Frank Bruni is gay, openly so. That he would sketch out a column about the Denny Hastert case for the New York Times--Bruni is one of their regular columnists--may well be morally understandable. As he says himself, if what Hastert did with some of the young men he coached grew from his being deeply closeted as a homosexual man, then, at least to Bruni, what he did in the dark was an terrible shame because, as he says, "nothing healthy happens there."
Denny Hastert was, not long ago, third in line for the Presidency, should horror strike. He was not a particular charmer, always seemed just up from a nap in fact, and never stunned anyone with his wit or wisdom or chancy political gamesmanship. But he was "steady as she goes," and a beastly hard worker, greatly beloved by his constituency and the town where he'd once coached championship high school wrestling.
Not long ago, a judge in Illinois sentenced him to 18 months in prison, not for molesting the young men he coached (the statue of limitations had long since been imposed) but for "illegally structuring banking withdrawals" to retrieve a couple million dollars he paid out to a victim.
Let the record show that he was and probably still is a devout Christian, a Wheaton College grad, a conservative Republican who would have been happy being associated with "the Moral Majority." All of that was the public face of a man who, at one time in his life, molested boys on their way to becoming young men who looked up to a great coach who'd earned their trust by helping them win on the mat.
Frank Bruni could have written a "I told you so" about Hastert last Sunday, but he didn't. He could have mocked Hastert's frequent Bible studies with Tom DeLay, could have brought up Hastert's testimonies, could have listed the times Hastert publicly voted with conservative Republicans on matters that restricted the rights of gays and lesbians. It's fair to say, as Bruni does, that Hastert is pretty much exactly the kind of pervert who merits the most fevered hatred from Christian conservatives, one of whom he was.
Could have, but Bruni knows that hypocrisy has no particular politics.
Instead, Bruni opened up the sordid Denny Hastert story to marvel at the capacity we all have for what he called "compartmentalization," Here's the way Bruni says it:
Of all the abilities that human beings possess, perhaps none is as mysterious as our talent for compartmentalization. Each of us is multiple people, and different ones emerge in different circumstances and relationships. If we can never fully know somebody, it’s not simply because his exterior doesn’t match his interior. It’s because there are so many chambers inside, and a few are more hidden than others, even from the person himself.Pronoun usage throughout that final paragraph is all plural; the take-away, Bruni says, is not really about Hastert but about us.
We all have many faces, some of them mostly left unseen but nonetheless there. That, Frank Bruni says, is the moral of the Hastert story.
You can read Bruni's opinion piece here.