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On Dennis Hastert

It doesn't matter that he was Speaker of the House. It matters that he sexually abused four boys.

Let’s say you were Speaker of the House. Presiding officer of the House of Representatives, third in line to the presidency. But let’s say, before that, you were a high school wrestling coach.

And let’s say, while you were a high school wrestling coach, you molested four boys, at least. You molested one boy, the student equipment manager of the team, for four years. You asked another to sleep in your hotel room during a camp, where you abused him. You told another boy that to make weight, he’d need to let you massage him, and then you performed a sex act on him. You set up a recliner outside the boys’ showers. You did this for years, and you got away with it.

Would it matter if you were a Republican or a Democrat? No.

Let’s say you only got caught because 30 years later, one of the boys you abused confronted you and asked: “Why?” Why did you hurt him? What had he ever done to you? And because your victim, now an adult, recognized that there was little to no chance of getting you in front of a court of law, because of your stature in the community and because of the statute of limitations, he asked for a settlement. And you paid him. And you did so illegally. And then law enforcement started asking questions.

First you told investigators you were removing large sums of money from your bank account because you didn’t trust banks. Then you said you were being extorted for false claims of abuse. But suppose investigators realized that you were lying. That there was no extortion. That there was “no ambiguity” about what you'd done.

Would it matter if you were a Republican or a Democrat? No.

So why are some people saying that your case is an example of conservative hypocrisy?

You are Dennis Hastert. And it doesn’t matter at all that you were, for a time, one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington, the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in history. That you voted for Bill Clinton’s impeachment. That you shepherded the Patriot Act through Congress. It doesn’t matter, because before you were one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington, you were a high school wrestling coach, and you molested four boys, at least.

Prosecutors said that you “made [your victims] feel alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity. While [you] achieved great success, reaping all the benefits that went with it, these boys struggled, and all are still struggling now with what [you] did to them.” One of your victims, Steve Reinboldt, that aforementioned student equipment manager, told his sister Jolene what you did back in 1979. She asked him why he'd never told anyone. He said, “Who is ever going to believe me?”

What you did wasn’t “hypocritical” because you were an evangelical with a 100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition. What you did was wrong — purely wrong. It didn’t matter what you believed or how you voted. Steve didn’t care if you were a Republican or if you had been the most liberal Democrat in Congress, because as his sister said, what you did “took his belief in himself and his ... right to be a normal person.” You “damaged Steve ... more than any of us will ever know.” And we can’t know, because Steve died of AIDS-related complications in 1995, 20 years before you ever saw the inside of a courtroom for what you did to him and those other boys.

You say you’re “deeply sorry,” that you’ve deteriorated as a result of the “public shaming and humiliation” that has come from the whole country finally knowing what you are, and that the court should lessen your punishment as a result. Which sounds like you’re mostly sorry that you got caught.

No, it doesn’t matter that you were a Republican. Or Speaker of the House. Or in Congress at all. It only matters that you were once a high school wrestling coach in Yorkville, Illinois. And you molested four boys, at least. And you got away with it.