Let's see, in the last week the National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the Iraq War has become a jihadist "cause celebre" that only fuels terrorism and anti-Americanism. The Republican-led Congress authorized torture, suspended habeas corpus and approved the construction of a 700-mile long fence along the Mexican border. Former Bush hagiographer Bob Woodward revealed that Condi Rice was warned about an impending al-Qaeda attack two months before 9/11, but did nothing.
But Huzzah! The Democrats have finally gone on the offensive; the DCCC is pushing for Dennis Hastert's resignation as speaker. Their cause celebre? A bunch of pervy emails and IMs between former Congressman Mark Foley and various pageboys about masturbation techniques and lacrosse practice.
Okay, so Foley's a semi-closet case, a hypocrite, a sleazebag and a drunk (though he might be making this last bit up, which makes him a liar instead). But as of this writing, no criminal or civil charges have been filed, no laws have been demonstrably broken and nobody has claimed to have been harmed by his actions (though one page says Foley's photo request "freaked me out"). There might have been a cover-up, or more likely a disposition to look the other way, on the part of the House leadership. I'm sure we'll learn more about who knew what when in the month to come.
But really, have the Democrats sunk so low that a Congressional inquiry parsing questions like "did you spank it this weekend yourself" and "do I make you a little horny" now constitutes their major, galvanizing election issue? "Congress must not pass the buck on investigating this cover-up," intoned Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Where, dear Nancy, have you been hiding such steely resolve?
I admit there's some pleasure in hanging Foley, whose primary legislative agenda was cracking down on child sex offenders, with the noose of his own hypocrisy. And it's all too easy to take other Republicans along for the ride. But moral outrage over Foley's "crimes" stems, at least in part, from conflating him with the monstrous, stranger child kidnapper-rapist-murderer that is the subject of his own legislation. Hence, the sense of dramatic irony: Foley railed against these sickos, but he was one of them!
But in fact, it appears that Foley took great care to keep himself apart from his demons. Nobody alleges that he abducted, raped or assaulted anyone. As of this writing, no physical contact or solicitation for physical contact took place. No pornography was produced or exchanged (though depending on how you read the IMs, obscene material may have been). No money was exchanged. Foley has no previous record as a sex offender (which would have required him to register as such and perhaps, under his own law, wear an electronic GPS collar for life). He was no stranger to these teens. He waited, so it seems, until they were no longer employees of the House. He was stupid, and scrupulous.
My point is: At worst, many of the so-called "child protection" laws Foley favored vastly overreach and violate Constitutional rights to privacy. In some states "sex offenders" convicted of consensual, non-violent crimes like sodomy or fornication with another adult are required to register and have their name, address, image and place of work made public. At best, these laws are largely ineffective because, as experts point out, the vast majority of sexual abuse happens between family members, friends and acquaintances (i.e. guys like Mark Foley), and not strangers.
It seems inaccurate to call Foley a child sex offender, but if one insists on doing so, one ought at least note that his own legislation, which is being burnished in the press now if only to make Foley into a negative example, wouldn't have stopped him at all. For that, one would need, not draconian, grandstanding legislation, but the kind of common decency that's apparently in short supply these days on Capitol Hill.
Here's an interesting scene from Bob Woodward's new book. It's the summer of 2004 and George Tenet has resigned as CIA chief:
[White House chief of staff] Andy Card called [Deputy Secretary of State Richard] Armitage to see if he was interested in taking over the CIA.
No, Armitage replied emphatically.
"Can I ask the reason? We're disappointed."
Armitage replied that he could give the reason but he would prefer not to because it might hurt Cards feelings.
Card knew the problem for Armitage was Cheney and Rumsfeld. He nonetheless asked Powell if there was a way to persuade Armitage.
"You can ask him again," Powell replied, "but he doesn't fool around." An Armitage no is a no. "My personal view is he won't do it."
