Saturday, September 30, 2006

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has really been doing a terrific job of scoping out the dimensions of the Mark Foley story, which, it's now clear, really stinks from the head down. Foley, described as a "Lawmaker and Champion of Children" in a headline in this morning's New York Times that might have been written by W. C. Fields, made his name attacking sexually predatory behavior on-line and, as Marshall notes, may now have the honor of being charged under laws that he himself wrote. Even for a Republican--even for a Florida Republican--that's serious hypocrisy. But what makes the story really disgusting is that the Republican leadership apparently knew all about his little problem and tried to deal with it by keeping it a secret and telling pages to just stay the hell away from him, making them the political equivalent of those Catholic leaders who responded to news that they had a pedophile priest on their hands by transferring him to a new diocese, where he was invariably put in charge of the basketball team. When Louisiana Representative Rodney Alexander learned from a sixteen-year-old page he was sponsoring that Foley had been spamming him with electronic mash notes, Alexander reported the situation, not to the cops, but to the National Republican Congressional Committee, a demonstration of cynical, screwed-up priorities that seems to have set the tone for the party's decision that this was not a moral or legal issue but a potential public relations problem that just had to be finessed. Then, when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded that the matter be turned over the the ethics committee for investigation, Dennis Hastert and his army of the undead actually had the gall to make the usual noises about political bias and the injustice of it all, even though the story broke just as Congress was getting the hell out of Dodge and they did have the option of returning to their families while still clinging to a hangnail's worth of dignity by skulking out the servant's exit amid a clamor of "No comment"s. And not to bang away too hard at the bleedin' obvious, but these are after all the exact same people who not only though that it was a legal matter that Bill Clinton had fibbed about getting his knob polished, but who did their best to heighten the outrage factor over that affair by trying to sell the idea that consensual sex with a twenty-two-year-old woman was practically a form of child molestation. Whatever should or shouldn't happen to Foley, it just keeps getting clearer every day that Dennis Hastert needs to be sealed in a drum labeled "TOXIC WASTE" and buried somewhere along the Jersey shoreline.

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