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Bush gives Hastert a boost

The president stands firmly in support of the embattled House speaker during a campaign event.

Published October 13, 2006

CHICAGO - President Bush stood shoulder-to-shoulder with embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday, offering a powerful boost in his moment of need and saying the country is "better off" with Hastert leading the House of Representatives.

"I am proud to be standing with the current speaker of the House who is going to be the future speaker of the House," Bush said as he opened a speech to raise money for two Illinois congressional candidates.

The $1.1-million fundraiser provided the first picture of Bush with Hastert since a scandal broke involving a Republican congressman's sex-tinged exchanges with underage male pages. Although the president has spoken out in Hastert's defense, their appearance together was an endorsement of Hastert when polls indicate many in America feel he should resign.

Their long-scheduled fundraiser was sponsored by Hastert and came on the same day that the House ethics committee questioned former Rep. Mark Foley's chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, for five hours. Fordham has said he took complaints about Foley's conduct to Hastert's top aide three or four years ago.

Hastert's office has said it learned of Foley's conduct only last fall, and the speaker has said he first was notified in late September this year.

Bush defended him, without mentioning the Foley case.

"Speaker Denny Hastert has a long record of accomplishment," Bush said. "He's not one of these Washington politicians who spews a lot of hot air. He just gets the job done."

The crowd of Republican donors standing in a downtown Chicago hotel ballroom responded with loud applause.

"I have worked with him up close," Bush said. "I know what it's like to work with a speaker who is determined to protect the United States of America and a speaker who wants to make sure that everybody who wants a job in America can find one.

"He has delivered results for the people," Bush said. "This country is better off with Denny Hastert as the speaker and it will be better off when he is the speaker the next legislative session."

Whether Hastert and the Republican Party will remain in power in the House next year is unclear. Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to win control, and some observers say Republican-held seats across the country are in jeopardy in the wake of the Foley case, continuing violence in Iraq and the dissatisfaction with Bush's leadership.

The beneficiaries of the fundraiser - Republican congressional candidates Peter Roskam and David McSweeney - spoke warmly about the president.

McSweeney noted that although Bush lost Illinois in 2004, he won the district where he is running. "When the president comes to town, it provides good exposure," said McSweeney, who is in an uphill battle to oust freshman Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean.

[Last modified October 13, 2006, 01:18:11]

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