What's missing from Woodward's account? One significant fact disclosed by Hubris: the Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (which I wrote with Michael Isikoff): that Armitage had leaked Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA identity to conservative columnist Robert Novak and had been under investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. At the time he was offered the CIA job, Armitage, who had cooperated with the investigation, might have no longer been a primary target of Fitzgerald (though he would later be reinvestigated by Fitzgerald for having failed to disclose to the special prosecutor that he had also discussed Valerie Wilson's CIA employment with Woodward weeks before mentioning it to Novak), but his role in the leak was still a big secret.
He knew he had leaked classified information that had led to the outing of a CIA officer. Could he accept the CIA position and go through the confirmation process, knowing that at any moment the news could emerge that he had blown the cover of an undercover CIA employee? (And what if a senator asked him about the leak at the confirmation hearing?) There was no way he could place himself in such a possibly perilous position. It was dicey enough for him to remain at the State Department, realizing the Plame time bomb could detonate any time. And Woodward reports that months later--after the 2004 presidential election--the White House considered naming Armitage to the new position of national director of intelligence. Armitage was not interested. Woodward notes this was because, as Armitage told National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, "I just don't know how I can work in an administration that lets Secretary Powell walk and keeps Mr. Rumsfeld." But once again, he could not have accepted this position for the same reasons.
While writing the book, Woodward knew that Armitage had disclosed information to him about Valerie Wilson's CIA connection and, as we report in Hubris, Woodward had suspected his source had been Novak's source. And over a month before his book was published, a Newsweek article based on Hubris disclosed that Armitage had been the source for both Novak and Woodward.
This brief section of State of Denial--a book that does contain important (and sometime entertaining) disclosures--illustrates a side-problem of Woodward's methodology. He gets close to his high-level sources, almost becoming a player in the narrative he is chronicling. Consequently, he becomes entangled in the story and cannot disclose to the reader all he knows. Woodward came under criticism last year when the news broke that he, too, had been leaked information about Valerie Wilson but had not told his editors (or readers) about this. What compounded his problem was that Woodward had gone on television and radio shows to dismiss the leak investigation and criticize Fitzgerald, without revealing that he had had a personal stake in the matter because a source of his had been a target.
No doubt, Armitage, who was damn fed-up with the White House and the Pentagon, didn't want these jobs. In Hubris, he's quoted referring to the armchair warriors of the White House and the Defense Department as "a bunch of jerks." Woodward's depiction of these episodes places Armitage squarely in a place of principle. Regardless of his feelings toward the White House and the Pentagon leadership, Armitage couldn't accept either post because of his central role in the Plame scandal. Woodward had reason to know that, but he didn't report it.
Woodward's book has little in it about the Plame affair--just a few short mentions. That was his choice. But he does provide an interesting nugget related to the case. He reports that after 2005, Cheney no longer had a visible role in the management of Iraq. Once Scooter Libby was indicted in the leak case in October 2005 and resigned, Woodward writes,
Cheney was lost without Libby, many of the vice president's close associates felt. Libby had done so much of the preparation for the vice president's meetings and events, and so much of the hard work. He had been almost part of Cheney's brain.
So one consequence of the leak case, according to Woodward's account, was that it took Cheney out of the game. Readers of Woodward's book can decide whether that was a positive or negative development.
This was first posted on www.davidcorn.com.
INFO ON HUBRIS: Tom Brokaw says "Hubris is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For more information on Hubris, click here.
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.
That news comes at a time when Republicans, already battered by President Bush's dwindling approval ratings and the Abramoff lobbying scandal, are scrambling to maintain control of the House. The timing for the GOP really could not be worse, not because of the scandal's potential to cause social conservatives to vote for Democrats but because of the potential that it will cause so-called "moral-values" voters to turn away from the political process. Few political realities are more certain than this: If social conservatives don't turn out on election day, Republicans don't win.
Even the usually hapless Democrats have recognized the opening and are beginning to exploit it. Democratic candidates are calling on Republican House members to renounce Hastert and Boehner, to give back money not just from Foley's political action committee but from those of the Republican leaders, and--in the last few hours--to demand Hastert's resignation. In a key Pennsylvania House race, Chris Carney, the Democratic challenger to scandal-plagued Republican Don Sherwood, called on the incumbent to cancel scheduled fundraising events with GOP House leaders. "Sherwood should immediately cancel his upcoming fundraisers with Hastert and Boehner," argued Carney. "Don Sherwood has already brought Washington's values back to the district, now he wants to bring a depraved cover-up home."
