Nobody will be putting up a statue of Dennis Hastert anytime soon, and if even the smallest of the allegations against him prove true, nobody ever will.
It will not matter that Hastert was a star high school wrestler. It will not matter that he became an inspirational coach who led the Yorkville High School wrestling team to a state championship. It will not matter that he was named “Illinois Coach of the Year.”
It will not matter that Hastert climbed his way up from the family farm to the halls of Congress, or that he served honorably as Speaker of the House during one of our nation’s most traumatic times, the days after the 9/11 attacks.
A legacy is built on a life, the whole of it. Honor is not limited to what the world can see.
If the federal charges against Hastert hold up, and especially if darker misconduct is revealed and substantiated, Hastert’s reputation will be in tatters, and deservedly so.
Hastert has been charged with lying to the FBI and making cash withdrawals from banks in a way intended to hide that he was paying $3.5 million in hush money to someone for “misconduct” years ago. Sources told the Sun-Times Friday that it was, specifically, sexual misconduct with a male.
It is important to stress that Hastert has only been charged. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
But a man who was once two heartbeats from the presidency is now in the fight of his life. His freedom and name are on the line.
The good we do, the achievements we can claim, are weighed against the bad we do, the failures we must own. That’s how we measure honor.
In Dennis Hastert’s case, it’s looking like all or nothing.