- Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert - having already enraged some New Yorkers with his remarks about local office-holders' "unseemly scramble" for federal money after 9/11 - yesterday opened a second front. On "Fox News Sunday," the Illinois Republican insinuated that billionaire financier George Soros, who's funding an independent media campaign to dislodge President Bush, is getting his big bucks from shady sources. "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where - if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years - George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know."
This wasn't a slip of the tongue, by the way. Hastert and his spokesman are sticking to the charge, despite admitting they have no evidence.
There are two possible explanations for what's going on here. The less depressing explanation is that Hastert thinks his constituents don't realize that Soros doesn't need to get money from anybody (or that drug cartels don't want legalization -- the tobacco companies would crush them in the market). The more depressing explanation is that the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and his staff, are that dumb themselves.