Last week, we learned that Rep. Mark Foley, a Republican from Palm Beach, Fla., is a disgusting old chicken hawk possessed of such good sense that he aspired to seduce a 16-year-old male congressional page in writing—as if a Republican could possibly get away with that. About 15 seconds after that, Democrats began trying to figure out how to frame one man’s nauseating and criminal personal conduct as a national campaign issue. Hey, who says the Democrats aren’t the party of ideas anymore?
Not only is “elect us because there is a child molester” a compelling national policy argument suggesting that the Democrat leadership is developing some serious insights into both the economy and the War on Terror, but the being-disgusted-by-a-child-molester angle represents a significant policy shift for them.
Now, before I show that the second half of the above statement is a simple historical fact, let me state very clearly that NOTHING in the following documentation of wretched political hypocrisy is intended as even the wispiest defense of Mark Foley. Mark Foley is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But I am not a court of law, and I have eyes, so I can safely and confidently say that Mark Foley is scum—a despicable little troll of a daydreaming thumb-typing instant-messaging pervert. It is right that he resigned. He should be pulled out of rehab and questioned by police immediately, then prosecuted for his “over-friendly” solicitations of pages in front of a jury consisting entirely of fathers of teenage boys and sent to prison, if convicted. Anyone who knew of his actions and who did not beat the Blackberry out of him should likewise be prosecuted.
That being said, let us return to the political purulence currently being ejected from certain human zits on Capitol Hill. Knowing that one man’s obviously deviant conduct with minors cannot be made into much of an election issue, a number of commentators have begun asking “who knew what and when” about Foley’s boxer-time briefs to boys. The implication being that Republicans enabled Foley’s predatory perversions for some unknown reason. It’s bad enough that Republicans have to bear the shame of association with Sen. Lincoln Chafee, but implying that the GOP is somehow running interference for boy-toy seeking cyber-freaks is going too far. However, if the Democrats in Congress want people to vote for the party that would best handle a situation involving a congressman using his power to prey upon underage male pages, then let’s examine just that—because it is not a hypothetical situation for either party.
In 1983, two congressmen were found to have had sex with underage pages—a crime that Foley thus far stands accused only of having aspired to. Rep. Dan Crane of Illinois, a Republican, was involved with a 17-year old female. He was shunned by his party, voted out of office by his conservative district in the next election, and disappeared from history. Rep. Gerry Studds (not a screen name, by the way), a Democrat from the archdiocese of Boston, err, I mean, the 12th District of Massachusetts, was involved with a 17-year old male. His fate was a little different.
The Democrat-controlled House of 1983 originally refused to as much as censure either congressman for his behavior, even after both pleaded guilty to the charges before the House ethics committee. This should answer any doubts as to how Democrats might have handled Foley. A young Rep. Newt Gingrich, however, raised quite a fuss over the two men’s crimes and called for their expulsion from the House. The House leadership declined to press the issue and instead reluctantly chose to officially censure the two.
Crane stood for his censure and began counting the days until his expulsion by Republican voters. Studds, by contrast, turned his back on members during his censure (insert your own joke here), and refused to even acknowledge that what he did was wrong. The House censuring him was, he claimed, a violation of his “right to privacy” and Congress should thus keep their laws off his body. After all, what a consenting adult does with a legal minor in the privacy of his own bedroom (or office) is nobody’s business but his own. I mean, when a man can’t sleep with his messenger boys, what’s next? Interns?
Studds (now also his screen name) turned the whole scandal falsely into a gay-rights issue, appeared at a press conference with his loyal page, and was embraced by a large part of his party. His liberal Democrat district soundly re-elected him in 1984 … and 1986 and 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1994. In 1996, he finally retired and was replaced by Rep. William “Fidel” Delahunt (aka “Comrade Fidelahunt”), Hugo Chavez’s current page in Washington. Today, Studds lives with his husband (not his page) in Massachusetts, where he is considered “courageous” for standing by the page that stood behind him, at that press conference.
So perhaps Foley should have just switched parties, rather than entering rehab. Of course, once in rehab, he could easily be counseled to such a switch by Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who is customarily found in rehab during all months ending in “y,” or “ber.”
Personally, I would find it refreshing if the scandal could be treated properly—as one man’s sick indiscretion deserving of his individual shunning and prosecution. But that might be too much to ask of the party of courageous Gerry Studds.