The Mark Foley Scandal is over. The Florida Republican congressman who sent “Do I make you horny?” messages to teenage pages has resigned his seat and gone into rehab. He needed help and, now, he’s getting it. There will be a few more salacious revelations–like today’s report that the congressman was such a multi-tasker that he balanced the sending of racy instant messages with his duty to show up for floor votes — and perhaps some legal playout to this sad tale. But Foley’s political journey is finished.
The Republican Congressional Leadership Scandal is most definitely not over. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Republican Congressional Campaign Committee chair Tom Reynolds, R-New York, and other leaders of the GOP caucus who knew about the Foley problem and did little or nothing to deal with it, have been exposed for what they are: Political animals who care about nothing–absolutely nothing–except maintaining power.
How determined were these key Republicans to keep their grip on Congress in what has turned into an exceptionally troublesome election year for the party? On Monday, it was revealed that, as recently as last week, an aide to Reynolds tried to get ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross, who broke the Foley story, to kill it. In return for joining the cover-up, Ross was offered an exclusive on what the GOP leaders had hoped would be a neatly-wrapped, relatively uncontroversial story of Foley’s decision to step down “for personal reasons.” According to Ross, “I said we’re not making any deals.”
The fact of the last-minute attempt to cut those deals gives a painfully accurate reading of the “moral values” and the political priorities of the Republican leadership circle.
That reality does not make the Republicans particularly worse than the Democrats, who are certainly not above clawing for power and practicing the politics of “victory at any cost.” But, in two meaningful senses, the leaders of the Grand Old Party are distinguished from the leaders of the not particularly grand opposition party:
1. The Republicans are in charge. Hastert, Boehner, Reynolds and their compatriots and co-conspirators run the Congress. In fact, they have run things more tightly than any majority in decades. As such, this particular scandal, cannot be blamed on others. Republicans own the House, they set the rules, they determine what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. They have all the power, and their obvious lack of concern for anything except maintaining that power is now exposed.
2. The Republicans have secured and maintained that power–which is used almost exclusively to enrich their wealthy political allies, contributors and supporters–by convincing millions of working-class Americans who are sincerely socially conservative to vote against their class interests in order to satisfy their moral interests. Suddenly, the dubious political construct on which the modern Republican Party has stood has been exposed. Social conservatives have been alerted to the fact that morality has never been a high priority of the corporate “conservatives” who call the shots in the Congressional leadership of what they thought was God’s Own Party.