The reach of this issue is evident even beyond congressional races; in Wisconsin, where Republican Congressman Mark Green is challenging Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, the Doyle campaign is telling reporters: "It is past time for Congressman Green to display some real leadership and add his voice to the growing chorus of voices calling for Speaker Hastert to resign."
This is an incredibly volatile moment, so volatile that the Republicans may be inclined to sacrifice one of their own in order to deflect attention from the broader crisis of confidence. The party cannot afford to have its social conservative base vote suppressed by disgust, or even confusion, over Hastert's actions--and inactions.
Already, the conservative Washington Times, an influential voice in Republican circles, has called for Hastert's immediate resignation. "House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once," the newspaper's editors wrote Tuesday morning. Conservative talk-radio hosts, including Michael Reagan, the son of the former president, have been similarly tough on the leadership.
How seriously are top Republican taking the demands for a house cleaning? Seriously enough to begin lobbing bombs at one another.
In an interview with radio station WLW in Cincinnati, Boehner was pointing the finger of blame at Hastert. "[It's] in his corner. It's his responsibility," the Number 2 Republican in the House said. "The Clerk of the House, who runs the page program, the page board, all report to the speaker, and I believed it had been dealt with."
A few hours later, Boehner seemed to be backtracking--as several members of the leadership have after attempting to deflect fallout from the scandal. The majority leader issued a statement claiming that "no one in the leadership, including Speaker Hastert, had any knowledge of the warped and sexually explicit instant messages."
That is, of course, a lie. But it is a necessary lie, as all evidence suggests that Boehner was at least as fully informed of the details of the sexually explicit communications as was Hastert in the months before they became public. Thus, while many conservative activists might be willing to sacrifice Hastert --perhaps the most expendable Speaker of the House in history -- there is little reason to believe that doing so would make this House Republican Leadership Scandal go away.
What, if anything, do Republicans stand for anymore?
The party that promised to restore honor and integrity to Washington brought us Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay and now, Mark Foley and the subsequent cover-up.
The President that campaigned against nation-building got us into a $1 trillion quagmire in Iraq.
An Administration that pledged to maintain fiscal discipline turned a $127 billion surplus into a $300 billion budget deficit and presided over the larger expansion of government since LBJ.
I could go on and on.
The Democrats aren't exactly a profile in clarity. But Republicans today give nihilism a good name.
Hurray that the Washington Times and other conservatives are calling for Dennis Hastert and his minions in the House leadership to resign.
But the GOP's problems began long before Mark Foley started soliciting underage boys.
Taking time out from its nonstop coverage of the "early admission" policies of a few elite colleges -- could this newspaper appeal to an even tinier, more rarefied demographic? -- the New York Times ran a good front-page story this morning on Wal-Mart's new plan, as revealed in an internal memo, to implement pay caps and increase the percentage of part-time employees in its workforce.
Obviously, some at the company didn't feel the workers were exploited enough! The paper also reported something that I have been hearing from Wal-Mart workers for a long time; scheduling is essentially at the whim of managers, particularly impossible for workers who have children, but hard on all workers struggling to plan their lives (and their budgets, given that they might work 20 hours one week, and eight the next).
It's important that the affluent, urban consumers that Wal-Mart so badly needs not be seduced by the retailer's new offerings -- 400-threadcount sheets, organic food and Earth's-new-best-friend image -- but keep the pressure on the company to improve work conditions, by continuing to shop elsewhere, and to protest Wal-Mart's ever-insistent expansion. The company is betting that its new target -- the Starbucks customer -- doesn't really care about workers' rights, but will go starry-eyed at the first few nebulous signs of "corporate responsibility."
Let's examine last week's five bombshells and look for the pattern:
1) According to Bob Woodward's new book, Condi Rice was warned two months before 9/11 of an impending al-Qaeda attack but brushed off the CIA report.
2) George W. Bush's White House had been warned for years that the insurgency was on the rise in Iraq but failed to alter its failing strategy.
