On Wednesday night, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) spun tales of Democratic cabals and hidden agendas for the benefit of hungry reporters. Hastert told The Chicago Tribune that Clinton operatives knew about the allegations and were maybe behind the story's release. "I saw Bill Clinton's adviser, Richard Morris, was saying these guys knew about this all along," he said. "When the base finds out who's feeding this monster, they're not going to be happy.... The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros."
But yesterday, when a reporter prodded Hastert to repeat the performance at his press conference, he said, "I only know what I've seen in the press and what I've heard. There's no ultimate, real source of information, but that's what I've read. And that's what I've heard in the press." Later, he said he believed that Democrats "don't have a story to tell. And maybe they're resolving to another way to -- to -- another political tactic."
What gives? Whither his grand conspiratorial suspicions? This morning's Tribune has the answer:
Comments that Hastert made in a Tribune interview suggesting the scandal had been orchestrated by ABC News, Democratic political operatives aligned with the Clinton White House and liberal activist George Soros were considered a serious misstep in national Republican circles, an official said. Senior Republican officials contacted Hastert's office before his news conference Thursday to urge that he not repeat the charges, and he backed away from them in his news conference.
"The Chicago Tribune interview last night--the George Soros defense--was viewed as incredibly inept," a national Republican official said. "It could have been written by [comedian] Jon Stewart."