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Denny Hastert
Denny Hastert
Speaker: Lessons from 40 Years in Coaching and Politics
ISBN: 089526126X
Speaker: Lessons from 40 Years in Coaching and Politics
—from the publisher's website

Mr. Speaker!

Denny Hastert is one of the most powerful men in America—and yet chances are you know little or nothing about him. And Denny Hastert likes it that way. Not because he has anything to hide, but because he doesn’t care about who gets the credit, he just wants to get the job done for the American people.

In Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years of Coaching and Politics, Denny Hastert breaks his silence to tell a remarkable American story: of how he grew up among the fields of Northern Illinois, made a name for himself as a high school and collegiate wrestler, became a high school wrestling and football coach and civics teacher…and eventually found himself teaching, and learning about, civics in the most important forum in the world: in the United States Congress as Speaker of the House, the third most powerful man in government.

Speaker is a true Mr. Smith Goes to Washington story, full of lived-in wisdom, funny anecdotes, and straight talk about what goes on in the “smoke-filled” rooms of congressional power. Along the way, you’ll learn:

· The secret of winning in politics: under-promise and over-produce (the reverse of what most politicians do)
·The Hastert formula: Build a team, leave the spotlight to others, be honest, be fair, and stick to your objectives as tenaciously as a fullback hammering at the goal line
· Lessons from wrestling: there’s no one to blame but yourself if you get pinned
· The shock of September 11—or actually, the non-shock: how Speaker Hastert kept Congress running smoothly during the crisis
· How the Vatican could never find time to receive the Congressional Medal of Freedom that was voted for the pope—until it became clear that then-President Clinton would not be awarding it
· Speaker Hastert’s agenda for the next Congress

Speaker: Lessons from 40 Years in Coaching and Politics
Program Air Date: August 15, 2004

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Denny Hastert, author of, "Speaker," what`s the Granby roll?
DENNIS HASTERT, AUTHOR, "SPEAKER: LESSONS FROM FORTY YEARS IN COACHING AND POLITICS": The Granby roll is a move in wrestling that you can score from the bottom. Not many people do it. And it`s good in wrestling, it`s probably good in politics, too. If you can score when you`re on the bottom and keep winning, that`s what it`s all about.
LAMB: Where does the name Granby come from?
HASTERT: Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia. They were the instigator -- coach by the name of Bill Martin was -- instigated it and taught it. And it kind of passed through the East Coast. I picked it up in the Midwest, and it was one of our trademarks.
LAMB: When was the last time you were in a high school classroom, teaching?
HASTERT: Probably was about a year or two ago. I try to go back to my district and talk in a classroom from time to time. Actually, teaching as a teacher, the last time I did it was 1981.
LAMB: And what were you teaching?
HASTERT: I was teaching economics, history, government. I taught a business course over the years. I taught a speech course. And in a small high school you did everything. I even drove the school bus from time to time.
LAMB: Where`s this picture from, the one on top?
HASTERT: Yorkville High School.
LAMB: How old were you there?
HASTERT: I was probably 24 years old.
LAMB: I`m going to jump way ahead and show you a clip, and I`ll have you -- first, it`s a clip of Bob Livingston on the floor. Just so when people are watching it, they`ll know. Where were you in the chamber at that time?
HASTERT: I was sitting in the back row of the chamber, right near the door where folks come in off the elevator. That`s where -- I was chief deputy whip. That`s usually where I sat, and I kind of knew where everybody was on the House floor. That was kind of my position.
LAMB: What was the timeframe?
HASTERT: Well, the timeframe was December 19. It was a Saturday. We were back because of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. It was a House vote on the floor. I remember getting up that morning and thinking to myself -- you know, I taught history for years, and we went through the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, and it changed presidential history for years. And I`m thinking, What`s going to happen after we get done with this vote today? How`s history going to change? Little did I know that -- what would happen...
LAMB: So when Bob Livingston began to talk, you did not know what was going to happen?
HASTERT: Well, we knew that Bob had some problems, but we didn`t know what was going to happen.
LAMB: Let`s watch the tape, and then we`ll ask you about it.


REP. BOB LIVINGSTON (R-LA), HOUSE SPEAKER NOMINEE: To the president, I would say, sir, you have done great damage to this nation over this past year. And while your defenders are contending that further impeachment proceedings would only protract and exacerbate the damage to this country, I say that you have the power to terminate that damage and heal the wounds that you have created. You, sir, may resign your post.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order.

LIVINGSTON: And -- and...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order.

LIVINGSTON: And I can only challenge you in such fashion if I am willing to heed my own words. To my colleagues, my friends, and most especially, my wife and family, I have hurt you all deeply and I beg your forgiveness. I was prepared to lead our narrow majority as Speaker, and I believe I had it in me to do a fine job. But I cannot do that job or be the kind of leader that I would like to be under current circumstances.

So I must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow. I will not stand for Speaker of the House on January 6. But rather, I shall remain as a back-bencher in this Congress that I so dearly love for approximately six months into the 106th Congress, whereupon I shall vacate my seat and ask my governor to call a special election to take my place.

LAMB: What was going through your head?
HASTERT: Well, we were kind of stunned about the -- halfway -- after he had made his announcement, there was a page that came up, or one of our floor -- it wasn`t a page, one of our floor people came up, tapped me on the shoulder -- I was in the back row -- and said, The Speaker wants to talk to you. He`s on the phone in the cloakroom.
LAMB: Who was Speaker?
HASTERT: It Newt Gingrich. And I went to the phone, Newt says, You just heard what happened. You`re the only guy that can pull this conference together and lead it. And I was kind of dumbstruck at that point. Then people started to come up to me and said, You`re going to be the next Speaker. And for somebody who hadn`t planned on, you know, being a Speaker of the House and just doing his work, as I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a back-bencher, that was really an astounding situation.
LAMB: You said you called your wife at some point.
HASTERT: Right. I had called Jean after people said, you know, You`re going to be the Speaker. And I said, I -- give me a couple minutes to think about this. I need to talk to my wife. Bill Paxon, who is a good friend of mine, anticipated I was going to say that. He called my wife first and said, you know, Denny`s going to have to do this and -- you know -- so I called her. I thought Jean would say -- you know, she doesn`t live in Washington. We didn`t keep our home in Washington. She didn`t necessarily want to get involved in everything. She was teaching school at the time. And I would think -- I had thought that she`d say, well, you know, just for our life, we can`t really -- can`t do this.

