Eugene Volokh is outraged over Dennis Hastert’s comments on FoxNews:

Here in this campaign, quote, unquote, “reform,” you take party power away from the party, you take the philosophical ideas away from the party, and give them to these independent groups.
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. And I…
WALLACE: Excuse me?
HASTERT: 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. The fact is we don’t know where this money comes from.

Volokh’s response:

Hastert’s substantive criticisms of campaign finance may be legitimate — but the suggestion that Soros might be getting money from illegal drug distributors, even as a hypothetical example, is pretty reprehensible. (Imagine that, say, Ted Kennedy said “I don’t know where Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are getting their money, if it comes from overseas or from neo-Nazis”; I take it that we’d be pretty appalled, even if Kennedy was just giving a hypothetical example.) And while “drug groups” may be slightly ambiguous in other contexts, where it might refer to pro-drug legalization groups, in this context it pretty clearly does suggest drug criminals, partly because Hastert didn’t deny the connection when Wallace raised it and partly because the pro-legalization groups are funded by Soros, not the other way around.

But that’s not the case at all. It was Wallace, not Hastert who used the term cartel. Hastert’s phrase was drug groups, and he was careful to emphasize the point that the funding for independent groups is largely unknown. After Wallace asked whether he meant cartels, Hastert said it ‘could be people who support this type of thing. I’m saying we don’t know.’ Was this a calculated attempt to smear or a careless answer to a question?
And is it reprehensible? It seems to me too close a thing to appearance politics when a response to a question in a live interview is put under the microscope and evil machinations are imagined. If we want to begin calling such comments reprehensible we’re soon ready to censure, and we reinforce the current climate in which every misstep pours outrage from all quarters and leaves only the bland and overly cautious on the stage.
The fallacious analogy doesn’t hold either. The Swift Boat Vets are not to Naziism as the legalization advocates are to the drug industry, and that comparison could only have been chosen for high rhetorical effect.
Of course singling out George Soros was stupid, and of course Soros is right that criminalization does more harm than good. And it’s clear that Hastert disagrees and sees him as a threat. But should he be roasted over this?