Saturday, September 30, 2006

Congressman resigns over inappropriate emails to a page

The NY Times has the story. From it, we get this passage:
The page who received the first e-mail messages told ABC News that people in the program had warned his class to watch out for Mr. Foley.
Oh really? So, then, this must have been known about for quite some time, but no one did anything about it? Later in the article we get this passage:
Representative John Shimkus, Republican of Illinois and chairman of the House Page Board, issued a statement late Friday saying he had known of the first e-mail messages “in late 2005.” Mr. Foley, Mr. Shimkus said, had said he was simply acting as a mentor, but Mr. Shimkus told him to cut off contact with the page and “be especially mindful of his conduct” with pages.
So, he knew in late 2005 and Shimkus was chairman of the House Page Board. Who else might have known? The Seattle Times article offers some illumination:

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who sponsored the page from his district, said he learned of the e-mail from a reporter 10 or 11 months ago and passed on the information to the teen's parents and to Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Republican campaign organization.

Alexander said he did not pursue the matter because the teen's "parents said they didn't want me to do anything."

Um, it's a criminal matter at this point. Alexander should have reported it to the police because the page was 16 years old. Although the sensationalist and homophobic media are harping on the fact that this page is a male, it shouldn't matter. Would they be less horrified if it was a female? Probably, but the outrage would still be expressed. No reason to bring sexual orientation into this issue.

So, we have the leader of the pages and the chairman of the House Republican campaign organization knowing about these emails. And there are more emails to more pages, some of which are more explicit than the one originally discovered. Did they do a fact finding? Did they ask him to resign so someone else could run for his seat? Weeeeeeellll, no. But they did inform House Leader Dennis Hastert! From the Seattle Times again:

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., said the House Page Board he chairs investigated the allegations late last year, but he said Foley "was not honest" in denying improper conduct.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Friday he had asked Shimkus to investigate the page system. "We want to make sure that all our pages are safe and the page system is safe," Hastert said.

They took Foley at his word and then did a study of the page system. They did not investigate the perpetrator of the crime. Why not? Because A) he's one of their own and B) they are worried more about re-election than they are about the safety of the children that they hire. I mean, one would think that the first step during the preliminary investigation would be to remove Foley from his chairmanship of the exploited-children's caucus. That would have been reasonable. One might successfully argue that he could remain in other leadership positions while the investigation was taking place, but this one minor step seems to be obvious in the extreme.

The Republican leadership did not do that however. They are already beset with charges of lobbyist corruption, cowtowing to the President in an unpopular war, corruption involving over spending on projects that branches of the government do not even want, and more (strippers, limosine contracts, poker games, stealing elections, passing few bills, etc, etc, etc). The last thing they needed was another scandal involving sex and an underage page. What do I mean by "another"? Lest we forget, this same administration was the one that had a head of the child protection unit of Homeland Security busted for attempting to seduce a minor online.

Rather than own up to the scandal last year and deal with it, they took a gamble and tried to sweep it under the carpet until after this year's election. The whole thing has now blown up on them like a Catholic priest lawsuit investigation. Some Democrats are crowing over how this improves their election chances, but frankly, I find that just too crass. They should be spending their time looking at how this happened and how it can be prevented, if possible, in the future. Scoring political points undermines the seriousness of the charges.

From The Seattle Times again:
"We track library books better than we do sexual predators," Foley has said.
And we probably track sexual predators better when they are not members of Congress.

Another question: In this day and age, is there any valid reason for maintaining the page system in Congress?


Christina said...

This will probably be a rhetorical question, although I'd be delighted with a plain and concise answer: "Why, among a citizenry of people who supposedly cherish MORAL VALUES (at least they are quoted by the press as saying that when they leave the polls), do a firm 35% of people vote Republican when their choices are: lying pedophiles, chickenhawks, people accused by their mothers of striking them, candidates actively working to reduce the social safety net (what are most Republican senior citizens living on? what will most veterans be living on when they no longer work?)"

I'm no citizen, but I'm pretty sure the legislation over the past six years do not accurately reflect shared American values (I have a list of them, if you're interested).

I mean, I can understand voting for Coolidge (although he merely took over from Harding, I think), and Eisenhower during the Cold War, and I can understand voting for a "don't hurt the taxpayers" GOP like Ron Paul, or even Reagan, but these past and current politicians are not representative of the Republicans as a whole.

