Former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert wrote that his 2004 autobiography wasn’t a “tell-all.” That’s for sure.
But some of its passages tell us more in retrospect, now that the Illinois Republican faces sexual abuse allegations and is scheduled to be sentenced this month in a hush-money scheme connected to alleged misconduct when he was a wrestling coach and teacher at Yorkville High School.
Prosecutors say he molested at least four underage boys and they have recommended six months of prison time. Hastert’s defense lawyers have pleaded for leniency, saying the man who was once two heartbeats away from the presidency is now “humiliated and isolated. ”
Here are five passages from “Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics” that seemed innocuous in 2004 but creepy in 2016.
- “I felt a special bond with our wrestlers, and I think they felt one with me.” (p. 54)
- “It was tricky at that point to make Clinton a sympathetic person, and I am sure there wasn’t much sympathy for him. But I sensed that the American people were sick of hearing about illicit sex, sick of having to protect the kids from what was on television, and sick of hearing Monica Lewinsky’s name.” (p.160)
- “I learned a lesson a long time ago, the first year I was coaching, when I tried to be just like my high school coach. That didn’t work well because I’m not Ken Pickerill; I’m Denny Hastert, and I had to do things my way, which I could do best.” (p.185)
- “What’s the best way to prepare to become Speaker? Try driving a school bus, as I used to do. You’ve got to 1) keep the bus on the road, 2) keep your eye on the kids in the rear-view mirror, and 3) watch your back.” (p. 190)
- “TO THE PEOPLE OF THE FOURTEENTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS: You have honored me by selecting me as your representative in Congress since 1986. While I have the chance to travel this great country often now, I’m always happiest when I can be at home with you along the Fox River. I’ll always be truly grateful to you for placing your trust in me.” (Dedication page)