And so I called. It was the first day of Christmas vacation, and I was anticipating -- you know, she was home. It`s was the first day home. It was a Saturday morning. And I called her up and said, What are you doing? And I thought she -- Well, I`m baking cookies or fixing the tree or doing something like that. And she said, Well, I`m watching TV. And I said, Well, you know what`s going on here. And she said Yes, I know. I said, Well, what do you think? They want me to be Speaker. Said, Well, you have to do what you think`s right.

And so I thought about it and contemplated and prayed a little bit and decided to do it.
LAMB: I wrote down two things that Jean is quoted as saying why your book, or you say about her. You say she didn`t like politicians at one point, and then later you said, not thrilled with your current job, which is Speaker.
HASTERT: Well, she -- she wasn`t thrilled when I became Speaker. It was just a lot more intense. You know, I had been home -- I work my district every weekend. I didn`t have the national responsibilities that I have today. I didn`t have to campaign all over the country, you know, almost every week. And I was home. I was home on a Thursday night or a Friday morning, and we worked the weekend. And we also -- you know, I had at least a day or a day-and-a-half off at home. And for me, going back to the district and getting my feet on the ground, being with real people, going to the hardware store or the grocery store, is a good way for me to unwind. And I needed to be back home. So I wasn`t sure what this job had entailed and how we`d handle it.
LAMB: In your book, you discuss the differences between you and Newt Gingrich. I have a question for you. When you retire some day, what will you do? Will you stay in Washington, will you go back home?
HASTERT: Well, I don`t live in Washington now, so I really doubt that I`d stay in Washington. I`ve thought about that a lot. And I guess that when I`m ready to retire, I`m going to have to face up to it. But you know, I think there`s opportunities out there. There`s a lot of things that you maybe would like to do. You know, there`s some ambassadorships maybe I would like to do. And I have a great interest in Japan. I got some interest in Europe.

But you know, that`s down the road. I have never set my, you know, flag that way that I want to do it, and probably, it`s the first time I`ve ever said it publicly. But -- so there`s some opportunities in the future that -- I think. But you know, I always said if you do the job that you`re doing now and do it well, you don`t have to worry about the next step. And I think I still could continue. I`m running for Speaker again. And Lord willing, if that happens, then I got another two years to do my job. And we`ll assess things from that point.
LAMB: The reason I ask you is that so many people who come to Congress now, in the House in particular, do not stay there. They go to the Senate or they go downtown and lobby.
LAMB: And whether or not that was in your veins.
HASTERT: Well, I -- you know, I`d never say never to anything. I`m not going to run for the Senate. I had an opportunity to run for the Senate and decided I like the House. I like what we do in the House. We get things done. I think the Senate is not my turf.

But you know, in a way, you bring up an interesting thing because we`re facing six open seats across the country right now. So in a sense, we`re a victim of our own success. These people have run. They`ve been successful, and now they`re moving on to other careers. We have to fill those open seats. So in a sense, it`s something that we have to constantly keep up with.
LAMB: I was struck when I read your book that so many of the characters in your book aren`t there anymore. And I just wrote them all down as I was reading about it. Bob Livingston, Newt Gingrich. Dick Armey, Bill Paxon, Steve Largent, Saxby Chambliss, John Sununu, Lindsey Graham, Tom Coburn, Susan Molinari, John Kasich, Bill Zellef (ph), and I know I`ve missed some.
LAMB: Almost -- other than Tom DeLay and a couple of others, the team that you started out with are gone.
HASTERT: Well, you know, that happens in Congress today. People used to say, Well, you know, you go to Congress, those people are there forever. The term limit -- you know, the term limit issue and all those things that we talked about -- you know, the average -- I don`t know what exactly the average term of a congressman, but it used to be for a long time. Today, it`s probably eight years or ten years is the average time that a person stays here. And they cycle off and do something else. A lot of those folks that you mentioned are either in the Senate or headed for the Senate. So I mean, they step up and do other things. Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham, and Coburn`s running for the Senate, and others. So you know, there`s other careers, too.
LAMB: Tom Coburn did this show once, and it was -- I think I can say without exaggerating, it was a -- the book was a real criticism of the House in this town. Did you read the book?
HASTERT: I read excerpts from the book.
LAMB: If you were going to criticize your own institution over there, after you`ve now been there for -- how many years?
HASTERT: This is my 18th year that I`ve been in the Congress.
LAMB: What would you tell those kids out there in civics class?
HASTERT: Well, you know, I always said -- you know, I taught government for 16 years. And when I first went to the Illinois General Assembly, I said, you know, the real difference here is the difference between theory and practice, that this place is a people business. It`s how you treat people. It`s how you deal with people is really how you get things done, not necessarily if you`re a great orator or if you`re a great attorney or, you know, a great writer. It`s how you can relate to people, bring them together and move them in a direction to get real legislation or real things accomplished.

And I would say that probably the most -- the biggest hindrance in that today -- that, you know, this -- the Congress was partisan when I came. I saw the huge difference in partisanship between the House of Representatives and the Illinois legislature that I was in. The Illinois legislature -- we were on the floor together, hours and hours and hours every day, and to go through the process. And we weren`t in as long, so things were compressed.

Here you went across the aisle, you talked to people, you shared a joke with somebody or a story with somebody from time to time. And there was a collegiality there, even across the aisle. You know, one of the things in Congress -- everybody goes back to their little own office and they watch a lot of the proceedings on TV. You come to the floor and vote. The people that you do get to know across the aisle might be people that you serve on a committee with or from time to time or have the opportunity to travel with. But there isn`t this really cross-cultivization -- you know, cross-pollinization, in a sense, that you don`t really get to spend time with people. I have some friends on the other side of the aisle, but they`re people that I`ve known for a long, long time and people that I respect.

