THE CLOSET

Within hours of the Dennis Hastert news breaking, I texted two people I know who have met him on multiple occasions for their thoughts. Both stated that he did not Seem Like the Type but that the evidence of what he did is substantial and he is now persona non grata. This was a relief to hear, as it bothers me when people leap to "I know him and he would never do such a thing" defenses. What scandals like this remind But us is that whether our friends are nobodies like us or powerful elected officials, you never know them as well as you think they do. I sincerely believe that a lot of Hastert's friends, even family, are shocked by these revelations. They're shocked because you never suspect someone you know so well of harboring this kind of secret. But that's just it; everybody has secrets. Maybe, hopefully, not everyone has a secret as vile as having molested a minor. But show me somebody who has never done anything of which they are ashamed or was against the law and I will show you a liar.

It's not a defense of his actions in any way, shape, or form. Instead it is a reminder that humans are remarkably talented at hiding parts of themselves from one another. Even our spouses, our parents, our children, our best friends…no matter how well we think we know them, we never know them fully. What we've seen lately, this wave of men being outed for secret (and in some cases lawbreaking) lifestyles, is a result of our shrinking privacy. I don't mean that in the "The gub'mint's stealin' my emails!" sense, but rather a recognition that the ability to hide some secret aspect of one's life is becoming more difficult. If some pastor wants to have sex with other men on the side and ends up, as people do these days, using the internet to facilitate that, it's not a matter of if but of when it will become public knowledge.

I used to fancy myself someone who was a good judge of character, the kind of person who said he knew right away what a person is like. Over time and with experience I learned how silly that is. There are people in this world who are married for years and still don't know everything about one another, people who sit next to one another in the same office for forty years with no idea that one of them is swindling money from the company and the other hosts bi-weekly Craigslist anonymous orgy meetup in that charming little ranch house. So "I know Bob and he wouldn't do that" is one of the most dangerous conclusions a person can jump to. We don't know what the people we interact with and know are capable of. We've seen the cliche often enough, the reporter interviewing the neighbor of the recently unmasked serial killer saying "But he seemed like such a nice boy…"

Life is full of surprises; finding out what the people we know are hiding from us and from the rest of the world is the least pleasant type.

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52 Responses to “THE CLOSET”

  1. J. Dryden Says:

    My initial read on this scandal is that it'll be over before it begins. That is, Hastert will be–as you suggest–isolated by ostracizing, dismissed, and reduced to an unperson by the GOP establishment. Once that happens, he'll be forgotten because nobody will bother to keep tabs on what happens to him. He'll be forgotten–not hard, as he's already nonexistent on the national scene.

    His Speakership was narratively uninteresting. He's been out of power so long that there's no juicy "your tax dollars are paying his salary" aspect to it, and he's neither personally beloved (Bill Cosby) nor part of a beloved franchise (Penn State, the Duggars), so there's no wonderful "all the while you were enjoying him, he was a monster" aspect.

    Most Americans have no idea who Dennis Hastert is. That's sad, but true. Taking the post after the catastrophic fall of Gingrich, he sought to be the opposite: low-key and comparatively cooperative. He didn't make many waves, and even the harassment of Congressional pages didn't dirty his skirts. He was the political equivalent of the Man in the Grey Flannel Suit–all but invisible in his position. And once Bush took over, all the national attention went to the Executive branch, so nobody cared what the House was up to.

    So, what does that leave us and those who pander to us to slaver over? I can't see the Democrats doing much on this one–unless any of the current crop of Republicans running for Prez were deeply buddy-buddy with him, and even then, it's a risky move into the muck. Fox News won't say squat–though if the shoe were on the other foot, you can bet they would. MSNBC might, but who watches that?

    Hastert was invisible before he was notorious. I doubt we'll hear his name much after, say, the end of this week. (Please note: This prediction may come back to haunt me, and don't let me weasel out of it if it does.)

  2. Both Sides Do It Says:

    I heartily endorse any and all hyperbolic descriptions of the consequences of losing privacy, but . . . I don't see the connection with Hastert. Dude got popped cuz he was dumb at distributing blackmail hush money. Is the idea that the mandated IRS reporting on cash withdrawals of over $10,000 represents an infringement on privacy? Umm.