3) The recently released National Intelligence Estimate says that the Iraq war has increased the number of terrorists and made Americans less safe.
4) Republican Congressman Mark Foley, who was co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, sent sexual emails to underage congressional pages.
5) House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who was warned a year ago that Mark Foley had inappropriately contacted a 16-year-old page, did not act until last Friday because the email messages his office saw were not sufficiently "explicit."
It is now painfully clear that the very Republicans whose job it is to protect us and our children from danger have failed repeatedly, because they're too busy protecting their own political power. The evidence is as overwhelming and repugnant as Mark Foley's emails.
Once again, media industry lobbyists and their allies on the Federal Communication Commission are working to revise the rules on media ownership to allow a single corporation to own most, if not all, of the newspapers, radio and TV stations and internet news and entertainment sites in your town.
As John Nichols wrote in The Nation mag recently, "This would create media 'company towns' where the discourse is defined by a single newsroom. That means big profits for firms that own the 'news,' and big democracy deficits for citizens--which is why 3 million Americans opposed an FCC move to ease ownership limits when the issue arose in 2003."
Dissident FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein have forced Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, a Republican industry ally, to hold public hearings on proposed policies, as one of many steps they've taken to open up the decision-making process. The first official public hearing on media ownership will be held in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 3 at two venues--the campus of USC and El Segundo High School--with an afternoon and an evening session; there will be an opportunity for public testimony at both sessions.
This is a singular opportunity to let Martin and the FCC Commissioners know how the media is serving your community. This may be one of the public's final chances to speak out against Big Media before Martin moves to lift the last significant limits to runaway consolidation. Check the Free Press site for background and info on other upcoming public hearings, and click here to write the FCC and implore it to take steps to avoid wholesale consolidation of the US media industry.
Over 1,291 days after the first "shock-and-awe" attack on downtown Baghdad, it's not unreasonable to speak of George Bush's Iraq. The President himself likes to refer to that country as the "central front [or theater] in our fight against terrorism" and the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a small part of which was finally released by the President, confirms that Iraq is now just that -- a literal motor for the creation of terrorism.
So what exactly does George Bush's Iraq look like? A surprising amount of information has appeared in the press recently, but in scattershot form. Here are four questions that bring some of it together, offering a grim snapshot of Bush's Iraq.
How many freelance militias are there in Baghdad?
The answer is "23" according to a "senior [U.S.] military official" in Baghdad -- so write Richard A. Oppel, Jr. and Hosham Hussein in the New York Times; according to National Public Radio, the answer is "at least 23." Antonio Castaneda of the Associated Press says that there are 23 "known" militias. However you figure it, that's a staggering number of militias, mainly Shiite but some Sunni, for one large city.
How many civilians are dying in the capital?
5,106 people in July and August, according to a United Nations report. The previous figure of 3,391 offered for those months relied on body counts only from the city morgue. The UN report includes deaths at the city's overtaxed hospitals. With the Bush administration bringing thousands of extra soldiers into Baghdad in August, death tolls went down for a few weeks, but began rising again towards month's end. August figures on civilian wounded -- 4,309 -- rose 14% over July's figures and, by late September, suicide bombings were at their highest level since the invasion.
How many Iraqis are being tortured in Baghdad at present?
Large numbers of bodies are found around the capital every day. These, as Oppel of the Times describes them, commonly display such signs of torture as "gouged-out eyeballs… broken bones of legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns… missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails." The UN's chief anti-torture expert, Manfred Nowak, believes torture in Iraq is now "worse" than under Saddam Hussein.
How many Iraqi civilians are being killed countrywide?
For those two months, the UN Report offers the figure of 1,493 dead outside of Baghdad. However, this is surely an undercount. Oppel points out that officials in al-Anbar Province, "one of the deadliest regions in Iraq, reported no deaths in July." Meanwhile, in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad, deaths seem to be on the rise. The intrepid British journalist Patrick Cockburn recently visited the head of Diyala's Provincial Council (who has so far escaped two assassination attempts). He believes "on average, 100 people are being killed in Diyala every week." ("Many of those who die disappear forever, thrown into the Diyala River or buried in date palm groves and fruit orchards.") Based on the UN report, we're talking close to 40,000 Iraqi deaths a year. We have no way of knowing how much higher the real figure is.
Last week, the count of American war dead in Iraq passed 2,700. The Iraqi dead are literally uncountable. Iraq is the tragedy of our times, carnage incarnate. Every time the President mentions "victory" these days, the word "loss" should come to our minds. A few more victories like this one and the world will be an unimaginable place.
For a full 21 questions (and answers) on George Bush's Iraq visit Tomdispatch.com.
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of 120,000 Japanese civilians, 2/3 of whom were US citizens, in military camps across the western half of the country. Effectively stripping Japanese Americans of virtually all constitutional protections (including rights to property, trial by jury and habeas corpus), 9066 is now widely decried as one of the darkest moments in US history. In 1988, Congress passed Public Law 100-383, which apologized to Japanese internees, provided reparations and created a public education fund to "inform the public about the internment of such individuals so as to prevent the recurrence of any similar event."
Congress should have enrolled in its own re-education program.
By passing the Military Commissions Act (a.k.a. the torture bill), Congress has granted the Bush administration extraordinary powers to detain, interrogate and prosecute alleged terrorists and their supporters. Anyone anywhere in the world at any time may be summarily classified an "unlawful enemy combatant" by the executive branch, seized and detained. Only aliens are subject to military trials (I've updated my original post here to more accurately describe persons subject to military commissions; see sec. 948a-c in text of legislation). As Bruce Ackerman points out in the LA Times, the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" includes those who "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" (by say, writing a check to a Middle East charity) and may extend to US citizens. Thanks to the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, US citizens at least appear to retain habeas corpus rights, a foundation of Western jurisprudence. Foreign nationals do not; the Act explicitly denies them the writ of habeas corpus (the right to be charged and tried and the right to appeal any convictions in a court of law).
These wartime powers rival and exceed those assumed by Roosevelt during WWII. Even worse, unlike the case of Executive Order 9066, Congress has given President Bush the stamp of legislative authority. In this context, perhaps the most craven vote cast for the torture bill came from Senator Arlen Specter. Though he believes the bill to be "patently unconstitutional on its face," he voted for it anyway because he hopes "the court will clean it up." But there's no reason to believe the courts will act in such a manner.
As Ackerman points out, the Korematsu case, which validated Japanese internment, still stands as precedent. Since September 11, federal courts and the Bush administration have used Korematsu-like language to define a state of emergency and justify racial profiling. (And wing-nuts like Michelle Malkin have argued that racial profiling and detention of Japanese during WWII was justified, as is profiling and detention of Arabs in the war on terror). As Ackerman argues "congressional support of presidential power will make it much easier to extend the Korematsu decision to further mass seizures."
Moreover, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court case that temporarily jeopordized Bush's extra-judicial detentions, specifically cited lack of Congressional approval. Now Congress has given him this approval.
For those who believe that mass internment can never happen again, the US now holds 14,000 detainees in prisons in Iraq, Guantanamo, Afghanistan and other undisclosed locations. 14,000 people who can be held indefinitely, without a fair trial, by secret evidence to which they have no access or that may be obtained by what most consider torture. 14,000 and counting. Never again is now.
Mark Foley's sexuality was never much of a secret to those who served with him in the House.
The New York Times and every major newspaper in Florida had been writing articles on the congressman's agonizingly inept attempts to remain closeted for years. Indeed, it was the embarrassing manner in which he had attempted to cloak his sexuality that prevented Foley from securing his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and again this year.
Tragically, as a Florida Republican, Foley felt that if he wanted to remain a political player he needed to live a lie. He was probably wrong; Republicans who have come out of the closet, such as retiring Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, have often thrived politically. Openly gay men and lesbians have been elected and reelected to the House as Democrats and Republicans, and Foley -- whose relatively moderate voting record could have appealed to both Main Street Republicans and Democrats -- might well have broken the barrier in the Senate.
But Foley didn't trust Florida Republican voters to accept him for who he was, so this otherwise personable and capable congressman engaged in an increasingly challenging and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to hide a huge part of his identity.
