Where do I start with this one? The Bill & Monica saga of last decade looks positively ordinary compared to this political scandal. At the center of this storm is Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), former co-chairman of the House's Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. Here is a quick recap of events to date:
ABC News revealed it has transcripts of Rep. Mark Foley soliciting a then 16-year-old former Congressional page for internet sex. The transcripts also show Foley attempting to meet the teen in person. The transcripts of the exchanges are sick.
Foley resigns his house seat claiming he is an alcoholic and must enter rehab.
Next explanation of his fondness for teenage boys: Foley, through his lawyer, claims he was sexually abused as a teenager by a Catholic priest. Link.
The Department of Justice put the House of Representatives on notice to preserve all documents and other potential evidence relating to the Foley matter. This means a criminal investigation is gearing up and subpoenas are to follow.
House Ethics Committee opened an investigation on Pagegate and, shortly thereafter, blanketed Congress with subpoenas.
Speaker Hastert attempted to appoint former FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate the page program but Democratic leader Pelosi blocked the move holding out for something more (i.e., an independent counsel with broader powers than those that Freeh would hold?).
The U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix opened a preliminary criminal investigation of a 1996 camping trip that included Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) and two 17-year-old boys who had been Congressional pages. Washington Post story, 10-14-2006.
Keep in mind that Rep. Foley, as co-chairman of the House's Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had spearheaded a legislative crackdown on sexual predators who use the Internet. Link. Over at Youtube.com, they are having a field day with the Foley instant message transcripts (revealed by ABC). Here is one reenactment:
Who knew what, when?
Every political scandal ends up being much more about the coverup than the nefarious act itself. Foley's preference for teenage boy pages seems to have been known to several influential Republican members of Congress well before the time the ABC News story hit the fan. Here is a roundup of the Republican House members in the Pagegate soup. Instead of doing something about Foley, the Republican House leadership let him run for re-election while taking campaign contributions from his political war chest. Speaker Hastert is a walking deadman. Everyone seems to know it but he and the President (who is steadfastly supporting the Speaker in this crisis). The Democrats are gleeful that Hastert has refused to resign guarantying a steady stream of fresh headlines containing new calls for his resignation. I personally have no remorse for Hastert as he twists in the wind. He's a product of the dysfunction Bush leadership style: deny responsibility, pass blame, keep claiming the crisis does not exist--birds with their heads buried in the sand.
Does this incident tells us something broader about the Republican Party?
"Andrew Sullivan argues that former Rep. Mark Foley's 'virtual pederasty' reveals much about Republican views of homosexuality: 'There is something deeply sick about a Republican elite that is comfortable around gay people, dependent on gay people, staffed by gay people and yet also rests on brutal exploitation of homophobia to win elections at the base.'óC.B." (Emphasis added.) Slate. I'll let this one stand on its own. Well said.
"The situation is really starting to look grim for the entire Republican Party. It was already looking bad before the Jack Abramoff scandal arrived in the foreground. Before intelligence reports were released explaining the war in Iraq actually made the United States more susceptible to terrorist attacks. Before Rep. Mark Foley was accused of sending inappropriate e-mails to White House pages. With all these forces coming together," the Republican Party risks getting swept from their majorities in both houses of Congress simultaneously. Link. We can only pray that, cumulatively, the Iraq War debacle, the Jack Abramoff scandal, and now the Foley scandal knock the Republicans completely out of power in Congress. Then the President and the Democratic Congress, sharing power, will stalemate each other thereby greatly reducing the level of damage our government can wreak upon us.
Update 1: Referencing a news report of a Republican network of gay staffers, John Stewart of Comedy Central coined the phrase "Opus Gay" (a play on the ultra-right Catholic organization Opus Dei). Link. The point is not that there exists a network of gay staffers on Capitol Hill (surely one exists but who cares). The issue is the hypocrisy of gay persons helping to promote the homophobic (gay exploitation) agenda of the Republican Party.
Update 2: Brilliant piece by John Stewart on the Republican blame game that has erupted over Pagegate:
Update 3: Mark Foley's spokeman says that the former Congressman will reveal the name of the priest who abused him. "A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami urged Foley to identify his accuser so the healing process can begin." USAToday story. 10-18-06.
Update 4: For those with prurient interests, transcripts of the Foley IMs to the pages have been released.