May 06, 2004

Hastert’s Finesse

Not COOL, Mr. Speaker
By The Journal Editorial Board
Rapid City Journal
May 6, 2004

Last week, U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was in Rapid City campaigning in support of Republican Larry Diedrich’s bid for South Dakota’s vacant House seat. Our reporter asked the speaker why legislation to implement country of origin labeling on meat products was being held up. Hastert answered that the law that Congress passed in 2002 was flawed but he supports COOL and that a meat labeling system was inevitable.

Hastert’s response was good news for Diedrich because it’s a popular issue in South Dakota and his Democratic opponent, Stephanie Herseth, also supports implementing the COOL legislation.

On Tuesday, Hastert’s press secretary, John Feehery, told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that the speaker was misunderstood. Hastert supports voluntary meat labeling - the meatpacker and feeder industries’ position - not the mandatory country of origin labeling favored by beef producers and Diedrich. “What he said is that he thought it was going to happen, but that is different from supporting it happening,” Feehery told the Argus Leader.

It depends on what the meaning of “mandatory” is.

We stand by our April 30 story. Speaker Hastert told our reporter that he supports country of origin labeling - “We need to do it, we need to do it right” - and what’s more, we have it on tape. Hear it for yourself on our Web site (Hastert phone interview with Journal reporter Denise Ross, about 5:30 p.m. April 29): http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/webaudio/hastert2.wma.

We wonder how this helps Diedrich. Hastert comes to West River to campaign for a crucial House seat, and he says he supports COOL, which thrills South Dakota cattlemen; a few days later, his spokesman says he was misunderstood.

Hastert is saying one thing in South Dakota and another thing in Washington, D.C. It’s too bad there isn’t state of origin labeling on political rhetoric.

This is funny because he made a similar idiotic mistake in the last special election in Kentucky, where he promised a tobacco buy-out, but only if Republican Kerr was elected, essentially attempting to blackmail voters.  At the time, the Jessamine Journal’s Randy Patrick had this to say:

At a $50-a-head fund-raiser, Hastert told farmers that if Kerr were elected, he would work with her to push a tobacco-buyout bill through the House Agriculture Committee and bring it to the floor of the House for a vote…

Now the Republicans are holding a gun to the farmer’s head and saying they won’t even do that unless Kentuckians vote for their candidate.

Maybe DeLay should get somebody a little less ham-handed to be his innocuous front man.


Want the latest updates? Follow the DCCC on Facebook and Twitter: