Dave Trenga #89
Congress has been engaging in a little house cleaning as of late; more specifically Republican House members have been cleaning out the closet. When one of their representatives from Florida, Rep. Mark Foley announced he was resigning over some “overly friendly” emails to an underage male House page (servants or assistants) we were just seeing the beginning. Foley quickly exited the public light before anyone fully realized the severity of the scandal. With his spokesperson announcing that he “believes” he’s an alcoholic and that he is a gay man, Foley checked himself into a clinic for alcohol abuse, out of the public eye. Oh and then he remembered that a priest molested him when he was a child. Apparently everything and everyone is to blame, except himself, of course. Soon after the public started to get more of an idea of what Foley’s email and IM’s (instant messages) contained the more red faced the Republican Congressional leadership became. And with only about a month until the mid-term elections where the Republican majority fears losing control of Congress, the rationalizing and scapegoating quickly went into overdrive. The onslaught of demagoguery came, not only from the Republican House members but also from the right-wing media and talk show pundits. Initially there had been a push by Republicans to dismiss the whole thing as being no big deal, trying to spin the story and play damage control the seriousness of the whole scandal was played down, referring to the emails and IM’s as “over-friendly” over and over again. But for once their constant repetition wasn’t working in their favor and people weren’t buying their assertions and wanted answers. So Republicans responded by attacking anyone and everyone that could help to take the focus off of their own party. Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report started by attacking the underage male pages, referring to them as “beasts” and accusing them of “egging the Congressman on” and that “these kids were playing Foley for all he was worth.” Michael Savage echoed Drudge’s attacks referring to one of the pages as a “sleaze ball” who “gay baited” Foley. Savage said the page, “went to Washington to get ahead. So he's a greedy, aggressive child" who "knew how to play a congressman who was gay,” adding, "I don't know whether the boy exists. Maybe he's a Democrat." So the first line of defense of the right-wing is to blame the victims, (what an original idea) and to claim partisan politics, “the boy must be a democrat.” It’s such a despicable strategy to blame the victim, an underage boy for being subjected to the advances of a member of Congress who is in his fifties. This is the lowest form of character assassination; to stoop so low as to blame the victim is truly disgraceful. It’s never acceptable to blame the victim, this is the same type of appalling accusations that would blame a rape victim for the way she was dressed. It’s inexcusable and shouldn’t have even been suggested, although considering the sources it’s hardly surprising. Moving on to the other suggestion that “the boy must be a Democrat” this is part of the larger push that this is a partisan plan by the Democrats to discredit Foley and the Republican leadership and take control of Congress. Obviously the Democrats will jump on anything that will help them in the mid-term elections but does that excuse Foley from his responsibility? Does it excuse the Republican leadership that covered up Foley’s behavior (possibly for over a decade)? Republicans have claimed, without any sort of proof, that Democrats orchestrated the Foley scandal. Rush Limbaugh charged, "these emails were planted by a liberal" as part of a "planned, orchestrated release" by the Democrats and the media to discredit Republicans. "What I'm suggesting here is that a lot of people knew of Foley's proclivities and arranged to amass evidence of it for" political reasons, Limbaugh also claimed. "How do you get a kid to do this?" Limbaugh asked. "You threaten 'em or you pay 'em." Sean Hannity demanded, "I want to know why these instant messages were held back until now. Who knew about them? Why did they hold them back? Did they do it for political reasons? In other words, were they held back to maximize the political impact before an election?" Hannity also railed, “There's a lot of selective moral outrage. We see a lot of things unfolding just before an election. You see that this is just pure politics. Is there any principle left?” Indeed. When Clinton was in office there was no higher priority for the Republicans that Clinton be impeached for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, an affair that was, unlike the Foley scandal, between two consenting adults. This is an important difference that I bring up because I keep hearing about how the Democrats didn’t care when Clinton did the same thing. Believe me, I don’t like Clinton but there is a big difference here. Clinton had an affair, which many people do, and while I’m not justifying that, it’s still a far cry from a middle-aged man preying on an underage kid. How can they try to defend this or compare it to two consenting adults? They can’t, which they quickly learned so they had to try their next ploy to control the political fallout. The next really interesting maneuvering that happened is that the Republicans tried to assert that Foley couldn’t possibly be a “real Republican” and insisted that he is really a “closet Democrat.” I’ve seen this talking point repeated many times now. Charging that Foley is a “closet-Democrat” because he doesn’t embody the “high moral principles” of the conservative movement, so where does that leave him? Well, he must be a “closet-Democrat” then, I mean come on, he’s gay. Fox News takes the cake here though as when reporting on the scandal Fox News actually changed the party affiliation of Foley, presenting him on the screen as Rep. Mark Foley (D-Fla), the D being for Democrat. So Fox actually went so far as to present Foley as a Democrat when reporting the damaging scandal in an effort to curb the fallout for Republicans. I’ve seen quite a few Republicans repeating the charge that Foley isn’t a real Republican. I’ve seen Pat Buchanan repeatedly refer to Foley as “this flamer”, and others like Ann Coulter have chimed in with their usual disgusting commentary as well. Coulter spewed that, “the sudden emergence of the Swift Butt Veterans for Truth demonstrates that the Democrats would prefer to talk about anything other than national security.” Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council (FRC), claimed that, while "there's no defense of this behavior ... it shouldn't be totally surprising when we hold up tolerance and diversity as the guidepost for public life. This is what you end up getting: a congressman chasing 16-year-old boys down the halls of Congress." Can you see where this is going? Not only is the right-wing arguing that Foley couldn’t possibly be a “real Republican” but they seem to be sinking back into their usual time-tested standard of gay-bashing. Oh but wait former House Speaker Newt Gingrich claimed that if the House GOP leadership had "overly aggressively reacted to the initial round, they would also have been accused of gay bashing." Tony Perkins again chimed in, “I think there may have been some fear that they had, in pressing it forward, out of fear of being seen as gay-bashing or homophobic because of the orientation of Congressman Foley.” So now the Republicans are actually claiming to not want to be seen as homophobic or gay-bashing. Since when? The Republican has built its platform on gay-bashing for the last 6 years. Bush got re-elected (if you believe the election was legitimate) on gay-bashing. The Republicans exploited the issue of same-sex marriage and screamed about how there had to be a ban on it to protect “family values” in this country to rally their bigoted voting base. And now they want us to believe that they are worried about being seen as homophobic, and that is the reason they’re claiming why they didn’t act sooner. The Republicans have worked very hard to shift the focus from this scandal, to hide the fact that we’re talking about a child predator, they have been gay-bashing with all of their efforts to focus on the fact that he’s gay and not a child predator. And of course he must be part of some huge underground gay network, a shadow group that secretly controls the government (aside from securing themselves equal rights that is). Some are now speculating that Foley was part of a “velvet mafia” or “gay mafia” that attempted to protect Foley from exposure. Time magazine reporter, Karen Tumulty reported that according to "a whisper campaign that has been launched in Washington," former Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham may have been one of the "gay staff members" belonging to "a 'velvet mafia' at the upper levels of G.O.P. leadership" that sought to protect Foley. And Republicans have gone so far as to charge that gay men are more likely to sexually abuse children than straight men are. This is an outright lie. In fact a 1995 study released by the American Psychological Association found that "gay men are no more likely than heterosexual men to perpetrate child sexual abuse." This whole scandal has been so revolting, not only because of the child predator that was chair the House's Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, which Foley was. Oh did I forget to mention that? That alone is enough to send chills down your spine, to think that this guy was probably getting off of listening to the testimony of child victims that had been preyed upon by people like himself. But the other sickening aspect of this whole scandal is how far the Republicans have gone to initially protect a child predator that they seemed to know all about. Then once the whole sorted affair was exposed they went into attack mode, blasting the victims, the media, Democrats, homosexuals and massive conspiracies, all in a miserable effort to take the heat off of themselves, which is where it belongs. Thankfully people haven’t bought it and hopefully we’ve only seen the beginning of the political fallout over this scandal. Hopefully we see some Republicans going down, no pun intended.