Monday, August 13, 2007

Hastert Preparing to Announce Retirement?

The Politico says that former Speaker Hastert Dennis Hastert has invited supporters to join him on Friday for a speech, where he is expected to announce his future plans. Since everyone expected him to retire last November and he has given no indication that he intends to run for re-election next year, it would be a surprise if he did anything other than announce that he will not seek re-election:

The letter does not say whether he'll run for reelection in 2008 or announce his retirement, but speculation skews heavily toward retirement. And neither Hastert nor his aides have done much to dispel the widely accepted opinion back home that he'll call it quits. For example, an aide did not respond to an e-mail about the weekend letter.

If this marks the end of Hastert's Congressional career, he had a good one. He stepped in in the lurch, after the resignations of former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his expected successor, Bob Livingston. His speakership began in the lame duck years of the Clinton administration, with no major legislative accomplishments in the 106th Congress. But starting with the election of George Bush, the Congress was very productive.

Like a good manager, Hastert knew when to press his chairmen, and when to lay back and let them manage their committees. Under his leadership, the House passed and Congress enacted President Bush's tax package, the Patriot Act, extension of Trade Promotion Authority, the Partial-Birth Abortion ban, intelligence reform and multiple free trade agreements -- along with the legislation needed to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the war on terror. In many of these cases, it was party discipline in the House that allowed enactment of many of these pieces of legislation in forms that conservatives ultimately supported. Had the Republican majority not been so united, major pieces of legislation would have foundered more often. Hastert deserves credit for much of this.

The disappointment for conservatives of course, is that there's no balanced-budget amendment, or enhanced rescission (line-item veto), ethics overhaul, or other such reformist legislation on the list. That's what marks Hastert as a great manager, but not a visionary leader.

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