Foley Affair Illustrates Party Differences

The Foley scandal actually illustrates a dramatic difference between the Republcican and Democratic parties. To see that, let us go back to the last scandal regarding congressional pages in 1983.

Gerry Studds was then a gay Democrat congressman from Massachusetts. He admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old male congressional page. The page had not previously engaged in homosexual sex. Studds seduced him by luring the boy back to his apartment and serving him alcohol until the boy was drunk.

Then-Rep.Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.) called for the House to expel Studds, along with a then-Rep. Dan Crane, an Illinois Republican who admitted to having sex with an underage female page. But the House, then under Democrat control, refused and instead voted to censure the two lawmakers.

Crane gave a tearful apology to the full House, but Studds refused to apologize, or to stand appropriately for his censure. Instead, in a later defiant speech, House Democrats rose three times to applaud him. The Washington Post said that Republicans were targeting Studds for his personal life.

Liberal Democrats in Studds’ district re-elected him six times after that. Republicans in Illinois voted Crane out in the next election.

By contrast, former Rep. Mark Foley, embroiled in the current scandal, did not have sex with the congressional page, but he did send him repulsive, sexually explicit, electronic messages. As soon as those messages were discovered, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) demanded that Foley resign or else Hastert would have the House expel him.

Given these contrasting records, how could Republicans and their allies let this story be turned into a scandal over whether Republicans acted fast enough or even whether they tried to cover up Foley’s conduct?

There is not one shred of evidence anywhere that Hastert or any other Republican took any affirmative action to “cover up” Foley’s actions. Was the Republican leadership too slow in acting against Foley?

The very day that the Republican leadership heard of the sexually explicit, repulsive instant messages from Foley, they demanded and got Foley’s resignation. The charge against the leadership is that they were previously aware of earlier e-mails from Foley to a former page back home that did not include any such sexually explicit matter. These e-mails simply suggested an overly personal interest in the boy, such as asking for a picture.

The Republican leaders did not ignore these emails. They directly and personally demanded that Foley stop contacting pages. Given the mild content of those earlier e-mails, what more did Hastert fail to do that now warrants his resignation, or condemnation of the entire House Republican caucus?

Indeed, two major Florida newspapers had those earlier e-mails a year ago and decided there was nothing in them that warranted a story. The Miami Herald called them “innocuous.” The FBI also had them some time ago and found no reason for an investigation. The boy’s family, moreover, asked that the whole episode not be made public.

The question that should be raised is this: Would Nancy Pelosi as speaker change the Democrats’ policy of not expelling members who behave as Foley did? Or, if as speaker, would she continue to support legislation to revoke the national charter of the Boy Scouts of America because they refuse to hire gay scoutmasters?

Pelosi hasn’t been asked about joining a San Francisco gay pride parade in a 2001 along with a public supporter of the North American Man Boy Love Association, the late Harry Hay. At a New York University forum sponsored by a campus gay group in 1983, Hay said, “[I]f the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what 13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world.”

The Democrat record also includes the sad story of Rep. Mel Reynolds, who was indicted in 1994 for having sex with a 16-year-old campaign worker and then encouraging her to lie about it. Liberal Democrats in his Chicago district re-elected him, but in 1995 he was convicted on 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice, and solicitation of child pornography. Not to worry. President Bill Clinton pardoned him.

This is no time for social conservatives to abandon Republicans. The Republican congressional majorities voted through a ban on partial birth abortion, confirmed two excellent Supreme Court nominees, stood with pro-life groups on stem cells and the Terry Schiavo legislation, and have followed through on many other issues as well. The Supreme Court now hangs in the balance with four solid conservatives, four extreme liberals and one confused moderate.

Liberals now expect social conservatives to forget all this and be distracted by their phony crocodile tears over Mark Foley. Here’s betting these voters will prove the liberals wrong again.