    Otherwise, I LOVE the focus on the unknown unknown of the selves other people choose not to share. Those selves are hard enough to recognize when they're a part of you. How the hell did we start thinking we could know the collection of selves in others.

    J. Dryden: completely concur Hastert'll fall out of the news by Tuesday morning, but hopefully at least this will shake up the lobbying infrastructure a little bit.

  3. Talisker Says:

    Good points Ed, but there's an alternative: Hiding in plain sight.

    For example, Jimmy Saville was a British TV personality and childrens' entertainer who died in 2011. After his death, it became clear he was a serial child molester.

    I had the misfortune of meeting Saville once, and he was a thoroughly creepy bastard. He took the opportunity to grope one of the people I was with, let's call her Jane (not her real name). Jane was then in her early 20s, so I put it down to Saville being the more ordinary kind of dirty old man.

    As it happens, Jane is a martial artist, and any other stranger who groped her would suffer painful consequences; but Saville was a celebrity, and part of her childhood, so Jane (and her black-belt boyfriend, also present) just thought the whole thing was hilarious. Celebrity provides a certain degree of protection, even for bona fide creeps. I'm from Canada and not familiar with British children's TV, so I saw Saville as nothing but a sleazy old man.

    The point being, for child abusers there's a spectrum between "loved and trusted by close friends and family, no one had any idea" to "really creepy dude, not terribly surprising to anyone who was paying attention". I suspect Hastert falls somewhere in the middle, but never having met him I couldn't say.

  4. Alex SL Says:

    It is true that one never knows a seemingly nice person well enough to be sure, and that "he isn't the type for that" or considering oneself to be a perfect judge of character is silly. However, I'd argue that it does not go both ways. Even if some hide their dark side well, there are also certain people who a good judge of character will immediately recognise to be creeps and a naive and overly trusting person won't.

  5. Talisker Says:

    @Alex SL: My post above might be taken as an example. But I don't think this marks me out to be a "good judge of character". I had the advantages of (a) not knowing or caring about Saville's celebrity status, and (b) being a generally cynical individual. At other times people I knew fairly well, who did not strike me as mentally unstable, surprised me by doing some remarkably crazy things. Contrariwise, I've met a fair number of people who gave off a creepy vibe, but chances are most of them were not guilty of child abuse or some similarly vile crime.

  6. Alex SL Says:

    Talisker,

    Of course, not everybody who one'd recognise as a creep would be equally bad.

  7. Deggjr Says:

    Personally I don't think this scandal has legs because Hastert's sentence is about the only unknown. Everything else is out there.

    But … Hastert was a senior Republican participant in the impeachment process of President Clinton. Hastert's problems cast additional doubt on the legitimacy of the House's impeachment vote.

  8. anotherbozo Says:

    This case really interests me. Consider: the original victim has switched places with the onetime predator, who allowed himself to become the victim. What kind of abused youth would engage in this kind of blackmail for so long, well into his–what?–40s? Will he someday be interviewed (EXCLUSIVELY!) by Matt Lauer? Will we ever find out the sordid details, the attitudes of both parties over the years?

    And what irony that Hastert, more the victim, eventually, than the kid, is the one going to prison?

    And why are pervs usually Republicans? (O.K., that's irrelevant, and possibly inaccurate)

    Anyway, here's a ripe scenario for a serious Broadway play (easily two-person) or an indie film, either speculative or (if we ever know details) fact-driven. Either way, could be fascinating.

  9. ronzie Says:

    Another Clinton enemy gets his comeuppance, just as Hillary's campaign starts rolling; bwahhahahahahah!

  10. Death Panel Truck Says:

    According to his mother, Ted Bundy "was always such a nice boy." The people he worked with had no idea he was beating young women to death with a tire iron and having sex with their corpses.

  11. Anubis Bard Says:

    Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. As for me, I'm not much interested in sorting out the evil lurking inside hearts. What people do to each other, on the other hand . . .

  12. Drew Says:

    Ted Bundy was a Republican though. That's at least one red flag.

    And not that I condone blackmail, but if I were diddled as a kid I sure as shit wouldn't forget about it, that kind of thing stays with you.