But you know, so the incivility that people talk about in the Congress comes from two things. First, not spending a lot of time with people. You don`t -- you know, you`re off on your own thing. You`re in your office. You have constituents. You have, you know, your whole agenda, that your staff is driving you, that you`re busy all the time. And you don`t take enough time to deal with people on the floor.

The second part of that is when I first came to Congress, there were Democrats over -- had a plurality of over 100, I think. It was a huge plurality. And you know, I remember stories about their discipline within their caucus at that time. If somebody didn`t vote with the party or, you know, didn`t go with Tip O`Neill or didn`t go with Jim Wright, they might have lost their parking place or their locks were changed in their office or they lost their telephone or -- you know, things like that, little subtle differences and disciplines that they had, saying that, you know, that`s a time past, that`s a generation past. And probably, they could get away with that.

We can`t get away with that. I mean, we have such a tight margin that -- you know, sometimes when I first started, it was a 5-vote margin. Today we`re close to a 10-vote margin. Depends on who`s here and who`s sick. But you have to deal with your own party all the time and keep people on board.

You know, they call me a Speaker, but I really -- they ought to call me the listener because I spend so much time listening to people`s problems, trying to work through those problems, trying to make change possible for these people. And you have to pull your -- we`re so closely divided that you have to pull your team together all the time to get something done. And you just don`t reach across the aisle -- it`s impossible -- because they`re pulling their team together all the time, too, on a partisan basis. And you don`t get, you know, 20 boll weevils anymore to come over and cross -- and vote for a bill.
LAMB: You periodically in this book tell us how you feel about some other people. For instance, you say in the book that Trent Lott is not a good listener.
HASTERT: Well, I mean, Trent, I think, in his own way is a pretty dynamic leader. And he got things done, and he is a go-to-it guy. But he doesn`t -- at least in my experience, he didn`t sit down and listen to what you had to say very well. I mean, you got his information first.
LAMB: How much listening do you do?
HASTERT: I do a lot of listening. I -- I would -- you know, I watch other people in government. For instance, I watch Dick Cheney operate. Dick Cheney`ll come into a room, there`s a problem, he`ll sit and look over the top of his glasses and put his, you know, fingers on his cheek and listen maybe for 20 or 30 or -- maybe -- minutes or maybe an hour, and then finally say, Well, we need to do this.

I kind of do the same thing, not because I`m copying him, it`s just my nature. But I will listen to both sides of a story, both -- if there`s two people in conflict or two committee chairmen that you have to deal with or a person who wants to -- has a difficult time to vote for something, he needs to make sure that that bill can -- he can sell that bill back home or be represented back home in doing the right thing.

And so if we have to make a change in the bill or an adjustment, I`ll sit and listen and -- or if somebody feels that they`ve been short-changed by the leadership, you know, one way or another, the whole spectrum of leadership, I`ll sit down there and listen. I have to do that, and then try to solve those problems.
LAMB: You called Mark Shields and John McLaughlin, the two radio -- I mean, the television talk show hosts, loudmouths on television.
HASTERT: Well, I did at one time. You know, if you watch John, John doesn`t give much credence to any other person`s opinion, and Shields is just in your face all the time. So if you have those interviews, you don`t get much time to express. You maybe get banged on, but you never really get to express your opinion or your opinion is never really taken into focus.
LAMB: You give us an insider`s view of what happened around Newt Gingrich and the attempted coup. Start that story.
HASTERT: Well, I was whipping. I was chief deputy whip. We had an appropriations bill on the House floor, and I couldn`t find Tom, Tom DeLay, anywhere, because we had a problem. We had the coal folks that wanted to keep coal gasification funds in place, and we -- there was an amendment out there for -- to do away with the fire roads into the national forests. Environmentalists tried to do that. The people who were -- Montana and the Western folks that needed to keep their forests and try to keep fires down were fighting that amendment.

So I thought there was a possibility to tie up an agreement with the coal people and the forest people to, you know, hold down, and they would, you know, help each other defeat those amendments. But before I did that, I wanted to check with DeLay and see that, you know, if that was OK and that would go along with what his plan for this bill. I went to look for him, couldn`t find him. And finally some -- you know, called his office, said, Oh, he`s not around. This was, you know, 8:00 or 9:00 o`clock at night, so he`s got to be around someplace. And finally, somebody said, Well, he`s down in Paxon`s office, which was a hideaway down on the first floor, right across the hall from where Tom DeLay`s office...
LAMB: Congressman Bill Paxon of New York.
HASTERT: Bill Paxon`s office. And Bill was the chairman of the leadership at that time. So I went down there and kind of knocked on the door and walked in. They`re having dinner. And boy, just -- you know, both of these guys were very, very close friends of mine. The conversation just stopped. And I knew that there was something going on, something wrong. And so I said to Tom ,Oh, yes, go do whatever you want to do, which isn`t natural for Tom.

So I did. I figured if they wanted to talk about what they had to talk about, that`s fine. And so later that night, I got called into -- back down there, after we were out of session, and said, Well, you know, we have a real problem. There`s a group of young conservatives, mostly in the class of `94 but a few others, that want to depose Newt. They want to vacate the chair. It`s a parliamentary procedure. What are we going to do?

And you know, Armey eventually came into that discussion, and we had a long discussion into the night. DeLay went over and talked to those people. And as the story in the book goes on, it really kind of lays it out, what happened.
LAMB: Well, what was the reason for wanting to oust Newt Gingrich at that time?
HASTERT: Well, I think -- you know, this is in the eyes of people who -- I mean, there was the Tom Coburns and other folks like that, Lindsey Graham, that Newt wasn`t living up to their expectations. A lot of those folks had never really served in a legislature before, and you know, they really -- I want to say, understanding or didn`t accept the compromise that you have to do to get things done.

