The House ethics committee opened an expansive investigation into the unfolding page sex scandal Thursday by approving four dozen subpoenas for witnesses and documents, as the House Republican leader held his ground against pressure to resign.
"I'm deeply sorry this has happened and the bottom line is we're taking responsibility," Hastert said at a news conference outside his district office in Batavia, Ill.
"Ultimately, the buck stops here," the speaker said.
Hastert was abruptly changing the tactics he has followed since the scandal broke last week. As recently as Wednesday, he blamed Democrats for the scandal and insisted he had done nothing wrong.
tpm muckraker has the video of the press conference, and also notes:
The House Speaker used his responses to reporters' questions to reiterate GOP successes at the end of this congressional session; take a shot at former GOP aide Kirk Fordham, who says he told Hastert's staff in 2003 about Foley's problems; and insinuate that the Democrats had created the scandal because they didn't have a message to win the elections.
even when "taking responsibility", hastert can't help but try to blame the democrats. (unfortunately for him, the whistleblower was a republican.)
according to fox news, the longer hastert remains speaker, the worse things get for republicans:
House Republican candidates will suffer massive losses if House Speaker Dennis Hastert remains speaker until Election Day, according to internal polling data from a prominent GOP pollster, FOX News has learned.
"The data suggests Americans have bailed on the speaker," a Republican source briefed on the polling data told FOX News. "And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and 50-seat loss."
Most GOP lawmakers have stood by Hastert, pending a full airing of the facts in his handling of the Mark Foley affair, in which the former Florida representative was caught exchanging salacious messages with teen pages in Congress. The new polling data, however, suggests that many voters already have made up their minds.
as glenn greenwald explains (see update V), things went from bad to worse after the resignation of foley's former chief-of-staff, kirk fordham. fordham at first appeared to want to keep things quiet, but after his fellow republicans immediately tried to make him into a scapegoat, fordham seemingly had a change of heart:
I intend to fully cooperate with any and every investigation of Mr. Foley's conduct. At the same time, I will fully disclose to the FBI and the House Ethics Committee any and all meetings and phone calls I had with senior staffers in the House Leadership about any of Foley's inappropriate activities.
The fact is, even prior to the existence of the Foley email exchanges I had more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest levels of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene when I was informed of Mr. Foley's inappropriate behavior.
One of these staffers is still employed by a Senior House Republican Leader.
Rather than trying to shift the blame on me, those who are employed by these House Leaders should acknowledge what they know about their action or inaction in response to the information they knew about Mr. Foley prior to 2005.
josh marshall has more on fordham.
meanwhile, apparently abc apparently made a redaction mistake (corrected as soon as abc discovered it), which an obscure right-wing blogger used to discover and, unconscionably, publish the identity of one of foley's victims. i won't link to that; i didn't even want to know the victim's name, though it's difficult to avoid by now (my link is to think progress, which also refuses to link, so it should be safe to click). but high-profile right-wingers like instapundit eagerly linked, spreading the victim's name far and wide. as michelle malkin notes, the victim's name is now one of technorati's top search terms. (and seriously, when michelle malkin thinks her fellow republicans have gone too far, they have gone way, way too far.)
this story is developing so quickly that it's hard to keep track of it all, let alone actually write about everything. for the latest, i'd recommend checking tpm muckraker as well as abc's the blotter (which broke the story).¶