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October 05, 2006

The revolutions of '94 and '06

It's the kind of stuff you can't make up.

U. S. Rep. Mark Foley, a six-term congressman from Florida, founded the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. He was a chief architect of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which toughened federal sex offender laws. He sponsored a law that permits organizations like the Boy Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs to access FBI fingerprint records when vetting volunteers. He attempted to push through a bill outlawing websites that feature children in suggestive poses.

Through it all, it turns out, this public protector of children was in private exchanging emails and Instant Messages with minors, the content of which ranged from "overly friendly" to the sexually explicit. He was, in short, pretty much that which he professed to be fighting against.

Through it all, it also turns out, the congressional leadership, ever attuned to partisan considerations, turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to what was going on. In so doing, the leaders turned a story of personal shortcomings and failures into a crisis for the institution in general and for the ruling Republicans in particular.

Make that "deeper" crisis. Both Congress in general and the ruling party in particular were already about as low as you can go and still show up in public places. Former majority leader Tom DeLay is under indictment and is the subject of ongoing investigations. Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio has pleaded guilty to influence peddling and isn't seeking re-election. Former Rep. Duke Cunningham is in prison for taking bribes. The FBI raided the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William Jefferson looking for further evidence in a bribery case. A dozen or more other representatives are under investigation, many of them in connection with their dealings was lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Just when you thought the slime could get no deeper, along comes Rep. Foley -- actually, former Rep. Foley, since he resigned his seat this week and headed for a rehab center for alcoholics to await the outcome of various investigations into his conduct.

In the meantime, House Republican leaders are caught in one of those "what did they know and when did they know it" boxes. Dennis Hastert, the former Illinois high school coach who somehow or another ended up being Speaker of the House, declared last week he knew nothing until ... last week.

But Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he told Hastert about Foley's questionable emails last spring. Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, who is chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, also said he told Hastert about the issue last spring

. Foley's former top aide says he told top staffers in Hastert's office that there was a problem two and a half years ago. Former congressional pages -- teens who work for a period in the Capitol and formed the pool in which Foley went fishing -- report that as early as 1995, Foley's first year in Congress, the word was out among the kids that care in dealing with him was advisable.

Apparently, though, all that was ever done was that Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, chairman of the Page Board, visited with Foley, who denied anything untoward was going on. Shimkus told him to cease the emails and that was that. Shimkus, who made the call on Foley after hearing about the emails from the Louisiana congressman in whose district one of the recipients lived, tellingly did not share the information with the ranking Democrat on the Page Board.

Hastert's feckless lack of curiosity has made him the center of unwanted attention. The Washington Times, one of the conservatives' staunch press allies, has demanded the Speaker resign. So have various top figures in the conservative/religious/family values coalition that has otherwise been blindly loyal. Hastert was insisting at midweek he has no intention of stepping down as Speaker, but he was starting to sound a bit hollow.

A final irony: Foley was first elected in 1994, the year the voters handed Republicans control of a Congress made arrogant and corrupt by too many years of Democratic power. Now, he may have driven the final nail into the coffin of a Republican Congress made arrogant and corrupt by too many years in power.

Posted by jcb at October 5, 2006 09:25 PM

Comments

Perhaps your perspective is that the Republican party was made arrogant and corrupt by too many years in power, but to me the arrogance and corruption have been there all along. A couple of quick factoids come to mind off the top of my weary head this morning.

1. The Democrats held Congress for far, far longer than 10 or 12 years before needing "House Cleaning".

2. Gingrich, who was the architect of their '94 "Contract On America" resigned long ago.

I can understand your disgust with Democrats when the local faces are goons like Johnny G and Phil Hare who masterminded the last few illegal GOTV efforts on behalf og the local Democrats. Johnís also likely to be charged with criminal acts in the Blagovich patronage hiring scandal.

But, on the national level, the Republican's with their ties to the religious right (who in my mind are neither religious nor are they right!), are the ones who scare me.

Posted by: camp-pain at October 6, 2006 05:57 AM

This has been an interesting story to say the least. I think it is an unfortunate event. Even as a steadfast democrat, I hate to see this story. Because as you said it makes out congress look terrible. The leadership of both the legislative and excutive branches of government have made our country look pathetic the last few years. We are the laughing stock of the world. Things like this make me ashamed to be american. Its not the act itself that really makes it bad, its that so many people appeared to have known about it and done nothing. We just kept throwing young people in front of this man to corrupt.

I feel bad for those kids. They are the true victims in this case. They deserve better from our government and our congressional representatives. The whole country deserves better.

Posted by: Robbie at October 6, 2006 08:14 AM

I think one of the overlooked things when looking back at past scandals is how much the Republicans have claimed to be the morally correct group. They have spent the last 10 years pulling themselves closer to Christians in an effort to make themselves look like the 'good' guys and the Dems look like 'bad' guys.