And I think Newt had a lot of good ideas. He certainly was a revolutionary. Probably the most intellectual political mind that I`ve ever really dealt with since I`ve been in politics. I mean, he`s always thinking, always trying to think around the bend or over the horizon. And you know, he`s a great political strategist. But Newt had a good idea every five or six minutes, and try to keep up with those things -- he moved around a lot. And the people wanted -- I think those folks wanted him to stay on a more conservative bent all the time. And quite frankly, some of those times, he -- Newt had to work with, again, a fairly narrow majority. He had to deal with the moderates that put him in power.
LAMB: But you show us up close and personal in this situation that you describe that even in your own party, there were people not telling the truth. I mean, you suggested Dick Armey wasn`t telling the truth back then.
HASTERT: Well, I mean, Dick Armey went into that meeting and said that, you know, he understood. DeLay came back, and I think Armey had the understanding that he would become Speaker if this thing blew up. And you know, it was the kind of, What if? What do we do? Who does what? And DeLay came back from that meeting and said, All these conservatives don`t want you as Speaker. And it really changed his mind and where he was going to be in his position. And you know, I kept saying, Let`s come back and let`s talk to Newt in the morning. We need to do that. Eventually, that`s what we did.
LAMB: Bill Paxon, who was involved in that is now what, lobbying?
HASTERT: He`s lobbying, has work in a lobbying firm in Washington.
LAMB: Steve Largent, who was involved in that, runs a telecommunications association, cellular phone, lots of money.
LAMB: And then Tom Coburn is running for the United States Senate.
HASTERT: Right. And Dick Armey`s out lobbying, as well.
LAMB: You were not happy when Dick Armey wrote an op-ed piece in "The Wall Street Journal."
HASTERT: You know, Dick and I worked pretty closely together the first four years of my speakership. And I think Dick was somewhat disappointed when Livingston stepped down and he really didn`t get the nod to be Speaker. And I think that`s a personal disappointment we would all have. And he was the next guy in line. But it just happened that way.

And you know, one of the things about Speaker, anybody -- you know, if you have half the votes in your conference, you can get elected to a party position or a conference leadership position. But in order to get elected Speaker, you have to have every one of -- almost every one of your people to get elected. That`s what happened to Newt in the first place because we had 10 or 12 people, maybe 18 people, that weren`t going to vote for him for Speaker on the floor. And you can`t get elected Speaker. It just doesn`t happen. And I think that was the realization that Dick had to face up to.

But you know, we worked together very, very closely. And Dick was a good ally of mine and a good friend. I was disappointed when he did the op-ed piece because he helped us put together the first Medicare bill that we passed, and the second Medicare bill, the one we did in the 106th Congress, the one we did in the 107th Congress, he was one of the leaders in helping put it together, and then criticized it in the 108th, when he wasn`t here. And I just didn`t -- I said, Dick, if you`re going to do that, you owe me a heads-up before you -- you know, I think I left him a memo on his phone. I said, you know, It`s not your enemies you have to worry about, it`s your friends that stab you in the back.
LAMB: As you know, they all have access to the floor, even though they`re not there anymore.
LAMB: They can go to the gym. They can go to the dining room. Do they come back, then, after you had these personal disappointments?
HASTERT: Sure. Dick caught me the next day, and we had a good conversation.
LAMB: It doesn`t -- but you suggest in here that there are times when, you know you break that bond. I think you told a story about Dick Gephardt and the chaplain, and you never were quite the same again. What`s the story?
HASTERT: Well, you know, one of the things -- first things when I first became Speaker -- the story is trust in this place, that the only thing -- the only commodity that you have to sell, the only ability for you to work with people is your word, your bond, and trust that people have in you. If people lose that trust, then it`s very difficult to get anything done. It`s almost impossible to be a leader.

And my situation, when I first became Speaker, I knew that Newt had a good -- a difficult time. I mean, he spent a lot of his time before he was in leadership, you know, bringing down Jim Wright. I mean, that was just the legacy that he inherited, that he, you know, had. And so there were a lot of Democrats that just didn`t like him. I figured when I became Speaker, I`d try to reach across the aisle. Even in my acceptance speech, I said, you know, I`m willing to go halfway, in some cases more than halfway. But you have to go halfway, too. And I was willing to reach across and work.

As a matter of fact, when the chaplain situation -- when Reverend Ford decided to retire as chaplain, I broke on tradition because the Speaker had always just made that decision. You just did it. And...
LAMB: Let me ask, though -- Jim Ford had been chaplain for how many years, roughly?
HASTERT: For 20 years.
LAMB: And he retired.
HASTERT: And he retired.
LAMB: And this would have been what year?
HASTERT: Well, it was the first year I was Speaker...
LAMB: In `99...
HASTERT: ... first term in my Speaker -- so it was probably 2000.
LAMB: In 2000.
HASTERT: And he came to me and said to me, I`d like to retire. And I said, Well, I`d hate to see you go, but you know, let me know. Give me some time. So instead of just making that decision, putting out a search committee myself and making that decision, I thought, Well, let`s do this on a bipartisan basis. And so we had seven or eight or nine members on each side, went out and did a search. I think they had 52 candidates, some number like that. And I said, Give me three candidates without prejudice, saying, Just give me three people. Don`t rank them. And then I`ll take it to leadership, to Dick Armey, myself, and Dick Gephardt, and we`ll make that decision.

And Tom Bliley was the guy that kind of headed it up for me, and Tom, you know, went through, and it was interesting because I kept talking to him. I said, Well, how`re you doing? And you know, 52 people -- how are you winnowing this thing down?

And I remember Father -- Father George from Georgetown University was one of the leading candidates. And all of a sudden out of nowhere, kind of out of the Catholic ranks, was this kind of undercutting thing that, Well, we can`t have a lobbyist, and this guy is a lobbyist, so he won`t, you know, be a good -- couldn`t be a good chaplain. I thought, boy, there`s some deeds going on here someplace. Somebody`s got some long knives out.