The pressures imposed by such secrecy appear to have been too much for Foley. Unlike the vast majority of homosexuals -- who, as a group, are less likely to be attracted to children than heterosexuals -- the congressman began to engage in activities that were inappropriate and potentially illegal. Details that have surfaced in recent day suggests that Foley had made a mess of his life – a mess that exploded on him and his party when it was revealed that the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Missing & Exploited Children had sent "Do I make you a little horny?" e-mails to teenage boys.
Foley's Republican colleagues, who are champions when it comes to shooting the wounded, immediately began trashing him. ``This type of behavior is what I try to protect my grandchildren from," snarled Clay Shaw, the GOP representative from a neighboring Florida House district. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, Mouse Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, issued a statement condemning Foley's behavior as "an obscene breach of trust."
"His immediate resignation must now be followed by the full weight of the criminal justice system," Hastert, Boehner and Blunt said of Foley.
Fair enough. But what do these Republican leaders think about those who knew about Foley's undue interest in male pages, covered the fact up for months – perhaps years -- and then lied about what they knew. Should they, too, face "the full weight of the criminal justice system"?
When the news of Foley's emails broke in the media, Hastert declared, "I was surprised."
Really? That's strange.
Congressman Tom Reynolds, who chairs the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, revealed on Saturday that he had informed Hastert months ago about concerns regarding Foley's habit of sending sexually suggestive – "strip down and get naked" -- e-mails and instant messages to male congressional pages.
Congressman Rodney Alexander, the Louisiana Republican who brought those concerns to the attention of party leaders after learning about Foley's e-mails from the family of a former page in 2005, has confirmed that his office contacted Hastert's office regarding the matter. Additionally, Alexander personally discussed the issue with Reynolds and Boehner.
Another Republican with close ties to the House leadership, Illinois Representative John Shimkus, admits that he investigated the e-mail issue in 2005 – apparently after it was reviewed by Hastert's office and the office of the Clerk of the House – and says he warned Foley to break off contact with a particular teenager and, in a more general sense, to stop stalking male pages. Then, Shimkus dropped the matter – to the apparent satisfaction of Hastert, Boehner, Blunt, Reynolds and other House Republican leaders.
Some readers may be surprised that these top Republicans, who go on and on about the need to fend off supposed "threats" posed by loving and responsible gay and lesbian couples, would be so accepting of Foley. The truth is that the hands-off approach to this whole scandal is entirely in character for the current crop of Republican leaders, who could care less about the sexuality of members of their caucus.
They only employ "moral values" appeals to scare up votes at election time; it's never been something they believed in.
Hastert and his compatriots care only about winning elections and keeping power – even when that involves looking the other way after concerns have been raised about what a good many Americans see as the stalking of underaged pages.
Dennis Hastert and the other Republican leaders certainly were not surprised to learn last week that Mark Foley had acted inappropriately with male pages. They knew all about Foley's e-mails and all the issues raised by those communications.
Hastert and his colleagues have gotten caught in a lie. And it's a big one.
What's the proper response? Hastert, Boehner and Blunt have got the right idea. Those who knew about Foley's actions and failed to respond in any kind of serious manner are guilty of "an obscene breach of trust."
Since they control the machinery of the House Ethics Committee, it is doubtful that Hastert and his colleagues will face a serious investigation – let alone "the full weight of the criminal justice system." But this is an election year, and political campaigns can also extract a measure of justice.
Hastert and Boehner are scheduled to attend fund-raising events on behalf of embattled Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Don Sherwood in coming weeks. Sherwood's Democratic challenger, Chris Carney, a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy Reserve who served as a senior advisor on intelligence and counterterrorism issues at the Pentagon, has asked the Republican congressman to cancel the events."Holding happy hour fundraisers with people who cover-up the cyber-molestation of children should be below even the questionable morals of Don Sherwood," explained Carney campaign manager Andrew Eldredge-Martin. "Sherwood should immediately cancel his upcoming fundraisers with Hastert and Boehner. Don Sherwood has already brought Washington's values back to the district, now he wants to bring a depraved cover-up home."
Ouch! There's a new twist on the old Republican appeal to values voters.