From NBC's Mike Viqueira and Kelly O'Donnell
President Bush says he was "dismayed," "shocked," and "disgusted" to learn of former Rep. Mark Foley's behavior. Still a senior Bush Administration official says, "We believe [Speaker Dennis] Hastert is getting a hold of the situation. No indication that he plans to step down. The President supports him." House Majority Leader John Boehner, meanwhile, has sent a letter to the Washington Times editorial board denouncing their call in this morning's edition for Hastert to resign over his handling of the Mark Foley scandal.
The perception had been building that Boehner and House GOP campaign committee chief Tom Reynolds are trying to distance themselves from Hastert. Boehner told local Cincinnati radio that the Foley scandal is Hastert's to deal with ("It's in his corner. It's his responsibility"). Last night, Reynolds had a presser back home in Buffalo where, surrounded by children of supporters, and with his voice at times quavering, he said once again that he had told Hastert of the first batch of e-mails way back in the spring.
Hastert and aides are said to be making calls to other GOP members and others, touching base and gauging support. The Washington Times editorial came after a House GOP Conference call last night on which members, especially social conservatives and politically vulnerable members, expressed displeasure at the scandal and the way it has been handled. Social conservatives as a whole are said to be livid.
This spells trouble for Hastert. Yes, he is beloved by House GOP rank and file for his unassuming and personable style. Republican aides and others who are have spoken to Hastert staff this morning, and others who are close to Hastert, say that they cannot imagine that he would step down -- or imagine any members of the House GOP calling for his head. But with an election coming that could mean the end of the GOP majority in the House and the base so upset that they may stay away from the polls, Hastert has some work to do to buck up Republican voters and get this behind him.