And so the recommendations finally came down, and one of the recommendations was a fellow that was a Swedish Covenant minister, went to the North Park College in Illinois. And Ted Vandermead (ph), who`s one of -- my counsel, is on the board of North Park. And you know, he was a good candidate, he thought. Another was Chuck Wright, who worked with the Pennsylvania legislature and was a Presbyterian minister, did a lot of things here with the prayer breakfast and prayer groups on a bipartisan basis. As a matter of fact, Tony...
LAMB: From Ohio?
HASTERT: From Ohio. Tony Hall...
LAMB: Tony Hall.
HASTERT: ... was his nominee. A Democrat guy put him forward. He had good credentials. And then there was Tim O`Brien (ph), who worked with -- for Marquette University in a people-to-people program or student exchange program.
LAMB: A Catholic priest.
HASTERT: A Catholic priest. He was the third guy. And as a matter of fact, I had some of my staffers who actually went through his program. And as a matter of fact, O`Brien was scheduled to marry one of my people at one time. And so, you know, we decided to take all those -- but when Tom Bliley gave me the list, he had it ranked one, two, three. And I said Tom, I want this without prejudice. I mean, just give me three names. I gave the list back to him, and he gave me the same three names back, only unranked.

And so we went through the process. And it was interesting because the fellow from the Swedish Covenant -- I don`t even remember the fellow`s name -- but he had a good interview. But from my point of view and my impression, it wasn`t anything outstanding. And Tim O`Brien, I think, was one of the next guys we had. And in our conversation and interview with him he said something -- he said, You know, I`ve been a scholar and worked with these kids and worked around Congress a good deal of my life. And he said, I would really like to do this job because I can be the chaplain. I can continue my writing.

And it was kind of a red flag that went off in my mind at that time. I said, you know, I don`t know if somebody -- if being a chaplain and working with, you know, personal conflicts that people have and doing all the things that you have to do with people`s own emotional situations around here, that I want somebody chroniclizing this, you know, putting this down and writing this thing. And that was kind of a negative to me.

And then Chuck Wright came in, and a lot of our members were pushing him -- Tony Hall was pushing him and -- because he had worked with the prayer breakfast and some of these groups. And I was impressed by him. He wanted to work with families. He wanted to bring people together. He wanted to do -- you know, almost like a parish minister or a parish priest, you know, work with the people. And that -- he was the only guy that really emphasized that part of it.

So in my mind, I thought he was the best choice. I talked to Armey, and he kind of thought that Wright was the right choice, as well. And then I talked to -- I tried to get Dick to come in, Dick Gephardt to come in and meet with us and so we could finalize this. It went on week after week after week. And he was campaigning. He was trying to run for Speaker of the House at that time. And so it was an election year.

And so finally, I got him on the phone, and I said, well, let`s just make a decision over the phone. I had these three candidates, down to the fellow who was the Swedish covenant minister...
LAMB: Dr. Dvorak.
HASTERT: Dvorak.
LAMB: Dvorak, yeah.
HASTERT: Dvorak, and then we had O`Brien, and then we had Wright. And I said, Dick and I have talked about it; we kind of like Wright. And he says, well, I kind of like Dvorak. He was my choice. And he said, let me -- I`m not going to do that right now, let me get back to my people. I`ll call you back.

Well, a couple of days later, he called me back and said, well, my people think we ought to go with -- Dick did that, he never made a decision on the spot, he always went back to counsel or to his folks, people who he talked to, and he said they like O`Brien, the Catholic priest. And he said, that`s where I`m at on this. And I said, well, we`ve got a 2-1 split on this thing. I said, Dick and I want to go with Wright. He said, well, you know, I`m not going to oppose you on it. So we all signed a letter and named Wright the chaplain.

Then things started to come back. Mike Stokke, who was my deputy chief of staff came back to me and said, you know, I was just -- a Catholic. He said, I was at mass last Sunday, and the priest came down to me afterward, or some dedication church -- it was something. He said, came to me after and said, we just had a meeting of bishops and this guy was the bishop of Peoria. And somebody I knew and had actually played football with in high school. And he said, you know, there is a -- says Hastert is anti-Catholic and Armey is anti-Catholic. And I said, what are you talking about?

And he said, well, that`s what is happening with these calls into bishops` meeting, and he said that`s serious stuff. So all of a sudden, this anti-Catholic thing started to build up.

You had a couple of people in the Democrat minority who were unhappy with the choice, decided this would be, in my opinion, would make good political fodder and really drive a wedge in for this coming election. And so here we have. All of a sudden, we have a religious thing. I`ve never intended -- never, you know, I tried to be open about it, and it was really a pretty nasty period and experience that I had to go through for the first year that I was speaker.

And finally, it got to the point that it looked like that Wright couldn`t become -- step in and really serve people as a chaplain. And I decided I just had to go, and I wasn`t going to accept O`Brien as somebody that wanted to come in politically and write about people`s lives. My impression of what he wanted to do. And so he was unacceptable to me.

So I went to father -- or Cardinal George in Chicago, a friend of mine, and said, look it, I`ve got a problem; give me three candidates, and he did. And I went and interviewed them one night in Chicago, kind of quietly, and came down, and Dan Coughlin, who was the vicar of the diocese in Chicago impressed me very well.

I`ll never forget that day. We brought him in, I introduced him, passed the resolution, made him the chaplain. And we went down to a press conference right off my office or right outside my office off the floor, and, of course, all the press were there, just because this was a big issue. And they said, first question, they said, aren`t you walking into a lion`s den? What do you think about this job? He kind of looked at them and said, well, you know, my name is Daniel, and that was the end of it. That was the end of it. But it was a nasty time.

And, you know, Gephardt, in my opinion, could have helped that and taken some leadership. He knew what the process was. He knew why we made those decisions. But he let this political thing fester, and I don`t think it was good for the House and I don`t think it was good for people`s ability to get together.
LAMB: But the way, you -- I was just noticing that you say in the book -- and I`m noticing that left leg is moving right now, that worries me because you say in the book that means something.
HASTERT: Well, I think every time I used to sit on the bench when I was playing football or coaching, that leg would go. So, anyway...
LAMB: What does it mean? Does it mean that there`s a -- are you tenser when that leg moves?
HASTERT: I never went to a psychologist and asked, I don`t know.
LAMB: We have some videotape. I want you to look at it. You`re doing something in this videotape. This is from the Reagan speech, that you write about in the book that you don`t like. Let`s roll it and see if you know what I`m talking about.