    And yeah-I dunno, I think if this were Newt or our current Speaker Boehner it would have more legs. Hastert is ancient history-he was never that interesting (that was the point), he didn't ruffle feathers the way Newt did, he kept a low profile during the Bush Admin (vast majority of his tenure) and he's been out of office for 8 years. And he was a Republican.

  13. anotherbozo Says:

    Further reading:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/06/01/1389405/-Daily-Kos-Elections-Morning-Digest-Here-s-what-we-know-about-the-Denny-Hastert-indictment-so-far

    Silly me! Of course Hastert was a serial offender. But we may never know any particulars, even if we wanted to. (Sandusky was enough for me, thanks) The justice system is already treating Hastert with great considerateness re: bail amounts, scope of indictment, etc.

  14. c u n d gulag Says:

    Why is it that I get the feeling that Hastert will get a slap on a wrist, and a "Tsk, tsk… Pay a fine, and sin no more," while the kid who was abused will serve hard time for blackmailing him?

    Not that that should go unpunished, but if Hastert hadn't abused the kid, then there'd have been nothing to blackmail him over years later.

    Sordid and ugly.

    And another God-bothering Clinton impeacher finds himself immersed in a sex scandal.
    Why is it that that DOESN'T surprise me?

  15. Edward Says:

    Billy Joel wrote a song about this:

  16. Brutus Says:

    This post reminds me to remind myself that a not insignificant section of the people I come into contact with are sociopaths, and to a much lesser extent, dangerous psychopaths. Knowing who is which is a tricky equation, but beyond the “feels wrong” intuition that sets off minor alarm bells, the stronger indication is often a combination of wealth, power, position, charisma, and celebrity. (I particularly distrust charismatic politicians.) The boy or girl next door who turns out to be a raging criminal hovering below the radar is particularly difficult to spot, but the more typical case may be the brazen, emboldened person who receives too much applause and adulation then begins to believe the hype about themselves.

    For added interest, see this blog, written by a confessed sociopath who has the self-awareness to recognize that she is constituted, um, differently than most:

    http://www.sociopathworld.com/

  17. Xynzee Says:

    Nice self reflective piece Ed.
    Could the, "They're not the type!" Defence be coming from a place of self preservation rather than care for the perp?
    Imagine how completely shocking it'd be to find out if someone you've been close to for years, and suddenly THIS!?!
    People in general think they're smarter than the rest, therefore do not want to prove the fool. "How could you not know?" Etc. Then people would begin to wonder, did they actually miss the signs? "Am I really that naïve?" Perhaps they—ask themselves if—intentionally ignored what was there, eg. standing to lose face or a financial position. This would entrench the self preservation mode thus increasing their self defensiveness.

    Often, you just don't know.

  18. NonyNony Says:

    Hastert's problems cast additional doubt on the legitimacy of the House's impeachment vote.

    Not really – the illegitimacy of the House impeachment vote is only a question for Republicans. Everyone else in the country knew it was illegitimate at the time and it only looks less legit with each year that passes.

  19. Skepticalist Says:

    My guess that the pedophilia part of this, isn't the main the story. We may never know. Hastert is more than a dull character.

    I've been a lousy judge of character and it still takes me too much time to catch on. I'm afraid I'm a sap and safe to have around.

  20. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Deggjr:

    Hyde, Livingston, Barr… Almost everyone on the front lines of the Clinton impeachment scandal had done way worse than Slick Willy had. It's already remembered as a national joke and embarrassment, and both Clintons landed squarely on their feet. The only thing remotely interesting about it now is the damage it did to Gore 2000, and no one really cares much about that, either.

  21. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Talisker:

    Quite a few people had long despised Savile.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/jimmy-savile/9949881/The-Jimmy-Savile-scandal-will-not-be-snuffed-out.html

    He stands as a monument to how out of it people were in the Sleazy '70s.

