Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Foley Affair

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I haven't written anything yet on l'affaire Foley (a.k.a., Foleygate), but it now seems that "[t]op House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children’s issues. This according to The New York Times. See also Roll Call, which is reporting that "National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.)... had informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of allegations of improper contacts between then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and at least one former male page, contradicting earlier statements from Hastert". And, of course, see The Washington Post.

Steve Benen sums it up: "One of the things that makes this ongoing story interesting is that the Speaker's office can't keep its story straight. Hastert knew, then he didn't, then his office knew. Now, straight from the NRCC chairman, he did know — but apparently didn't do anything... Given what we've learned, it seems the GOP House leadership considered politics first, the well-being of teenaged pages second."

Some other reaction from the blogosphere, along with my own:

Chris Bowers: "Dennis Hastert should start to consider resigning his leadership position. He has abandoned all oversight of how his caucus is run." Agreed. There's no excuse for what Hastert did.

Glenn Greenwald: "It goes without saying that having a predatory Congressman sexually solicit teenage Congressional pages is a serious problem and the House leadership had a responsibility to act when they learned about it. And here, they clearly appear not to have taken action due to the political desire to protect Foley's seat." Politics is a dirty game, as I recently wrote, but this amounted to covering up illegal and highly unethical behaviour.

For more, see Jane Hamsher, Pam Spaulding, Brad DeLong, Ed Morrissey, and many others.

To me, this story more or less speaks for itself. The e-mails were highly inappropriate, to say the least, and Foley has resigned. Hastert and the Republican leadership knew of the e-mails but kept quiet.

All pretty clear, no? Someone in the leadership ought to step down, and that someone ought to be Dennis Hastert.

Two other excellent posts worth mentioning:

Andrew Sullivan on being in the closet and what that does to you: "What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility. From what I've read, Foley is another example of this destructive and self-destructive pattern for which the only cure is courage and honesty."

Barbara O'Brien on the essentially human aspect of this story: "I sincerely hope that Foley's conduct amounted only to inappropriate e-mails. Whatever it was he might have done, however, we’re likely to find out that lots of people either knew or suspected Foley’s behavior was inappropriate, yet they couldn’t bring themselves to confront him. Or if they did speak to him, they still covered up for him. This isn’t a Republican thing, it’s a human thing... I suggest it would be more helpful if everyone resolved to notice, acknowledge, and act upon inappropriate behavior between adults and children and not ignore it or cover it up. This doesn’t mean engaging in vigilante witch hunts; just stop the denial."

With revelations of Hastert's cover-up, this has become a political affair that strikes the very top of the Republican leadership in the House. As Barbara puts it so well, however, this is essentially a human affair, from Foley's life-long repression and closeted sexuality, to the whispers and rumours around Washington, to the denials from all involved, to the political cover-up, right through to Foley's resignation and where we are with this story today. Stopping the denial would be a good start, but, given the repressed state of American sexuality, not to mention the political culture in Washington, I wonder how likely it is that that will happen anytime soon.

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