There's No Defending GOP in Foley Crisis

As often as Rush Limbaugh gets it right, he is breathtakingly wrong on the House page scandal.

Of course, Limbaugh doesn’t defend Mark Foley, the Republican congressman who resigned last week for being, shall we say, overly friendly with minor male pages. But Limbaugh’s part in turning it into another partisan war reveals what’s wrong with too many Republicans today. Limbaugh focuses on how the Foley story became so big, blaming Democrats for planting and hyping the story for their own advantage in the mid-term elections.

No dittos on this one, Rush.

Most people don’t give a damn about how the story got out. Correctly, they’re outraged that here’s another attack on children, providing yet more evidence of how our culture has become soft on improper, even destructive, behavior.

But for Rush, it appears to be just one more case of defending the castle against another onslaught from the left. In this, he’s not doing Republicans and conservatives any favors. It just gives gleeful Democrats an example of Republican “hypocrisy.” Of how Republicans keep talking about America losing its moral compass, while they’ve lost it themselves.

Democrats are making gains with it, because it is becoming increasingly true. Otherwise it wouldn’t have taken Republicans so long to admit that they messed up by not smelling the scumbag in their midst. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and some other Republican leaders want us to think that they never whiffed the scent of Foley that filled the House. If so, Hastert and the rest might have been the only insiders who didn’t.

Foley was a “leading” advocate of legislation to protect children from sexual predators, yet not a single Republican leader was aware that pages for years openly regarded him someone to steer clear of? Hastert, etc. must have been too occupied with other important issues (not many of which seemed to have been solved) to notice the stench.

Here we’ve got Hastert, telling a fawning Limbaugh on his Tuesday show that “…we’re in the same situation with parents all over America in trying to make sure our kids are safe, and we want to work to make sure all this text messages messaging stuff and computer stuff is safe, too.”

Right. Except that the analogy fails in an important respect: The Internet predators who parents are trying to keep from their kids aren’t their own family members. If one sibling is abusing another, it’s up to the parents to find out and to do something about it. Foley was no stranger, but a known risk, within the GOP family.

Rush, of course, is furious that someone leaked the Foley story for political reasons; apparently the leaker had been shopping it around the media for months, if not years. And, of course, Democratic hands aren’t clean when it comes to lechery. Of course, there’s a double standard as applied by the media when it comes to focusing on Republicans sins while downplaying Democratic sins. Of course, if Democrats were in the same spot, there’d be none of their leaders rushing to resign or take blame either.

But this is a crisis of Republican leadership, essentially of its own making. For all the Republican and conservative lecturing about the failure of a national moral compass, Hastert et al have demonstrated that principle trails well behind party advantage and pragmatism when it comes to protecting children.

Limbaugh ought to be using his formidable power to restore the party to those principles.