  22. Robert Says:

    I remember one of the veterans we worked with while I was at the hospital. He was almost homebound, and one of the things we did was set him up with a computer system. After he died, we sent our contractor out to pick everything up.
    We were told that by the time they got there, friends of the late man had gotten there first – and carefully wiped his hard drive clean. The driver joked that the computer was the only clean thing in the apartment. He mentioned the name of one of the friends, and I recognized it. He was a B or C tier local politico, and had nothing in common with the veteran – that I knew of. What could have been in the man's computer that called for that kind of treatment? I definitely have my suspicions, but there was no evidence and it was all years ago.

  23. Skipper Says:

    As far as the "victim" being charged with blackmail, unless there is a tape of him demanding money or something in writing, there is no case. "Gee, Mr. Hastert just came up and offered me the money. I never asked for anything."

    That's why, if someone tries to blackmail you, you suck it up (it's going to come out eventually) go to the cops, and let them set up a sting. That's exactly what Hastert should have done. He'd still be disgraced, but he wouldn't be facing federal charges.

    And as far as knowing what people will or won't do, if someone comes up and tells you that I was banging Sarah Palin, you can tell them that you know me, and I would never do that. You can take that one to the bank.

  24. el mago Says:

    First of all this sludge-in-a-suit Hastert was a slime ball politico who pushed through the Patriot Act and other unsavory Bush policies. Still, what a pitiable case. His life was dominated by scrambling, toadying, hiding and living with the guilt of his actions. A true example of human ignorance.

    As for secrets, yeah, we all carry them–our own and those of others. (Most of us have some secret shame as well.) I used to use the topic as a writing prompt, with a lot of pre-writing discussion on the subject.

    Oh, yes. We cannot say that we truly know another. (Most people don't know themselves.) When I was in my early 20's I took up palm reading and used my restaurant co-workers and some regular patrons as test subjects. Think what you will of this arcane art, but I do believe the hand never lies, and wow, what an eye opener. My girlfriend's palm blew my mind, and I really should have followed my instincts and avoided marriage. Anyway, I abandoned this hobby long ago because I tired of learning about other people's messed up lives. I'm still amazed that so many people manage to tie their shoelaces in the morning and go out and function in the world.

    One more thing, as messed up as this Hastert is, he is not being charged for past pedophilia or whatever. No. He lied to the feds, hence felony time. There's something seriously screwed with that.

    By the way, what's that stuff in the bucket? Crayfish, grubs, roots, what?

  25. Khaled Says:

    One of the reasons, I suspect, that so many anti-gay pastors/ Republicans/ hate-filled conservatives turn out to be "in the closet" and hide their sexuality is because for a large, but shrinking, part of the population, being gay is a "sin" against God and Man, and being gay will send them to hell. Can you imagine growing up hearing that your feelings will send you to hell? So what do these people do? They overcompensate to an extreme degree, figuring the more that they pray or shout, the more those feelings will go away or the more that people will never know what they feel in their heart.

    As for the pedophiles, like it appears that both Hastert and Duggar are, they likely also feel shame for their desires. Many of them would also have taken to the religion as a way of denying it, rather than seek counseling, treatment, or other help, to overcome or get past their illegal and immoral desires.

    This is where I think that so many religious people go off the rails against gay people. They recognize that both types seek shelter in religion from their shame, so they see them as the same. I read an article once about the molestation scandal in the Catholic Church talking about how many priests are gay and using the celibate excuse to deny their feelings. One person even said that a lot of priests in his seminary were gay and they all talked about how they needed Jesus to deny their feelings and many of them would "sin" on the side with each other while they were there, going so far as to hit on all of the other students. To which I though, well, that's a cool story, bro, but gays are not pedophiles, in the same way that straight people are not pedophiles. The bright line between being gay and being a pedophile is ignored by many of these types. That is why they scream about gay marriage, because they see it all as a bunch of sin.

    On a related topic, I wish people would stop giving the Duggars an out, saying that it was the "sexual repression" that lead to Josh Duggar molesting his sisters and others. What he did was not "teenage curiosity" but abuse that rose to the level of a felony. The Duggars may practice a rather repressive set of doctrines surrounding courtship and sexuality, but that is not the cause of Josh's abuse. Josh Duggar is the cause of that abuse.

