Tuesday, October 10, 2006
By CLINTON FEIN
October 8, 2006
The Mark Foley IM sex scandal, (which revelation after revelation confirms the scandal itself has been anything but instant) is shining a spotlight on all things creepy about congress and the special interest groups to whom they pander.
Democrats, who have long been smarting over the Republican's unwelcome intrusion into Bill Clinton's office peccadilloes, are gloating over the prospect of pointing a moral finger at the conservative Republican power players (hoping to even steal some of their Evangelical base).
Despite the inability of Democrats to successfully counter that it wasn't Bill Clinton's innovative use of Cuban cigars that distracted America from focusing on Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, but Henry Hyde, Kenneth Starr and the predatory Republican sharks that sought to punish him for it, they seem determined to make the same mistakes as their Republican counterparts.
First and foremost, is the question of legality. Did Mark Foley's conduct violate any laws, federal or otherwise, and under what jurisdiction is his conduct examined? If he sent IMs from Washington DC, where the age of consent is sixteen, or West Palm Beach, Florida, do those locations have jurisdiction, or do the locations of the page rather, determine where the law might have been violated, or both?
Foley, alas appropriately but seemingly unintentionally, operates with the aplomb and finesse of a fifteen year old that keeps making the same desperate mistakes, oblivious to the uncomfortable cues that his younger, more mature targets offer in response. But is cybersex (or failed attempts) actually sex?
Creepy, socially retarded and sexually immature as Foley's online persona is, is there really anything that wrong with fantasizing about getting it on with an anatomically developed teen brimming with sexual curiosity?
Why is there such a demand for videos titled, "Barely Legal," in which adults over the age of eighteen, but who look anywhere from fourteen to sixteen? Does the underage appearance of half the college girls in Girls Gone Wild undermine its massive success? Yeah, right.
Any member of the House of Representatives, male or female, gay or straight, faced with the option of the presence of anatomically mature pages, male or female in tight white pants as eye candy, (as Foley is alleged to have enjoyed), or Dennis Hastert sweating, waddling and wheezing about the chamber, should think twice before terminating the page program. There's nothing wrong with aesthetics. After all, Dennis Hastert himself seems to have enjoyed gawking at young men in spandex wrapping their thighs around one another's heads. Why else would you become a wrestling coach?
While many minors are indeed ill-equipped to deal with predators, equally many sexually active seventeen year olds are probably not that put out by telling an obviously desperate older guy that they prefer fucking people their own age and to take a hike. Especially virtually.
By all appearances, and despite breathless headlines in the Los Angeles Times to unapologetically liberal online amateurs like RawStory, the fact that Mark Foley had sex with a former page who was no longer associated with the page program and who was over twenty one is not only not news, it's nobody's fucking business. Even if the former page was male, and even if the former congressman was closeted.
Predictably on cue, the gay haters rose to the surface like flies to fresh shit. Pat Buchannan, the MSNBC firebrand, who hates gays only more than he hates Jews, appearing on the show of MSNBC's equally hate-filled former congressman, Joe Scarborough (he of dead interns in his office), referred to Foley as a "flamer" and incorrectly accused Democratic House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, of marching with NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association), a group of pedophiles intent on changing age-of consent laws, and are about as helpful to gays as Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas is to Christians.
Ignoring the impact, perhaps, on the pages themselves, claiming that Democrats have been involved in sex scandals far worse than the Mark Foley scandal, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, told a Greenville, South Carolina crowd gathered for a Republican fundraiser: "What we don't have to do is allow our friends on the left to lecture us on morality...There's a certain stench of hypocrisy." Indeed! The same kind of stench emanating from this habitual divorce who, like Foley, wrote the Defense of Marriage Act whilst in congress, and yet who terminated his relationship with his wife as she lay in bed riddled with cancer. Till death, insensitivity or hypocrisy, do us part.
Republicans, following the misguided cue of one truly familiar with closets, news aggregator Matt Drudge, are attempting to deflect attention from their cover-up by accusing Democrats of having engineered an "October Surprise" just before a mid-term election. Although there is no evidence to support the claim, and plenty to refute it, the tactic itself misses the point entirely. Who cares? If Foley engaged in illegal behavior or ethical misconduct, and Republicans covered it up or failed to act on it, those facts remain. Had they acted appropriately, or investigated further, the Democrats wouldn't have a weapon to brandish, regardless of the timing.
If Mark Foley did not engage in illegal conduct, and it may well turn out that he didn't, and if he was a heterosexual, this scandal would have been over already, the focus would be on the sharp spike of deaths on Americans serving in Iraq or the credible and increasingly growing threat of terrorism against America.
The real issue is that Mark Foley may have abused his position of power to intimidate those younger and more vulnerable, and that is what is objectionable, regardless of his age or his sexual orientation. Instead of focusing on that, and clarifying that consensual banter between two individuals over the age of consent is private and legal, and unless evidence emerges to reveal otherwise, perhaps Mark Foley deserves the benefit of innocent until proven guilty, Democrats would rather adopt the hypocritical position of their Republican counterparts.
The real lesson here, of course being missed by just about everyone, is that this is exactly what Don't Ask, Don't Tell breeds. The same way as the United States military adopts a incomprehensible policy that forces gay servicemembers to lie about their sexual orientation in violation of every tenet the military teaches in terms of honor and integrity, so too does the antigay agenda of the so-called religious right and the Republican Party demand the closet of the complicit gays that pepper its ranks.
For Republicans, the Mark Foley scandal is as much about the embarrassment of having a high ranking homosexual in its party as it is a predator in its fold, for each are equally reprehensible to them. For Democrats, it's more about revenge of the Republicans than it is about questioning their supposed values to begin with. For right-wing fanatics, it's more about equating homosexuality with pedophilia than it is about protecting allegedly vulnerable pages. And for gay activists, it's more about clamoring to defend itself from those very accusations and the likely vilification by Republicans than it is about simply distancing itself from a congressman whose only possible crime is being a predator, not a homosexual, and for whom the issue is no more relevant than it is for Alcoholics Anonymous.
For one or two of us, it's about waiting for investigations to determine if any laws were actually broken or whether Mark Foley is not a criminal, but simply a boozy hypocrite and a creep. As well as be forced to stomach the incredulous reactions that emerge from a commission finding following the next terrorist attack that reveals that while the entire country, Democrat and Republican alike, focused on Mark Foley's irresponsible, possibly illegal behavior, al Qaeda laughed knowingly as they plotted.