But yet time has shown us that both groups are equally corrupt and misguided.

Posted by: Robbie at October 6, 2006 10:15 AM

Yes Robbie, for some it's comforting to know that the Republicans are just as corrupt as the Democrats. The result is that we go from corrupt Democrat regime to corrupt Republican regime, etc. Term limits in Congress are the answer, in my view. Let's give 'em less time to adapt to the DC culture of corruption.

The avalanche of anti-Republican "October Surprises" will continue until November 7th. I understand Colin Powell is coming out with a new book next week that claims GWB and the evil neo-cons brutally used and abused him, then just threw him away. Good soap-opera material, no? I smell a TV movie!

My bottom line is that if the Democrats can't win control of Congress with all these "gifts", they deserve the same fate as the Whig Party.

Posted by: paladin at October 6, 2006 12:44 PM

Smart prosecutors know the Adam Walsh bill to be a colossal waste of time and resources. It's another get-tough bill that creates a tracking bureaucracy for all sex offenders instead of jailing the most serious offenders and cracking down on the high risks. Foley won acclaim for this useless bill about the same time he was e-mailing lacivious come-ons to teen boys. Draw a 2,000 foot perimeter around the Capitol and keep congressmen away.

Posted by: Balderdash at October 7, 2006 02:14 PM

Hypocrisy kills. That's why Americans are ready to "drain the swamp" and clean out the House and the Senate in November. Democrats faced this angry mood in 1994, now Republicans face it in 2006. Americans are tired of the GOP's Washington follies and it's time for a change.

Posted by: values matter at October 8, 2006 12:02 AM

Wow! What a rousing endorsement: "Americans are tired of the GOP's Washington follies and it's time for a change" to Democrat follies.

Is there a way that both parties could lose and Congress could be disbanded? Considering the effectiveness of the last Congress (not!), I don't think anyone would really miss them. All Congressional business, except national defense, which is the Executive's responsibility, could be returned to the states. I think this would be a win-win situation and we wouldn't have to choose between Democrat corruption/hypocrisy and Republican corruption/hypocrisy, which is a lose-lose situation.

But if the Democrats don't get the gains they were promised by the press, a large segment of the Democrat Party will become totally unhinged. I look for psychiatrists' offices to be jammed, mass suicides and homicides, along with the obligatory charges of voter suppression and voter fraud. It won't be pretty.

Posted by: paladin at October 9, 2006 07:30 PM

Paladin, not sure what your point is. The GOP has controlled the House, the Senate and the White House for several years. They are the complete captains of this ship. If you're upset about ethics, the deficit, Mark Foley, etc., there is one party that has controlled every lever of power. I love the way you folks try to try to smear everyone when the going gets rough.

Posted by: values matter at October 10, 2006 06:20 PM

Gee vm, your remarks are so far out of bounds, I hardly know how to address them.

For one thing, if you believe that the GOP is the complete captain of the ship, you haven't been paying attention, especially concerning WH appointments and judgeships. The Senate is almost 50/50----don't the Dems have some responsibility for what happens in Congress?

You also need to update your talking points. The deficit is the lowest in 4 years, Mark Foley resigned immediately, and an investigation is being done, what more can be done?

I stand by my statement that if the Dems win control of congress we will be switching Democrat crooks and liars for Republican crooks and liars. I can only assume you are either age 15 or under, or had an attack of amnesia during the '90s, otherwise, you would remember the corruption, fraud, embezzlement, coverups and sex scandals of the Democrats in that era. Let me refresh your memory: in l994 5 congressional Democrats were indicted for a variety of ethics and criminal activities, including our very own special Dan Rostenkowski, who was then
Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Further, Democrats ensnared in sex scandals during the first 4 years of the '90s were Charles Robb, Daniel Inouye and Mel Reynolds, Bob Packwood being the lone Republican. Recent polls show the 49% of the country think Congress is corrupt-----that's both parties and both houses. vm, these are matters of fact and I think it's pathetic that you consider facts "smears".

Also in breaking news, Harry Reid has been discovered to have made a 1.1 mil windfall profit on property in LV-----which he hasn't owned in three years! Naturally, he didn't report this.I got this information from the AP, not some right wing blog.

Remember vm, people who live in glass houses.....

Posted by: paladin at October 11, 2006 03:42 PM

I stand on my original point: the GOP has controlled every lever of power for many years. The US House. The US Senate. The White House.

Add cable TV and talk radio.

And all they can do is whine about how life needs to change.

But you've been the captains during the mismanaged war in Iraq. You've been the captains that inherited a $300 billion surplus from Bill Clinton and built up an $8 trillion debt. You've been the captains of cover up in terms of the disgusting page scandal.

Let's see some accountability for a change. That's what real values and character are about, and, after all, values matter.

Posted by: values matter at October 16, 2006 11:03 PM