Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Grand Old Pedophiles---To Catch a Congressional Predator

Remember the 90s? That idyllic time when the Christian Right held the moral sway of the country in the palm of its hand? Remember the righteous moral indignation of the republicans in congress? Remember how they lambasted Clinton, a democratic president, for a sexual tryst with a 20 something intern? Remember the words abuse of power? Liar? Coverup? Impeachment? Remember the blue dress? Linda Tripp? Monica Lewinsky? Remember how national politics came to a screeching halt so that congress could put all of this on trail to impeach this president for purportedly lying to a grand jury? Remember that this was considered a national travesty that put the Watergate scandal to shame? Remember how the 2000 presidential election was all about bringing morality and dignity back to the White House?

Well, take a good long hard look at yourselves in the mirror, my republican friends. All of the things you loathe and attribute to liberals, democrats and the left can be found deep within the soul of your own party.

My mother has this saying. She always told me to take a good long look at the people you hate because what you hate about them is what you hate in yourself and cannot face. Pithy, I know, but apropos nonetheless. Not that I am going on record saying that my mother was right, because god knows, I would never do that, but some truths simply are, whether you like it or not.

The truth of this scandal isn't that Foley is gay and had sexually explicit conversations with male lovers via the internet. The truth of this scandal is complex. It is not complex because people are somehow confused over whether what Foley did was right or wrong. It is complex because this scandal is not about one person. This scandal encompasses the entire republican caucus in congress, some of the very same republicans, in fact, who saw fit to shout from the rooftops about the national travesty of Clinton's blow-job from an intern.

The truth of this scandal begins simply with the acts of one man, the acts of Florida Republican Mark Foley. He had sexually explicit conversations via the internet, not with gay men, but with children, teenagers involved in the congressional page program. It doesn't matter whether those minors were boys or girls. It may matter to the religious right because they loathe all things homosexual. However, his homosexuality is not the issue. His penchant for sexual conversations with children is. Homosexuality and pedophilia are not the same thing. To suggest that holding him to account is akin to gay-bashing is a complete fallacy. The extreme religious right wing of the republican party is not afraid of gay-bashing. They are trying to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay people from marrying. In 2004, they saw to it that anti-gay legislation was on the ballots in many states to motivate their base to vote. That is gay-bashing. Removing a pedophile from office and initiating a criminal investigation into his behavior to protect the youths involved in the congressional page program is, quite simply, the right thing to do.

Another truth in this scandal is the congressional republican cover-up. The republican congressional leaders knew about Foley's behavior. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that they knew about it for years. And they did nothing about it. In addition to doing nothing about it, they actively covered it up, kept the information from congressional democrats and protected this pedophile over the well being of teenage congressional pages. As part of the page orientation, the pages were warned to stay away from Foley because of his sexual proclivities. We also know that Hastert and other republicans were given written copies of at least the e-mail correspondence between Foley and one of the teens. We also know that instead of taking action to stop Foley, the republican re-election campaign committee was given the information. When faced with the choice of protecting children from a sexual predator and protecting their own majority in congress, they chose the latter. They are not interested in protecting the well-being of minors if it is not politically expedient. They treated this cover-up as a campaign issue instead of an issue of right and wrong.

Another truth is that Foley was not just any republican congressmen. He was chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. Basically, he was charged with overseeing the laws that are written to protect children from crime, including internet sexual predators. Ew. Ironically, he was charged with protecting our nation's children from people like himself. An article on MSNBC is suggesting that as vile as his actions are, he may not be charged with a crime. Apparently, it is not a federal crime if you simply talk about sex and make sexually suggestive remarks to minors, but only a federal crime if you use the internet as a medium to solicit a physical sexual encounter with a minor.

If what he did is not considered a federal crime, my question is this: Did he write the laws so as to exclude from federal criminality the behavior in which he, himself, participated or did he simply know enough about the laws to keep his behavior within the legal letter of the laws while clearly flaunting the moral spirit behind them?

If he had the laws written to exclude his own behavior, that puts him in a category all his own. Because unlike the plumbers, school teachers, doctors and otherwise average people we see weekly on NBC's "To Catch a Predator" series, Mr. Foley had the unique position of being able to construct the laws in such a way that it keeps him out of jail. This is a privilege that other sexual predators do not have. I think that makes him MORE criminally negligent than the run of the mill sexual predator, not less.

Now, of course, that is all simply my own speculation. Through the course of investigations, proof may surface that Foley did in fact use the internet to solicit sex from these minors and he may be brought up on federal charges. Or maybe not. Maybe he only used the internet to engage in sexually explicit conversations and make dinner plans with these kids. But in either case, I think those laws ought to be re-examined and, if changed, made retro-active to include Mr. Foley's behavior.

Now, the republicans could have staved off much of this criticism. They could have dealt with Foley a long time ago. Of course, they were not inclined to do so in the 90s even though pages have come forward to say that they knew in 95 about Foley's sexual proclivities. The reason being they were too busy going after Clinton. How could they make the claim of moral superiority if they had a sex scandal with a pedophiliac in their own midsts. Even if they waited until after the 2000 election, they could have dealt with Mark Foley. They could have expelled him from congress, censured him, removed him from the committee chairmanship, investigated him and held themselves up as morally superior because they wouldn't allow this sort of behavior from one of their own. Instead, they brought him into their embrace and condoned his behavior by granting him the protection of a cover-up. And allowed him to continue to have access to the children who were brought to Washington as pages.

Now, the republicans have been screaming from high heaven that the Democrats are trying to politicize this issue. Really? The republicans hid Foley's problem from congressional Democrats for what, 11 years? They ran the spin from the re-election arm of their party and Democrats are making this a political issue?


The republicans made this a political issue a long time ago. Now, today's Washington Post had a great article about how this should have been handled and was handled in the past, under a Democratically controlled congress. Basically, the Democratically held congress assigned an independent counsel to investigate rumors of sexual miscondut in the House. They set up an open flow of information between the attorney general, who had been appointed by republican president Ronald Reagan, and that independent counsel so that there would be no chance of a cover up, and they gave that counsel subpoena power so that he could compel testimony. Engaging in this kind of behavior would have been a good start from the republicans to keep this from being a partisan political issue.

If it had been found out that a Democratic member of the House had sexually explicit e-mail and instant message conversations with a minor in the page program and that the Democratic leadership had covered it up can you imagine the outrage? A device has yet to be created that could measure the thunderous roar of outrage from the right. The day they found out would be the first day of their campaign to expel every Democrat from office. Don't tell me, the Democrats are making this a political issue. If you ask me, they haven't gotten even close to being political enough or angry enough over this issue.

What these men, and I use the word lightly, did was reprehensible. The hipocricy of these people is what sickens me. They treat every single issue as if they have the moral authority to dictate right and wrong. And we're supposed to accept they are the party of family values? Well, they come from some pretty sick families if they think covering up for a pedophile is a value to cherish.

Can you imagine if an average joe, a plumber, doctor, teacher engaged in sexually explicit e-mail conversations with your child and said, its because I'm an alcoholic and I'm gay as if that answer is enough? Would you accept that explanation from the truck driver down the street? A garbage man? A nurse? No, of course you wouldn't.

So why should we be expected to accept that as a valid explanation from a congressman, especially one whose party thinks they own the moral conscience of America? Clearly, their hypocrisy knows no bounds because this much at least is clear: The very same people who were out to crucify Clinton for his sexual misconduct, used their power as congressmen to protect themselves and their own stranglehold on power over the protection of American children.

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