Even without watching TV news it’s hard to avoid the non-stop coverage of the Mark Foley scandal. There seems to be a feeding frenzy on all sides with plenty of ugly undercurrents tailored to fit various agendas. I know there’s no need for any more holier-than-thou pronouncements about Foley’s actions but I’ll give mine anyway and say that his creepy behavior with the underage pages makes my skin crawl and I definitely think he should be arrested (using some of the laws he helped to enact as chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children) if it comes out he had actual encounters with those teenage boys. Obviously he’s a sick guy with a case of arrested development and I hope he gets the help he needs. However, if I had sent my 16-year-old high school student to Washington for an exciting experience as a congressional page and then found out that an elected official was coming on to my kid in that way I would be out for blood.
I remember during my childhood that whenever some heinous action by an individual was reported in the news, whether it was murder, kidnapping, corruption, or even someone failing to file their income taxes, my parents would hold their breaths to see if the religion of the offender was mentioned in the story. If it became clear that the person in the spotlight was not Jewish, I could hear audible sighs of relief. All news stories went through my family’s “Is it good for the Jews?” filter. I guess they thought that if a Jewish person was guilty of any crime, it would somehow reflect badly on all Jews everywhere. Crazy thinking, but it still exists, including in my own head. Couldn’t you hear all the Democrats exhaling with relief that Foley was a Republican? And can you imagine the deafening drumbeat of condemnation that people like Dennis Hastert and others would be leading if Foley had been a Democrat?
I probably shouldn’t even be commenting on this story which is mercifully starting to die down but I just read a little item that compelled me to publicly state what an idiot Hastert’s predecessor Newt Gingrich is. The former House Speaker took the opportunity yesterday to condemn the Democrats because “their sex scandals are far worse.” Great, let’s move all focus onto which side has the most pervs rather than looking at how to better protect children from predators such as Foley. “What we don’t have to do,” Gingrich said, “is allow our friends on the left to lecture us on morality. There’s a certain stench of hypocrisy.” Well, I couldn’t agree more with that, and it’s the same stench that for years has been wafting off the Republicans who decided they were the keepers of moral values in the United States.
But cries of hypocrisy aside, why shouldn’t every citizen in this country be full of outrage, not only at Foley’s pathetic machinations and unbelievable arrogance but also at what is clearly a cover-up among the top echelons of the Republican leadership? The same people whose eyes rolled back into their heads and who practically started speaking in tongues every time Bill Clinton unzipped his fly. That is the stench that I’m finding particularly odiferous this week.
One unfortunate side effect of this brouhaha is the way that certain groups are using the fact that Foley is gay as an excuse to promote ugly biases about gay people. As if the vast majority of adult child predators aren’t heterosexual. Some gay groups have said that this is what happens when people remain in the closet. The implications of that seem way off to me although it’s true that Mark Foley reached new levels of hypocrisy and cowardice by his refusal to acknowledge his sexual preference even after being outed several times. During his last campaign, the five-term congressman called speculation that he was gay “revolting and unforgivable.” Huh? What was far more revolting was his pandering to the right-wing bigots of his home state of Florida, the only state in this country that still prevents gays and lesbians from adopting children. I hope that when the smoke clears from this mess that people will see that this is not a gay issue at all but one about protecting children from those who would do them harm.