    @J Dryden, I agree, Hastert will be buried by the next news cycle. Instead, we get to hear from the Republican Clown Car, full of the phony tough and stupid brave, committing to wars that none of them, nor any of their families, will actually have to fight. They will salute the coffins coming home, full of poor and disadvantaged youth, the bloodthirsty insane who seek out armed conflict as a way of propagating hatred at home -see how many vets are white supremacists- and the sons and daughters of career military personnel. Those are who fight in our wars, and those are the ones who will suffer because our politicians are willing to use our military as a tool to keep political power.

  26. el mago Says:

    One more comment. During my middle and high school years I encountered more than a few pervs in both admin and faculty. All ex-military. All Mormons. Assholes each and every one. Thinking particularly about the phys ed and coach staff.

  27. jon Says:

    I'm always haunted by the fact that some of my family were molested when they were children. The creepy grandpa was an actually creepy grandpa, but nobody told because the parents didn't want to hear it and it was creepy and they were told not to. Years later one of them, the only boy who got molested, finally came out as gay after years and years of struggling with thinking that was what gay sex was. Not that the girls did all that great, but this guy, literally the gayest person I know, struggled with denial for two decades. I can't even imagine how much he must have hated everything he knew about his sexuality. Everyone was so happy when he came out, because that's how the family works. But he only told a few people why it took so damn long. Poor guy.

    Happy to say most of them are okay now. Cousin is happily married and living the dream with his great husband. And the grandpa died of ass cancer.

  28. jon Says:

    I was a bit glib about how the girls (now women) handled things. They all struggled, too. I'll never know how much. But maybe I'm assuming women get so much other shit in life or something, which isn't really any sort of consolation when grandpa raped them.

    It was just that his coming out led me to learn so much about that whole thing, and I really felt for him since he was dealing with it so much when I knew him.

  29. Katzekratze Says:

    I really love the irony that some of the Patriot Act, which Hastert guided through the House, was used to bust him.

  30. Skipper Says:

    For the record, I did once use the accounts and descriptions of a major league game without the express written consent of the commissioner. No one would have guessed.

  31. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Skipper:

    I am a recovering alcoholic who didn't really know how to have a proper relationship until my 30s and starred in some horrible student films. This is fun!

    The future may be self-doxxing.

    http://holysmoke.org/cos/books/buy-a-bridge.htm

  32. democommie Says:

    "Another Clinton enemy gets his comeuppance, just as Hillary's campaign starts rolling; bwahhahahahahah!"

    Great, you've just handed the Reptilicans a raisin detra* for filing a suit with the FEC to find out what Billary knew about poor Dennis and when they knew it!

    They're great, particularly with a nice eggcream!

  33. democommie Says:

    Oh, yeah, I nearly forgo.

    According to at least one news report I watched, Hastert wasn't blackmailed until after he fell out of power and into the moneypit of lobbying.

  34. bjk Says:

    is being gay a crime? there are open parties with underage boys in hollywood every weekend. this is a widely known. nobody is charged because these are boys (not teenage girls) and nobody wants to take on powerful gay men. hastert is not guilty of anything that gay men don't engage in openly already. if you think this is an outrageous and malicious charge then you must think that gay behavior is abominable.

    but the real question is why hastert was charged. he is not charged with crimes unless taking money from a bank account is a crime. I'd love to hear speculation about why he was really charged.

  35. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @bjk:

    There's a pretty huge difference between homosexuality and statutory rape. But you know that. Sigh.

  36. bjk Says:

    how do we know the relationship wasn't consensual? it's far more likely that dennis is gay than dennis is a rapist. far more gay men than rapists. and what if dennis had consensual sex with a student? ok so what. that is ordinary practice in the gay community.

  37. bjk Says:

    in all likelihood, dennis hastert is a victim of society's prejudices, not a child rapist.

  38. bjk Says:

    Free Dennis!

  39. Emerson Dameron Says:

    Keep fuckin' that chicken!

  40. bjk Says:

    hey man I've had enough of you and your heteronormativity.

    stay strong dennis!

  41. democommie Says:

    @bjk:

    "is being gay a crime? there are open parties with underage boys in hollywood every weekend."

