For Hastert and Reynolds, Twelve Excuses and Counting

Shortly after the Mark Foley scandal blew up, Speaker Dennis Hastert boasted to Rush Limbaugh that there was no knocking him off stride — he was planning to campaign in thirty different districts in the month preceding the election.

It’s not happening.

The cancellations are frequent but quiet, so it’s been nearly impossible to keep track of them all. The Washington Post last week put at 12 the growing tally of scrubbed events that were to feature Hastert or another scandal-tarnished figure, NRCC chair Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY).

By far the most popular explanation has been “scheduling conflicts.” Here’s a sampling of excuses:

Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA): a spokesman for explained that a Hastert fundraiser was “cancelled mostly because Sherwood had another major event the next day.” A Reynolds spokesman said that he’d dropped out of a Sherwood event because of “events in his own district.” But then The Washington Post went and ruined all that hard work by straigtforwardly reporting that Sherwood had “told both men not to come to his district, forgoing crucial campaign dollars to minimize additional negative news coverage.”Joy Padgett: When Hastert cancelled an event with Padgett, who’s running to replace Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), he cited “schedule conflicts” as the reason, The Columbus Dispatch reported. And lest there be any confusion, a Padgett spokesperson added that “the switch had nothing to do with the Foley scandal.”

Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-IN): When Hastert cancelled on him, Sodrel vaguely referred to a kind of schedule conflict, saying, “I suspect that he’s busy with other issues right now.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): McCain, who cancelled an appearance at a fundraiser for Tom Reynolds, knew that there was a schedule conflict, but just didn’t know what it was:

Asked where McCain plans to be instead of Reynolds’ $250-a-plate dinner in the Statler Towers, Goldman said, “We haven’t figured that out yet.”

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), taking a totally different tack, recently postponed a Hastert fundraiser because “its host … feared protests outside his house.”

That said, not all Republicans have mustered excuses. Rep. Ron Lewis’ (R-KY) spokesman explained that he was cancelling a Hastert fundraiser because “there’s more questions [about Foley] that need to be answered and until they are, it’s better that we don’t move forward with that event.” Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R), everyone’s favorite hyphenated write-in candidate, said simply, “It would be a distraction.”