Monday, October 02, 2006

Turning the page

Mark Foley, Republican congressman from Florida, resigned last week after ABC News published sexually inappropriate emails and instant messenger chats between him and underaged congressional pages. In a bitterly ironic twist, he may be subject to the online predator act he sponsored earlier this year, since it is not illegal to have consensual sex with a 16yo but due to his law it is illegal to solicit sex with a 16yo over the Internet. Regardless of the legal technicalities, this stands as a gross abuse of his office.

Even though it now comes out that Foley's indiscretions were an open secret inside the Beltway, the GOP tried to pass this off initially as a MSM-Democrat dirty trick. The story neither begins nor ends there. Apparently there is significant reason to believe that the Republican leadership have known about these emails for months, enough to be grounds for a criminal conspiracy charge. One congressman who knew, Tom Reynolds of New York, was also head of the committee to re-elect Republicans to the house, received $100,000 from Foley after he had seen the emails but before he told anyone else about them.

The Republican congressman in charge of the page program, John Shimkus of Illinois, claims he saw the emails last fall, whereas the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, also of Illinois, claims Shimkus never saw the emails. Strangely, Shimkus's own spokesman also claims Shimkus didn't see the emails. Shimkus, when discussing Foley's activities with other board members, deliberately excluded the sole Democratic member (Dale Kildee (D-MI)) of that board from learning about Foley's misdeeds. They also claimed the reason they didn't investigate further was because the family didn't want them to, remarkably specious deference. Shimkus also didn't blink when FOley told a tale about taking one of the pages out alone to Morton's Steakhouse, a pricey restaurant, 'cruising' down in Foley's BMW (no buying American for him, I say from my Ford Mustang). The head of the page alumni association, Matthew Loraditch, told ABC News that the Republican pages (and not the Democrat-sponsored pages) were warned about Foley in 2001. He said that they were told: "don't get too wrapped up in him being too nice to you and all that kind of stuff."

This is typical of a party which puts oil company executives in charge of energy policy, putting a known (at least to them) sexual predator in charge of the child abuse committee. The speed of Foley's resignation indicates that perhaps they are waiting for the other shoe to drop. There are also rumors of servicemen in Foley's distrcit being similair targets of his attentions. Both Congressional pages and servicemen are in a very sensitive position and capable of being ruined by Foley shoudl they try to expose him.

This morning, Foley's attorney announced that the embattled Congressman checked himself into an alcohol rehab facility over the weekend and released a statement. Said Foley: "I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems. I deeply regret and accept full responsibility for the harm I have caused." Too little and far too late.

Meanwhile House Republicans can't keep their stories straight about Foley. They have made an effort to launch an investigation by the Justice Department, but one which exempts the GOP leadership and focuses on outside parties such as non-profits like CREW, journalists, bloggers, even potential victims and their relatives who knew of the communications but didn't not contact the authorities. In other words, the people who broke the story and got the GOP in trouble. They claim that while they were aware of the 'over-friendly' emails months ago, they only became aware of the more sexually explicit IM chats because of the ABC News story. If this is so, it is only because they chose to ignore several glaring warning signs regarding his inappropriate attention to pages. Why Hastert, a central figure in this coverup, should be allowed to define the parameters of the investigation is not apparent. This would be their excuse not to come clean, as they 'can't comment on an ongoing investigation'. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow has tried to downplay a 52 year old member of Congress asking 16 and 17 year old kids to measure their penis and describe how they masturbate as 'simply naughty emails'. They can't keep a bunch of teenagers safe, so why should we trust them to keep America safe?

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