    As was already noted, Hastert being gay has jackshit to do with anything. If he IS gay, he would be going against the grain according to a number of reports out there, by people who don't have an axe to grind re: teh GAY! menace:

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/winter/10-myths.

    Hastert's relationship with a HS student, under the age of 17, cannot, legally be consensual, you moron:

    "Illinois – The age of consent in Illinois is 17. For people 18 or over, it is illegal for them to commit acts of a sexual nature on persons who are under the age of 18 if they are in a position of authority or trust over the victim.Jul 22, 2014 (source: http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/…/statutory-rape-the-age-of-consent.html)

    Next thing I'll be looking for is your sockpuppet Paul coming in to say that if the kids didn't like being sexually molested they should have just moved to anoher school district.

  42. Xynzee Says:

    ^^^^ that was weird, even for bjk.
    Did a spider hack his(?) account?
    http://xkcd.com/1530/

  43. bjk Says:

    don't feed the troll but as long as you did let me just say there is no "vile secret" as the OP would have it unless the vile secret is the love that dare not speak it's name. I really think the republicans should propose to lower the man-boy age of consent to 14 and show who the real bigots are.

  44. Robert Says:

    Bjk, if you withdraw more than US$10,000.00 from your account, the bank is required to ask you what it's for. If they do not find your explanation satisfactory, they are required to notify the PTB. Or, if you make repeated withdrawals just under that limit, you come to the attention of the PTB immediately. Hastert was questioned by the FBI about the large sums, and he lilac a rug. Even if the sex acts had been legal and consensual at the time, lying to Federal agents is generally a bad move.

    Many Americans do not know about these currency handling rules, because we've never had enough money at one time for it to matter.

  45. Steve in the ATL Says:

    @Brutus:

    "This post reminds me to remind myself that a not insignificant section of the people I come into contact with are sociopaths"

    Are you a lawyer or banker?

  46. bjk Says:

    Dude i took over 10000 out of my bank account last month and nobody asked me any questions. it happens all the time. the bank files an automatic form with the feds it doesn't question anybody. and as for the don't lie to the fbi really i can't believe any sentient person can believe that should be a crime. it basically makes talking to the fbi a crime and structuring makes taking money out of your account a crime. it criminalizes ordinary life to the point where a man is charged on two charges of covering up a non-crime. then they defame him as a child abuser. it's an absolutely outrageous abuse of power and they're doing it at the behest of jeff katzenberg and co and they will not stop until all closeted republicans have been personally destroyed.

  47. bjk Says:

    not jeff katzenberg insert other gay hollywood figure like david geffen

  48. democommie Says:

    bjk:

    "it's an absolutely outrageous abuse of power and they're doing it at the behest of jeff katzenberg and co and they will not stop until all closeted republicans have been personally destroyed."

    Said by an asshole who takes great pleasure in knowingly (and falsely) conflating homosexuality with sexual abuse.

    Your opinion on this subject is as blinkered and ill-informed as your opinions on every other subject you open your intertoobz piehole about.

    You do perform one service, though. You make it possible for us to know that Ed doesn't shie away from letting the occasional asshat misanthrope make his bias and indignorance known.

  49. bjk Says:

    do you have a better explanation for the hastert prosecution? no administration is going to iundertake prosecution against a former speaker of the house without a very good reason. if it isn't campaign donors then come up with a reason. decades old diddling can't be the reason. if it were then half of the horace mann faculty would be facing charges.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/magazine/the-horace-mann-schools-secret-history-of-sexual-abuse.html

  50. bjk Says:

    this will be my last post, i have undoubtedly tried ed's patience, unless somebody wwants to discuss merits of case against the former speaker of the house;

    this is dershowitz on hastert

    http://wgnradio.com/2015/05/29/dershowitz-on-hastert-you-dont-have-to-be-a-lawyer-to-see-how-outrageous-this-indictment-is/

  51. democommie Says:

    "this will be my last post, i have undoubtedly tried ed's patience,"

    We should be so fucking lucky.

    You lying sack of shit.

  52. Sifu Snafu Says:

    "I really think the republicans should propose to lower the man-boy age of consent to 14 and show who the real bigots are."

    I'm surprised nobody was shocked at bjk's admission that he was a NAMBLA member.