HASTERT: It`s an honor and a privilege to be here tonight. This place honors a true American hero and someone I personally look up to.

LAMB: Can you tell what I`m talking about?
HASTERT: My glasses?
LAMB: No. You say you don`t like to read speeches ever.
HASTERT: Right, right.
LAMB: Why were you reading one there, then?
HASTERT: Well, it was a pretty important occasion, and I think everybody had prepared remarks. Pretty formal. And actually, the remarks were printed for everybody, the distribution. But I think I am just better off talking off the top of my head, and of course, you have to know a little bit about the topic or the subject.

I hate to get tied down to text. I`m just -- I`m not comfortable with it. Some people can bring it off well. But sometimes I can do that, too. But I think that speech probably turned out all right. But...
LAMB: Did you ever write your speeches before you got to be speaker?
HASTERT: I never had to give that many speeches before I was speaker. But in the legislature, I always said when I first ran for the legislature, I had two speeches. I had a five-minute pep talk and a 40-minute lecture. And I always knew my material, and if I wanted to motivate people, I knew what I had to do. I did it my whole life. But giving speeches is just a little different game.
LAMB: Why did you write this book?
HASTERT: You know, I felt there were two things I wanted to do. First of all, I felt that I had gone through some extraordinary experiences since I became speaker. Came in at the height of impeachment. There was a lot of bitterness in the House of Representatives. People really didn`t trust government, weren`t sure about Bill Clinton. And then right after I became speaker, I remember I got called to the White House and we were going in to invade Kosovo. The next thing that happened, we were in this campaign, and after -- through the war in Kosovo, but in this campaign, and had the hanging chad campaign. And for a while people said, well, you know, you`re going to be the next -- you`re going to be a temporary president, constitutionally, and this thing was hung up and we couldn`t make a decision who was going to be the president.

It went before the Supreme Court, and if that got dragged out beyond January 20, by law I would have been president of the United States, temporarily, until this thing got resolved.

Then we moved one of the largest tax reforms and tax cuts for the American people in American history right after that. Right after that, we were -- September 11 of 2001. We spent nine weeks, I remember, in my office, almost every night, working together, bringing people together on a bipartisan basis, trying to make sure that -- writing the Patriot Act, to make sure that we could have pursued terrorists, make sure the airlines would fly and have some ability to do that, make sure that New York was put back together again, make sure that our defenses in this country, our homeland security was better.

And that was an incredible time in itself. And then we had the war in Afghanistan, we had the war in Iraq -- and that kind of brings us right up to this next election.

But it was an incredible six years. And I thought it`s better to write this down or to get this thing down while your memory is still fairly clear with it. And I tried to do that.

And the second thing I felt -- actually, two other things I felt. You know, all my life I`ve had somebody kind of help me out from time to time. You know, Bob Michael was a great guy, he kind of took me under his wing when I first came to Congress, kind of mentored me in a sense...
LAMB: From Illinois.
HASTERT: And I had a football coach in high school that kind of made me realize that I could do some things that I never thought I could do before. And throughout my life, I had some people. Tom Ewing, when I first came to the Illinois legislature, helped me out, and then I helped him come back to Congress.

And just good friendships and people who really helped you. And I think that`s important. And I tried to do that in my own career, bring people along and make sure that they have an opportunity, even the most junior members, to see, you know, an opportunity to move forward.

And the second thing in that respect -- you know, I`ve come from a pretty humble background, I guess you`d say. We were -- we had tough luck in a small business and changed businesses, we always worked hard. You know, I never got a paycheck until I was 18 years old. And --but you always made do, and you worked hard and you did everything you had to do. And partly, you had a responsibility as a family and working together.

And whatever success I had in high school, you worked hard, and, you know, I never went to an Ivy League school or never had a lot of means to do things. As a matter of fact, 25 years ago if somebody told me when I was teaching school and coaching, just 25 years ago that I`d ever be in Congress, let alone speaker of the House, I would have laughed at them. I would have said, you know, that`s kind of a crazy idea. But ordinary people do have the opportunity to do extraordinary things if they`re given the opportunity. And I think that`s something that we can`t forget about this country.
LAMB: Did I read in here that your original motivation to leave being a teacher, per se, was you needed money to put the kids into college?
HASTERT: Well, I was looking for a little bit better economic help from the school district, a side job or whatever else. And it was kind of a story that I always talk about. I went to the superintendent and said, you know, I`m coaching, I`m working part time, I`m department chairman, I`m teaching three or four topics, subjects, and I need a little help.
LAMB: How much were you making then?
HASTERT: I was making probably $19,000 a year.
LAMB: What year would that have been?
HASTERT: Probably 1980, `79. So anyway, I went to him, talked to him about it, and he kind of scratched his head and said, what`s your masters -- do you have a master`s degree? And I said sure. So what`s it in? I said, history and philosophy. He looked at me, shook his head and said, that`s not going to do any good. We can`t do anything with that.

And he said, tell you what, you go back to summer school, pick up six or seven hours in supervision, and he had an opening as a junior high principal. And not even (ph) be an assistant principal in a junior high, it was assistant principal in a junior high.

And he said, you know, you can get on a better income track. The principal was a good friend of mine in high school. I used to go down there and he always has seven or eight chairs sitting outside of his office, they`re always full of kids that were, you know, kicked out of study hall or talking in English class or couldn`t behave on the bus, and he had to deal with these same kids every day. Other side of his office was teachers. You had to deal with teachers` problems, real problems, and help them along.

And I said, you know, I don`t want to do that for the next 20 years. And there was an opening in the legislature, and so I just kind of said, well, I`m going to run for the legislature, and I did. And everybody kind of made fun of me, the wrestling coach running for wrestling -- you know, for legislature, that`s absurd, but I won, and spent six years there. I had six great years in the legislature. I was a Republican leader on revenue, Republican leader on appropriations, and rewrote the Public Utility Act and the Telephone Act in those six years.

