the
war--talking about the war on terrorism. He got a little bump himself. But
now, this new poll by Newsweek, which I must say is fairly astonishing to me
to see--I've never seen one party in this kind of shape. Certainly in the
last 15 or 20 years in a poll, as what this poll reflects today. Where do you
think it is right now?

Mr. BALZ: I don't disagree with Stu. I think that there was a period in
September when the president had gone on the offensive about the war on
terrorism and gas prices had come down pretty substantially, that Republicans
at least believed they have an opportunity to really fight it out district by
district, and perhaps hold their majority. Then you had not only the Mark
Foley scandal, you had the National Intelligence Estimate showing that Iraq
was a breeding ground for terrorism. You had Bob Woodward's book, and now
you've had terrible news out of Iraq over the last week, some of which has
been obscured by the Foley scandal, frankly, but may be more significant in
terms of the election. So, when you talk to Republicans now, they know they
are right back where they were before in a very difficult environment. And as
Stu suggests, there's no way that they can kind of get their message through
this kind of problem that they're running into now.

SCHIEFFER: Because one of the things--talking about Iraq, now we have nearly
60 percent in this poll that says they believe that the administration misled
them on going into Iraq. Was Iraq a problem before? I mean, my sense of it
is that it was the problem.

Mr. ROTHENBERG: Absolutely.

SCHIEFFER: But does this make it worse in any way?

Mr. ROTHENBERG: I think so, sure, yes. It has been the problem. Bob, this
election is all about change vs. status quo. And whether it's Mark Foley or
more news about Iraq, it adds to the perception that the country's headed off
on the wrong track and that we need change, that our political leaders aren't
doing the right things. Now, more reports about casualties, fatalities,
pessimism about any improvement in Iraq only feeds the desire for change.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do Democrats really offer any alternative? I mean, they
seem to be, you know, they're very critical of the effort in Iraq, but as yet,
I see nobody who's come up with some sort of a plan that has caught on about
what to do, you know, if you don't like the way the president's doing it.

Mr. ROTHENBERG: You know, Ken Mehlman of the Republican National Committee,
a number of months ago, I think, said, `We have to get this election away from
a referendum on the president and Iraq and more to a choice between Republican
and Democratic candidates.' He was actually correct in that. It's just that
the Republicans are having a hard time doing that. No, the Democrats don't
have a detailed agenda, but the out party doesn't need a detailed agenda when
there is such a strong desire for change.

And I called a number of consultants over the past few days to see what
district level polling was showing. Not the Newsweek, the national numbers,
but district by district, state by state. They're not seeing Republicans say
they're going to vote for Democrats. Republicans still say that they're going
to vote for Republicans. The problem is the enthusiasm among Republicans has
dropped measurably. And they're very concerned about turnout. And midterm
elections is, as we all know, mostly about getting the base out. And this is
looking like a significant problem for the Republicans.

Mr. BALZ: And I think...

SCHIEFFER: John--go ahead.

Mr. BALZ: I think the other problem with that is that among independents,
Republicans are fearful that there's going to be a sizeable independent vote
against them in this cycle and they've been trying to figure out ways to
minimize that. I think all of what's happened over the last two weeks makes
it more likely that those independents vote and vote Democratic.

SCHIEFFER: John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, a longtime supporter of the military--I guess you would call him a
hawk--he's just back from Iraq and he says it's going sideways, that we may
lose Baghdad, that unless things change in the next couple of months, we're
going to have to start thinking about another way to go about this. It sounds
to me like he's just about to say we're going to have to figure out how to get
out of there. Will that have an impact, do you think?

Mr. BALZ: Well, it certainly has had, in a sense, an almost seismic impact
on kind of a perception here in Washington that Republicans who have been
supportive of the president and of the war may be ready to move in a different
direction. Maybe that won't happen until after the election. That seems to
be the signal that Senator Warner was saying. But I think that his comments
were very significant and not helpful to this administration.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about the people on the other side of the Capitol
building, and that is the Senate, Stu, who you said that you think at this
point it looks like the Republicans will lose the majority in the House. What
about the Senate? They need six seats over there. Is that doable?

Mr. ROTHENBERG: Well, now it is doable. A couple months ago I didn't think
there were enough seats in play, but now the Virginia race has come into play,
the Tennessee race. And even more broadly, as the environment deteriorates
for Republicans, as there are questions of Republican turnout, that would
affect Senate races as well. Yes, I think you have to say now the Republican
control of the Senate is very much in doubt.

SCHIEFFER: And what about--would you agree with that, Dan?

Mr. BALZ: I would agree with that. I think that the fact that Harold Ford
is running a very strong race in Tennessee, the problems that Senator Allen
has had in Virginia make it more difficult for the Republicans to be confident
that they can hold the Senate.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you all very much, and obviously this is a
story we'll be watching and talking about right up until Election Day. We'll
be back with a final word in just a sec.

(Announcements)

SCHIEFFER: Finally today, when there is no good news for Republicans, or very
little, here is one more thing. If there is one thing that you would think
the White House would not want to call attention to in this election year, it
would be the government's bumbling response to Hurricane Katrina, and the man
who led that effort, old Brownie, as we have come to know him. Which is why I
had to read it twice before I really believed the story I found in yesterday's
newspaper.

It said the White House had served notice that the president would not abide
by new congressional rules which will require the next head of FEMA--that's
Brownie's old job--to have five years experience in disaster management. Why
would the president have a problem with that? Well, the White House says it
would encroach on his constitutional power to appoint anyone he chooses for a
top government job. In other words, if the president wants to appoint someone
as incompetent as old Brownie, he's going to fight for his right to do just
that.

Now, let's make sure you understand, we are talking about Brownie of "Brownie,
you've done a heck of a job" fame. Brownie, you may recall, had a lot of
experience as a horse show judge, and no experience managing emergencies,
which is why Congress decided to write this new job description for the next
emergency manager.

Now, the president has every right to protect his powers. But with all the
attention that this will refocus on Katrina mistakes, you have to believe that
a lot of those Republican candidates in close races out there would have
preferred the president leave this constitutional battle for another day--the
day after the election.

That's it for us. We'll see you next week, right here on FACE THE NATION.


Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 8, 2006 12:26 PM.

Rahm Emanuel: Don't blame Dems for Foley. Tells GOP to take responsibility for ``your dirty laundry.'' was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet Blog Scoop: House members to ask past and present pages of Foley contacts. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.