At last, Congressional Democrats have answered critics who claim that they have forgotten how to behave as an opposition party. Party leaders have finally launched a searing attack against a criminal outrage that has gone on for three long years-while vowing to take down all Republican leaders responsible for the deception and subsequent cover-up.
These courageous Democrats are finally regaining the moral high ground-miraculously, without sacrificing their unswerving orientation to the Republicans’ voting base in this election year.
After all, what sane person doesn’t oppose pedophilia?
Ex-House Republican Mark Foley is, of course, drowning in his own hypocrisy. Foley’s “smoking gun,” the email address “maf54”, used for sexual discourse with minors since at least 2003, is set to join the Clinton cigar in historical infamy. Just as President Clinton was likely engaging in extra-marital sex when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, Foley was attempting to seduce under-age boys while he co-chaired the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus.
Just over two months ago, President Bush signed the Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, a tough new law against sex offenders–spearheaded by Foley. “We track library books better than we do sexual predators,” Foley commented in 2005, justifying the stringent new regulations that lump together violent rapists with harmless viewers of Internet pornography. Also in 2005, Foley described as “disgusting” and “sick” that some former sex offenders could obtain Viagra through Medicare.
Now Foley will be required under the terms of the legislation he sponsored to register for life as a sex offender-when he gets out of jail. And perhaps he will be ineligible for Viagra when he reaches retirement age.
End of an era?
The downfall of Foley, who won the first of his six terms in the 1994 Republican electoral sweep helmed by Newt Gingrich’s obsession with “family values”, might just provide the final straw that ends this despicable era.
Politicians of both parties who have imposed punitive “family values” legislation on the rest of us clearly do not practice them. Gingrich himself is now on his third marriage, having served his first wife with divorce papers at her hospital bed as she recovered from cancer surgery in 1981, in order to marry his then-mistress. He phoned his second wife on Mother’s Day 1999 to request a divorce, in order to marry his next mistress.
The significance of the Foley scandal has not yet registered with the White House, however. When questioned on October 2 about Foley’s escapades, White House spokesman Tony Snow responded dismissively, “I hate to tell you, but it’s not always pretty up there on Capitol Hill. And there have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply naughty e-mails.”
To be sure, the negligence of Republican powerbrokers in reacting to evidence of Foley’s foibles has added new meaning to the term, “do-nothing Congress.” Foley, a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, who was appointed House Deputy Whip by the since-indicted Tom De Lay, has friends in high places.
Last year, a 16-year old former Congressional page reported to his Louisiana sponsor, Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander, that the 52-year-old Foley’s sexually-charged emails “freaked me out,” telling Alexander that Foley’s email request for his photo was “sick, sick, sick, sick, sick.”
Alexander did not report this information to the police or FBI, but went instead to Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), in charge of House Republican 2006 election campaigns. Foley has been among the largest single contributors, giving the NRCC $330,000 in less than three years-an amount that has more than tripled since Reynolds became NRCC chairman.
Reynolds claimed that he informed House Speaker Dennis Hastert of the allegations, yet on September 30, Hastert claimed he did not “recollect” being notified.
Defending the indefensible
Not surprisingly, Newt Gingrich defended the Republican leadership’s non-response in an Oct. 1 interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Wallace asked, “But during all those months, they left Foley in the House Republican leadership. They left him as the head of the congressional caucus dealing with exploited children.”
To which the notoriously anti-gay Gingrich responded, “I think had they overly aggressively reacted to the initial round, they would have also been accused of gay bashing. I mean, the original notes had no sexual innuendo and the parents did not want any action taken.”
Without for a moment minimizing the vile acts of Mark Foley, it is shameful that Congressional Democrats have staked their election-year strategy as an “opposition party” around opposing the acts of a lone Republican sexual predator, while assisting Republicans in whipping up a bi-partisan xenophobic frenzy.
In the final days of this pre-election Congressional session (before breaking for five-weeks of campaigning), 12 Senate Democrats joined 53 Republicans to endorse Bush’s anti-terrorism legislation intended to allow evidence acquired through torture. Twenty-six Democrats (including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) also joined Republicans to overwhelmingly pass a draconian bill calling for construction of a 700-mile wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, in a vote of 80 to 19.
On November 7, voters will unfortunately be left with no choice other than to kick the Republican “bums” out, only to be replaced by the bums of the pseudo-opposition party. A genuine third-party has never been more desperately needed.
SHARON SMITH is the author of Women and Socialism and Subterranean Fire: a History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States. She can be reached at: email@example.com