Ever hear of Buck Weaver? Probably not, unless you are either a baseball history buff or interested in the history of legal issues surrounding sports.
Buck Weaver played third base for the Chicago White Sox from 1912-1920. He was a member of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team that, though heavily favored lost the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, five games to three. After that season baseball's most infamous moment, the 'Black Sox scandal' broke. Eight of Weaver's teammates including Joe Jackson (who would otherwise be in the Hall of Fame today) and Ed Cicotte (who might otherwise, had he continued his pitching career, have made it to the Hall of Fame) were revealed to have taken bribes from gamblers in exchange for making key mistakes, serving up fat pitches, or striking out at key times during the world series.
Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis took quick action. He suspended nine players for life (and according to the Hall of Fame committee, they remain suspended today, even though they have passed beyond this life.) NINE? There were, of course only EIGHT 'Black Sox' (subject of the recent movie, 'Eight men out.'
Well, the ninth man was Buck Weaver. He did not take a dollar from anyone to throw the series, nor did he play anything other than his best. So why was he suspended along with the other eight? Simple. Because Buck Weaver knew about the crime and did not tell anyone about it. Had he done so, it would have been uncovered before the series, whatever action was appropriate then would have been taken, and the integrity of the game would have been preserved. So in the end, Buck Weaver was every bit as guilty and culpable as the eight men who took the bribes. This is also why the Service Academies and some other high quality educational institutions enforce anti-cheating policies in which anyone who learns about a fellow student cheating and fails to report it is dealt with in exactly the same manner as the cheater is.
Yesterday, as we all know, Florida Congressman Mark Foley resigned from Congress after it was disclosed that he sent sexually suggestive emails to a fifteen year old page for another Congressman, Rodney Alexander of Louisiana.
All of which makes two of today's stories together sound like a bizarre and sick irony. The first states that Speaker Denny Hastert knew of these emails months ago and did nothing, apparently believing that it was not a serious problem.
"Rodney Alexander brought to my attention the existence of e-mails between Mark Foley and a former page of Mr. Alexander's," Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a written statement Saturday.
"Despite the fact that I had not seen the e-mails in question, and Mr. Alexander told me that the parents didn't want the matter pursued, I told the speaker of the conversation Mr. Alexander had with me," Reynolds said.
Hastert said he does not remember talking to Reynolds about the Foley e-mails, but did not dispute Reynolds' account.
"While the speaker does not explicitly recall this conversation, he has no reason to dispute Congressman Reynolds' recollection that he reported to him on the problem and its resolution," Hastert's aides said in a preliminary report on the matter issued Saturday.
The report includes a lengthy timeline detailing when they first learned of the worrisome e-mail in the fall of 2005, after a staffer for Alexander told Hastert's office the family wanted Foley to stop contacting their son. Alexander's staffer did not share the contents of the e-mail, saying it was not sexual but "over-friendly," the report says.
And there was absolutely no indication that between that time and Foley's surprise resignation on Friday, that Speaker Hastert did anything about the emails or Congressman Foley at all, even not having a problem with his remaining co-chair of the caucus on missing or exploited children.
So then today we nearly simultaneously see the following story out: House leaders call for Foley investigation.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The top three Republicans in the House assailed Rep. Mark Foley Saturday over his e-mails to a teenage male page and said his resignation was not enough.
Calling the incident "an obscene breach of trust," the congressmen released a statement saying, "[Foley's] immediate resignation must now be followed by the full weight of the criminal justice system."
"The improper communications between Congressman Mark Foley and former House congressional pages is unacceptable and abhorrent. It is an obscene breach of trust," read the statement issued by Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri.
I fear for the speaker's health. Within a few hours he has gone from not thinking this was a serious problem to calling it 'an obscene breach of trust' and demanding a criminal probe. With a flip-flop that fast, it would be like throwing a car that is going sixty miles an hour into reverse gear. Aside from risking the destruction of his vehicle (in this case any credibility the House Republican leadership has left post-DeLay), Hastert risks a severe case of whiplash.
What changed in the intervening hours? Not really a whole lot, except for one thing-- the emails became public knowlege, and Foley's formerly safe district was added to the long list of Republican held districts that could elect a Democrat (which threatens Hastert's seat of power). So once the whole thing was out in the open, in contrast to his ignoring it when he was one of the very few people who had both the knowlege and the power to do something about it, Hastert is trying to reposition himself as the chief inquisitor. While I agree with his new position and hope that a criminal probe does take place (if you've read this blog for very long you well know that I have strong opinions about child abuse), for Denny Hastert, Speaker of the House, the man who knew about the Foley emails last year but swept them under the rug, to now claim to take the lead on this is ludicrous.
Hastert, who has mainly used his position as speaker to become the 'prince of pork' (since about 1/3 of new Federal spending for the state of Illinois ends up in his district, about five percent population-wise of the state) has presided over the house since Newt Gingrich resigned after the Clinton impeachment fiasco cost Republicans seats in 1998, and Gingrich's handpicked successor, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, stepped out because of another sex scandal. During his tenure, Hastert has presided over a corrupt Republican caucus, that was led by Tom DeLay (who as Majority Leader did Hastert's bidding). Just in the past year we've seen one member of his Republican caucus go to prison for bribery, another (DeLay) resign after being indicted for alleged crimes directly related to why Hastert even has a majority), another plead guilty just the other day on a corruption charge, and many others under investigation as the Abramoff probe widens. Virtually the entire caucus took questionable money raised by DeLay. Hastert did nothing. Only a fool would suggest that Hastert didn't know a great deal about DeLay's dealings.
But what this latest episode involving Mark Foley does show is that Speaker Hastert is morally bankrupt, a man with no backbone or sense of right and wrong, who is only looking out for his 'majority' (read 'his job') and who will do anything to win an election.
All I have to say is this: Republicans running in close races in some districts in 'red' states have tried to scare people by saying that if Democrats take over Congress, "San Francisco Liberal Nancy Pelosi" will become speaker. Well, if anyone is worried about that (and I know that some conservatives are, though I think that Pelosi has largely been inaccurately portrayed by the right), just consider what else happens if Republicans lose control of Congress. Denny Hastert won't be speaker anymore. And that day has been overdue for a long, long time.