- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 28, 2006

Truth is stranger than fiction. When Nancy Pelosi, an earmark-heavy San Francisco Democrat, started calling House Speaker Dennis Hastert a person who “cares more about partisan advantage than our children” just hours after Rep. Mark Foley essentially was “fired” by Mr. Hastert for lewd instant e-mails to a male page, one has to ask: Just what is really going on?

In the final days of this congressional election, facts are emerging that should raise more eyebrows. Remember the “roar-back,” the 18th-century practice of a last-minute, false report intended to turn down voter loyalty? The practice appears to have new adherents.

On the simplest level, let’s review the real record of Dennis Hastert, consensus leader of a narrow Republican majority in the U.S. House since early 1999. Mr. Hastert taught school for 16 years, served as a revered high school wrestling coach, and was tapped for Congress precisely because of his uncompromising commitment to education and kids. That was his calling. He brought it to Congress.

Mr. Hastert, a former leader of wrestling coaches, inductee into the Wrestling Hall of Fame, and father of two fine young men, is Norman Rockwell’s America come to Washington, quietly faithful to the Ronald Reagan, less inclined to attack than to listen and lead by example.

Mr. Hastert never planned on leaving the classroom. He was effectively drafted as a candidate for Congress when another Republican became indisposed. He was drafted, again, to be chief deputy whip, for steady judgment, willingness to work hard, common sense and heartland congeniality. In December 1998, when the party was reeling from the resignations by Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston, Mr. Hastert was drafted for a third time, as self-effacing bulwark, coach and anchor for a storm-tossed chamber.

Not personally ambitious, Mr. Hastert accepted each nod with grace. He has selflessly pressed legislation to help kids on more fronts than the mainstream media will ever report, and defers credit to others, often in both parties.

A plain speaker, his life is defined by unvarnished patriotism, integrity and family. His wife is a teacher, his brother is a teacher and he has devoted more time to saving kids and families from the scourge of illegal drugs than any member of Congress, expect perhaps those on his antidrug task force, former subcommittee and bipartisan working group dedicated to the same issue.

Mr. Hastert has promoted more legislation to protect kids from drugs and drug violence than most know, and with quiet reserve. He is not about Denny Hastert. He is about ideals, and building success from hard work, a moral compass and persuasion before caustic cracks and attacks. That dedication has earned him the ire of drug legalization advocates, such as George Soros.

Now, the kicker. Facts leaching out about the last weeks’ sudden end-of-cycle attack on the speaker and Republican majority in the House are more than unsettling. They begin to suggest a coordinated effort to undermine everything the Republican majority has accomplished over Mr. Hastert’s eight years. As the stock market has rocketed past 12,000, moral issues from marriage and the death tax to national security have been held on course by Mr. Hastert. Now, there is a scent of real “roar-back” — an unfair, coordinated attack intended to cripple a candidate or party in an election’s waning days.

What makes one seriously ponder this notion? Here are the facts. Election financing reform legislation, squeaking through Congress several years ago, produced huge flows of “soft money” into nationwide groups like The Open Society Institute and MoveOn.com. The drift of these groups is patently left, by their own admission. Anti-Republican, anti-Hastert and pro-drug legalization, such groups have been gathering force for some time, aiming at 2006.

Now, bizarre new facts. According to well-informed sources, less than 12 hours after Mr. Hastert secured Mr. Foley’s resignation on learning of lurid e-mails, a network of carefully planned, apparently pre-recorded “robo-calls” began to hit Mr. Hastert’s district, and possibly other Republican leaders, encouraging them to seek Mr. Hastert’s resignation. Implying more knowledge than presented, the “robo-calls” calls urged, in effect, that Republicans divide on themselves, sacrifice their standard-bearer, and effectively throw in the towel.

On reflection, timing was too good. Pre-recorded flame-fanning, after the fastest firing of a member of Congress in American history, can be no accident. These calls were almost certainly planned — by someone.

Another fact. Much soft money has indirect ties into main stream media. A vivid example is the remarkable link between The Open Society Institute, George Soros and ABC news. What link, you may ask? Here are hard facts few know.

According to “The Open Society Institute and Soros Foundation Network” Web page, “Morton H. Halperin is the director of U.S. Advocacy for the Open Society Institute” and “oversees all policy advocacy on U.S. and international issues … ,” presumably including Congress. Mr. Halperin’s past includes “many years at the American Civil Liberties Union, serving as the director of the Washington Office from 1984 to 1992, where he was responsible for the national legislative program.” Enough said.

Meanwhile the ABC News Web site boasts that Mark Halperin, son of Morton Halperin, “has been the political director of ABC News since October 1997” and “is responsible for the planning and editorial content of all political news on the network.” Mr. Halperin is lead dog on ABC coverage of Mr. Foley and pressure to divide Republican leadership.

On Oct. 1, Mr. Halperin authored a cutting analysis titled “Congressman’s lewd messages could shake up midterm elections,” in which he oddly advises, “Democrats will be demanding a fast investigation, of not only Foley, but of the Republican leaders.” So let’s cut to the quick: Is that the role of ABC news, to advise Democrats on how and when to attack Republican congressional leaders?

More precisely, in view of the Open Society’s money, mission and hostility to Mr. Hastert, is this not, when you pull back the curtain, a classic “roar-back” — a transparently unfair, highly coordinated, last-minute blast intended to divide the majority party, keep loyal voters at home, and rush the gates? It does give pause, particularly if you know Mr. Hastert’s granite character and life record.

Oh yes, and here is a kicker to the kicker. Last week, strangely uncredentialed “reporters” started showing up in Mr. Hastert’s district, calling on old friends, inquiring about his early life…. Of course, all vouched for the coach, and lifelong advocate for education, kids and decency. But they also wondered why, when these so-called “reporters” were challenged, they suddenly claimed “free lance” status and disappeared into the ether. Remember that phrase — that nasty tactic — the “roar back.” Then get up on Nov. 7 and, with resolution, cast your vote.

Robert Charles, former assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, 2003-2005, was staff director to the National Security Subcommittee, Speakers Anti-Drug Task Force and Bipartisan Drug Policy Working Group, 1995-99.

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