So I had great opportunity. People helped me there, too. And then ran for Congress in my little state rep district. I had parts of three congressional districts. Two of those congressmen resigned within three days of each other, after the nomination took place. It was George O`Brien and John Grapper (ph), they both had terminal cancer and stepped down their nomination. So I thought, if I`m ever going to run for Congress, it better be now.

And I wasn`t even sure if I was ready. So in `86, I ran for Congress and won. Came here in `87. 1994, you know, I was on both the Transportation Committee and I was on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and worked with Ed Madigan, and all these things. And then we took the leadership in 1994. In that election, `95, I became chief deputy whip; four years later became speaker.

I said, you know, life has come full circle, because in my office, I got a beautiful office, chandelier -- I`m a wrestling coach. Never thought I`d have an office with a chandelier in it. Beautiful view down the Mall and the national Capitol. But outside of my office, I have these seven or eight chairs, and I`ve got these people I have to talk with every day and try to solve problems. And people coming in my office all the time. So I`m kind of the principal of this place.
LAMB: Do I count right that you`re the 51st person to be speaker of the House?
LAMB: And the Republicans at one point had a six-year or three-term limit on the speakership.
HASTERT: It`s an eight-term limit.
LAMB: Eight?
LAMB: Do you still have it?
HASTERT: No. As a matter of fact, unsolicited by me, they decided to remove it last year, or last Congress.
LAMB: And you have been elected -- you`ve been to the speakership how many years?
HASTERT: Three. Three terms.
LAMB: So it`s six years. And there have been a bunch in the past who have had six years, including Joe Cannon, I believe.
HASTERT: I believe Joe was there probably eight years.
LAMB: You got a book on Joe Cannon that you wrote about.
HASTERT: Right. Right.
LAMB: Who gave it to you?
HASTERT: One of the former staffers of -- John Beginner`s (ph) former staff gave it to me. He`s now in the White House now. But he gave me two books. One book was a book on Joe Cannon, and the other book was just a kind of anthology of a lot of different -- all the speakers. And the first book I started going through and looking at all these speakers that preceded me. It was an older book, so it probably didn`t have the last couple of speakers in it, but all those speakers that preceded me, it kind of worked up the ladder. They started out as a lower party official, and then became maybe assisted conference leader, then a conference leader, then up to deputy whip, and then whip and then, you know, majority leader, and then finally speaker. And you know, they were in their late 60s or 70s or maybe 80s by the time they got to be speaker. And they lived two years and died.

And I thought, boy, this doesn`t have much future, this job. But if you go through the history, it`s interesting to see it.
LAMB: I want to show you a clip. I`ll have you explain it afterwards. It kind of speaks for itself, but here`s Bill Thomas.


REP. BILL THOMAS (R), CALIFORNIA: It`s been said that our strengths are our weaknesses. Or, as my mother would have put it, when they were passing out moderation, you were hiding behind the door. I believe my intensity has served useful purposes, fixing problems and passing laws that otherwise may not have made it. But when you`re charged and entrusted with responsibilities by you, my colleagues, as I have been, you deserve better. Moderation is required.

LAMB: What were we watching?
HASTERT: Well, this is after a flap that Bill Thomas and the ranking member of Ways & Means got into a conflict, he said/he said type of finger-pointing type of thing. There was a altercation in the room, and the Democrats left and occupied a library and were asking press to come in, and it further kind of irritated Mr. Thomas.

And he called the Capitol Police and it didn`t happen, they didn`t come and escort them out, but it was an altercation that was about ready to happen, and it came to a situation with attention on the House floor.

You know, Bill Thomas is a guy who I think is just a brilliant legislator, a very smart man, probably one of the smartest guys, along with Newt Gingrich, that I ever worked with. Just huge intelligence. And has a very intensive drive to get things done.

Sometimes, as he said, the moderation of that gets in the way of accomplishing some things. But it was a very humbling time for Bill, but we got it worked out.
LAMB: Did he change at all after this?
HASTERT: Well, he got it worked out. Bill constantly amazes me.
LAMB: When you were back as a teacher, and I must say I was a little surprised to read this, and I want you to explain it. You used to have your kids read two books, Upton Sinclair`s "The Jungle" and John Steinbeck`s "Grapes of Wrath." And when I read that, I thought it`s interesting that a conservative Republican who taught would have his kids read those two books.
HASTERT: Well, I had them read other books, too.
LAMB: I know, but those two, and you mention them in the book.
HASTERT: Those two books I think were important, because I wanted kids to understand, if you`re teaching history, at least to understand what the culture was like, what the challenges were like. You know, people could understand most of our kids at that time, they were still -- just up to that point, there was stockyards in Chicago, most of them were farm kids, they took their cattle into Chicago. As a matter of fact, for a lot of kids, when I first started teaching, Chicago meant going to the stockyards, it didn`t mean going to Chicago.

So they could relate to this, but they could not relate to immigration and all these people coming in. So this was a good book to read about struggle, about how things changed and why society basically changes, and conflict, and teach about change.

"The Grapes of Wrath" was the same thing. You know, dust storms in Oklahoma and people who had to immigrate, and people who were living on a shoestring and trying to strive to get by and the problems they had gave you a setting for history, and you could explain, better explain why presidents got elected, why people -- you know, what issues were.

And so I liked to use literature as a backdrop for teaching history. I thought it was great.
LAMB: You compare driving a bus, a school bus to running the Congress of the United States.
HASTERT: Well, I said driving a school bus, which I had to do. We were a small school, 350 kids. If you coached, you really needed to drive the school bus because you had to take your teams by yourself once in a while. But -- so if you did that, on a snowy day or a bad day, you always got that call at 5:30 in the morning, because some driver didn`t show up and would you please run this route.

