The Foley scandal has reached that point of implosion where the endangered pols are flinging anything and everything against the wall, praying that something will stick. So before the air becomes completely unbreathable, let’s just lay out a handful of principles that should be obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention:
(1) This isn’t about homosexuality, or, for that matter, homophobia. Certainly, the fact that Foley’s sexual come-ons were directed at teenage males rather than females grosses out some Republican leaders, along with most of their “base.” But this scandal’s offenses would be identical whether Foley was hitting on male or female pages. This story is about abuse of the power of office, betrayal of the responsibility not to take advantage of young people who are under your protection, and a party that placed protecting its majority over protecting those kids.
Which is why (2) “Blame the liberals!” is a non-starter. There is no logic to the right-wing diagnosis that Foley’s disgrace is a byproduct of liberal permissiveness and support for notions like gay marriage. (See David Brooks’s bizarre argument that “expressive individualism,” not political self-interest, is the root problem here.) Foley is a conservative Republican leader who wrote laws to protect minors from predators, remember? If making passes at pages is the inevitable end-result of support for gay rights, surely Foley would have had to wait in line for his fun behind a long list of jailbait-hunting liberal congresspeople. The only way this bizarre argument makes sense is if you believe that, beneath the surface, basically anyone who’s gay is itching to molest teenagers. Come to think of it, maybe this argument will make some headway with “the base.”
(3) It’s just like Monica? No. Why this story is different: (A) Monica wasn’t underage. (B) She was over the age of consent. (C) Did we say she was not a minor?
(4) Why it is similar to Monica: The disgraced politician(s) failed to tell the truth.
(5) Why it’s really different from Monica: The hypocrisy factor. Bill Clinton disgraced himself with his intern scandal, but the nation that ultimately forgave him understood that he’d lied about a stupid and weak mistake that really had nothing to do with the policies and ideas he stood for. Foley was a member of a GOP leadership whose party’s idea of “family values” excludes gays and which drums up votes by “tougher on pederasts than thou” positions. So his personal lapse not only harmed the kids he hit on; it made a mockery of his, and his party’s, policies.
(6) There’s no vast left-wing conspiracy here. How could there be? Dennis Hastert has echoed some of the nuttier right-wing sites in complaining that the whole Foley affair is somehow a late-election-cycle dirty trick — that it’s all the Democrats’ fault, that Democrats knew about this all along but waited till they could do maximum harm to engineer a scandal.
This notion evaporates on first contact with fact: When the page oversight committee chair heard about the complaint that started this scandal, he failed to notify the committee’s one Democratic member. And ABC’s original source for the story was no Clinton operative; it was a Republican who stepped forward. This whole saga is about information moving — or not moving — among Republicans. The whole point of the scandal is that some Republicans knew about Foley’s problem for years, and the GOP leadership failed to investigate or take action. Far better to hold onto a precious seat. They played dumb, and now they’re trying to play dirty, instead of clearing the air.
[tags]Mark Foley, Denis Hastert, David Brooks, Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky[/tags]
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