Thursday, October 05, 2006

Foley. "Mastur-gate". Alternate reality...

I had a dream last night. I dreamed that there was a media feeding frenzy over the actions of the Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives.

In this dream, which took place in a world not entirely dissimilar to our own, a Florida Republican congressman, unmarried and "openly secretly" homosexual, had developed, or attempted to develop, relationships with male congressional pages. There were no allegations that any actual sexual contact had taken place, but the House leadership was informed, by the parents of one of the pages, that there had been some e-mails from the Congressman to the boy which were described as "overly-friendly." Not explicit, but perhaps inappropriate under the circumstances.

The House leadership determined that this behavior was unacceptable, and took a hard-line with the Representative. Rather than just suggesting to him that he not continue to engage in that behavior, the caucus began an investigation. And when they discovered that the Congressman had engaged in sexually-explicit e-mails with an 18-year old former page, it seemed as though that had been a wise decision. The House formally began proceedings to expel the Congressman.

This began a firestorm. The first to jump were the Gay Rights activists, accusing the Republicans of taking an anti-Gay position. "Mr. Foley is surely not the first Congressman ever to be 'overly-friendly' with a page. What he is, however, is the first homosexual Congressmen since Gerry Studds to be 'overly-friendly' with a page. The anti-gay neanderthals on the right cannot abide this. They went after Studds, now they're going after Foley."

The media clamor began in earnest. The morning shows brought in analysts who spoke of the Republican party's obsession with people's sexual behavior. "The right-wing 'sexual McCarthyists' who went after President Clinton for his private sexual behavior are at it again."

The New York Times jumped in. "Once again, the Republicans are abusing the power of the government. Speaker Hastert didn't hire Mark Foley. Mark Foley is not his employee, not his subordinate. Mr. Foley works for the people of the 16th Congressional District in Florida, and it is their responsibility to decide whether his private sexual behaviors warrant dismissing him, not Mr. Hastert's."

The privacy debate was re-ignited. "All those who were concerned with the President's Domestic Surveillance Program find validation of those concerns here. Why are Mr. Foley's private and personal e-mail and instant messages being made public?"

And then I woke up. It was all a dream. The House leadership, rather than being castigated for obsessing over private homosexual behavior, violating privacy and abusing the power of the office, are being castigated for not doing those things...


For the record, I find Mr. Foley's behavior repulsive. Just as I found Bill Clinton's behavior repulsive. And Bob Packwood's. It's a grotesque abuse of the power of the office, and he's forfeited any right to hold that office. (As had Bill Clinton before him.) His resignation was appropriate. (As Clinton's would have been.) I want Mark Foley gone. (As I wanted Bill Clinton gone.)

Furthermore, the House leadership appears to have handled the situation badly. I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for Mr. Foley, and damned little for Mr. Hastert. But that said, I'm not certain the scenario existed, once Mr. Foley had behaved as he did, for the Republicans to come out of this without a media feeding frenzy. I'm absolutely convinced that the scenario I outlined above is both realistic and likely, had the leadership taken the steps that many are now castigating them for not taking.


There's one more aspect of this current frenzy that warrants comment. The mainstream press in this country has demonstrated absolutely no curiosity or interest in the provenance of this story. It appears to have a jumped to the media from a "blog" which seems to have been set up for the sole purpose of creating this story at a politically advantageous time for Democrats. The "independent" press in this country is behaving like a pack of well-trained hounds. Give them the scent of a Republican, and let 'em loose! Watch them go nuts! They've been played like an instrument, and not only have they not displayed the kind of resentment that they ought to feel, they don't even appear to have any understanding that that's what has happened.

None of that means that Foley's behavior isn't scandalous - it is. None of it means that Foley shouldn't leave - he should. None of it means that the House leadership has handled it well - they haven't. But it does mean that there's another story out there, and the press in this country doesn't appear to have any interest in it, because there's probably a Democrat at the far end, and not a Republican. If this story were about a Democrat, if it reflected poorly on Democrats and appeared to have been foisted into the media by a Republican, there would be significant investigative journalism taking place, and many stories about "dirty tricks." Have you seen any of that yet? No, you haven't. Because when a Republican reveals an unpleasant truth about a Democrat, it's a "dirty trick" - when a Democrat reveals an unpleasant truth about a Republican, it's a truth, and the provenance is irrelevant.

Technorati tags: Foley, masturgate, StopSexPredators, Hastert, scandal



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