But I always said, driving a school bus with a load of kids on it, it was like being speaker of the House. First of all, you had to keep this huge machine or institution going straight down the road. You had to make sure all the charges you had behind you behaved themselves; at the same time, you had to look up at this huge mirror and watch your back. And I think there`s some similarities.
LAMB: The speaker has what individual powers? You talk a little bit about the ability to appoint chairman. You have more votes than the rest of them. Explain that.
HASTERT: Well, what we do is a Steering Committee every year, which appoints chairmen and appoints other people to certain functions in the House, but that`s important. And who chairs really is -- you know, so many times chairmanship was just a function of seniority. And the oldest guy standing, who had the most seniority, ended up being the chairman.

We`ve tried to look at that a little different. Who can best energize, who can best carry out our policies and get things done. And so we`ve looked at chairmen. We do a screening process. The Steering Committee also appoints people to committees. So that`s a very powerful thing to be able to do. And I have more votes than everybody else. But you know, cumulatively, everybody else has more votes. So, again, that`s kind of a team work as well, with people who are elected to the Steering Committee, and then leadership that sits on that Steering Committee. We try to put the best people in place to get the job done.
LAMB: What does Jean think of your job now?
HASTERT: Well, as a matter of fact, Jean is retired from teaching, and she has been very supportive. As a matter of fact, you know, my district has changed a little bit back in Illinois. She spends -- Jean loves to golf, so she does all the golf outings. We have a deal, you know, I`ll do the politics, you do the golf outings.

So she goes out to all the districts -- and I run from the very far western suburbs of Chicago all the way to the Mississippi River. So she`ll do that. She`s the vice president of the women`s Republican organization in Kendall County, which is my home county, but one of the smallest counties in the state. And they have 200 and some women in that organization. It`s a very viable thing. She does the Garden Club, and so she likes her life. I don`t think she`s ever ready to come back to Washington. But we don`t live in Washington; we live in Illinois.
LAMB: What actual city do you live in?
HASTERT: A little town called Plano, Illinois, which is just about 60 miles west of Chicago.
LAMB: How old are your three boys?
HASTERT: I have two boys. One is 26, and I believe the other is one 29.
LAMB: Just two children?
HASTERT: Two children.
LAMB: And what do they do?
HASTERT: Well, one is going in his final year of law school at Northwestern this year, finally. I hope he gets a job. That`s Ethan.
LAMB: Ethan.
HASTERT: And my other son works here in a government consulting company in Washington.
LAMB: Josh.
LAMB: But you say that government consultants are really lobbyists.
HASTERT: Well...
LAMB: But they like to be called government consultants.
HASTERT: Well, whatever. Right.
LAMB: What kind of a lobbyist is he?
HASTERT: Well, I think he just does general things. I keep arm`s length; we don`t talk about what he does. He doesn`t come to my office on government. So I really don`t follow what he does.
LAMB: Do you worry at all that he uses your title, your name?
HASTERT: No, I don`t think Josh does. We have an understanding. He just doesn`t do that.
LAMB: If you had to go back in that classroom today on a permanent basis and teach civics and government, what would you tell them about this job, this Congress, the way it works that you didn`t know before?
HASTERT: Well, you know, I actually taught for a little while when I was in the legislature, but just time demands became so great. And you could bring a much more human view into Congress, with practical -- and I would emphasize rather than, you know, the mechanics of how a bill becomes a law and, you know, everything that the tenants of the Supreme Court, talk about real things, how real people get things done in this place, and how the dynamics work.

And again, I think there`s an object lesson that anybody that has a desire to do something and disciplined to do something gets something done. That`s always been kind of my mantra when I was coaching or in politics. And I think that`s something that I would talk about all the time.
LAMB: Will the relationship of the money ever change in relationship to the Congress? All the money that`s needed and comes from the businesses and the lobbyists and all that, and you know, to go back to the whole discussion on McCain-Feingold, and obviously a lot of things have happened that they didn`t anticipate?
HASTERT: No. You know, as you well know, I opposed McCain-Feingold, because the tenants, what they call soft money as opposed to hard money. Hard money came from individuals in pieces at that time of $1,000 or less. Soft money came from corporations, didn`t go directly to candidates, but went to parties. And so what McCain-Feingold did was eliminate soft money to parties.

Now, I feel that parties are traditional in this country. Because if you wanted to help somebody run for state representative or state Senate, or somebody in the city council or county board, you could do that, you could work and help those people.

Today, with the lines between that McCain-Feingold presents, it`s almost impossible to go campaign for somebody that`s not in a national office, and you can`t even campaign for president, because then you have to try to meld those two campaigns. It`s made it so difficult.

So it`s almost taken the party out of the ability to decide, you know, who`s going to -- to build, to build party organizations within a state or in a county.

And so what it has is moved it to these soft money organizations that aren`t really called soft money organizations, 527s. So a guy like George Soros, for instance, who has millions and millions of dollars, can come in and stick $10 or $20 million. Nobody knows where that money comes from, whether it comes from foreign services, there`s no track to do it. And so you have a different type of soft money influence.

I just think it`s wrong. And I think it ought to be repealed. And I think there`s two things you need to do in campaign finance reform. I`ve always said that. No. 1, if people are worried about the money and the process, then there has to be a transparency. And if you get a $5 check or a $100 check or a $1,000 check from somebody, they ought to go up and who that money comes from, period. So there`s a transparency. People see -- and you can do that with the Internet today. Within 20 minutes, you can have that on the Internet.

The second thing is, I think most of the money ought to come from a person`s district, at least the majority of that money. So people who elect you have a say in how this candidate comes about. And not somebody from outside interest groups.
LAMB: Would you move for that yourself?
HASTERT: Absolutely.
LAMB: In the next term?
HASTERT: I -- I want to assess how this election goes. I don`t want to say -- I want to watch this thing go through one election, but I`m ready and prepared to do that.
LAMB: Any interest in beating Tip O`Neill`s record of serving the longest straight speaker of 10 years?
HASTERT: Well, I think that records are not necessarily in this business are -- set to be broken. I just hope that in my tenure that I can do a good job while I`m there. And when I can`t be effective anymore, then it`s time to step down and do something else.
LAMB: Where was this picture taken?
HASTERT: I don`t know.
LAMB: This is the took. It`s Denny Hastert, speaker of the House of Representatives. Thank you very much.
HASTERT: Thanks, Brian.

Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.