Maybe it's a sad, sad commentary of the current Democratic party that a significant number of American voters will choose slimy fascists and cowardly robber barons over them.

Scott said...

I'll disagree with you here. The gender of the victims is very pertinent, because of the nature of the predator's affiliations. The republicans foam at the mouth hoping to not only rollback civil rights, but to institutionalize homophobia and legislate discrimination against gays. If yet another of their members is caught in a scandal involving homosexuality the blatant hypocrisy is a major part of the story. It is especially pertinent considering they went after a heterosexual affair between consenting adults not too long ago.

Do I like it? No, but I won’t rewrite it either. Do I think it has a negative affect on maintaining and achieving rights for gays? Possibly, in the short term. On the other had it may actually offset some knee-jerk bigotry, as it will encourage dialog. I may think some Bubba realizing pedophilia is worse is inane, but it is still a step in the right direction. If they can’t even talk about the issue, they certainly can’t ever face it and their fears of queers.

B.D. said...

Christina, as you may well suspect, there isn't a plain and concise answer. To my mind there are 2 things going on here. First, there are a group of people who vote Republican because they firmly believe what these leaders are doing is in their best interest. This group overlooks scandals as individual flaws and votes for a variety of reasons, hence able to overlook the fascist trends of the party. This group also tends to paint Democrats with a broad brush while not understanding the hypocrisy in not doing the same with Republicans.

The second and larger group (I fear) is the one that is not informed of the issues, doesn't care to learn about them, feels the issues are too complicated, but goes to the polls and votes for the person that they feel best represents them. I've argued for a long time on this blog and in person that most people vote for the person that they like best or feel most comfortable with. One may well argue that this is a dangerous position in a Democracy and I would not disagree, but I think that there are plenty of Democratic leaning students who do the same thing.

Looking at a widely publicized poll from last year, though, we learn that most Republicans believe that there are still WMD in Iraq and most Democrats know better. That leads me to believe that Republican voters tend to be more ignorant of the issues. The leaders of the party, at this time, are appalling. They are much more likely than Reagan to say one thing and do another (which is saying a lot) and are more partisan by far than the Reagan folks (look at the purging of Democrats in the various departments as well as the hiring of workers for Iraq as was recently reported, where potential employees were sometimes asked about their views on Roe v. Wade - most definitely a hot topic issue for Iraqi women).

So, that's my two cents. They are acolytes. They believe in what their leaders do as surely as they believe in their Lord. Not that the two are equivalent, but the practice has similitudes.

B.D. said...


I hear what you're saying. From a hypocrisy standpoint within Republican politics, it does make a difference. The Uncle Tom Cabin's Club (officially known within Republican circles as the Log Cabin Club) is a vigorous minority within the party that hopes to affect change from within, but really just abets their enemy. The current leader of the Republican National Committee is gay. A gay Republican from California almost won the House Majority leader position until his party got queasy about his sexuality.

Still, the larger issue here is that an adult, in a position of power, proposed sexual advances on a young person at the bottom of the political tree. Yesterday, a couple of former pages noted that you don't bring down a Congressperson by reporting such issues and hope to continue on in politics. That is the crux of the issue - it's a power imbalance and it involves minors.

The gender of the person should not matter in reporting such things. The fact that it is being highlighted in the media only demonstrates the persistent homophobia in society which is why the media sensationalizes it. You do not see the media waving a rainbow flag and pointing out that this is Republican hypocrisy, do you? If they were to do so, then I'd agree with your point because surely, that is part of the story. Yet the media, in an interest to promote a sensationalist angle to the story, to gain ratings, to not turn off 35% or so of it's die hard Republican viewers, to keep in good graces with the party in power so that it can continue to get stories, and in that ever fashionable and hypocritical issue of "fairness" does not hold the Republican leadership to the wall on this and yet continues to focus on it being a male page.

As Ben Stein noted in a column published yesterday in the American Spectator:

I hope it won't come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys.

He, along with the mainstream media's assist, are now painting homosexuals as pedophiles with a broad stroke. Would he say the same about heterosexuals? Not likely.

To say that this sets back the cause of civil rights is an understatement because as we know the majority of Americans still oppose those rights. By continuing to highlight the gender of the youth involved the media play up to the worst sort of bigotry in the American public and actually aid Republicans in setting back those rights.

If they want to bring up gender, then point out the hypocrisy and do so in detailed analysis. Otherwise, leave it out because it's not the real issue here.