Turn the Page


The saga of Mark Foley is a real page turner. There is nothing like a good old fashioned sex scandal to get the attention of the populace. As incumbents love to say, “The only way I could lose this election is if they find me in bed with a boy a few weeks before the vote.” There you go.

House Speaker Denny Hastert’s colleagues are all too eager to shove him under the bus. The ever shifting time line is ruining Denny’s spin ­ first he heard about Foley’s depredations only last Friday, then last Spring, now three or four years ago. And for sheer gall, one must give credit to Matt Drudge’s take, to wit that 16 year old pages are sexual “beasts” (his word) preying on middle-aged Congressional innocents. [Not to mention David Brooks’ column in today’s NYT, waving the Vagina Monologues and hinting that the Republicans are the ones morally best equipped to rehab the nation’s moral “ecology”. AC/JSC] But even that takes a back seat to Foley’s co-chairing the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. Admit it; you gotta laugh at this stuff. (This “Caucus” yields almost no results on Google, not even a list of members or a web-site, simply the name of the chair and co-chair, one of whom is Foley, the other two being Dems. In contrast the “sister” Caucus on the Senate side has a web page, which lists members and activities. There is something strange about Foley’s “Caucus.”)

Unfortunately, the attitude of the left to the Foley saga is oh so predictable. A sex scandal rises to the top of political discourse and almost every progressive commentator points out that this stuff is small potatoes compared to the mass murders, which Foley and his ilk have perpetrated in Iraq. And that is certainly true; but are we not allowed to maintain more than one attitude on this matter? Have you ever heard of Schadenfreude? Enjoy all this ­ that’s the “freude” part. If you cannot laugh out loud at the deepening hypocrisy surrounding this and enjoy Foley’s pickle (Oops, maybe that’s the wrong way to put it.), you have no soul. We deserve to enjoy Foley’s misery – no revel in it. And it can be very funny.

Wake up! Mark Foley should be the poster boy for single payer. Single payer health care with psychiatric coverage could have obtained for Foley the counseling he needed years ago.

And Foley is giving drunks everywhere a bad name. Have you ever seen someone under the influence of old devil rum develop a sudden lust for boys? Why is AA not protesting? Or as David Letterman said: “Have you all been following this scandal in Washington with ex-Congressman Mark Foley? Well, a couple of days ago, he checked himself into rehab. … It had gotten so bad he had to go out and develop a drinking problem.”

Same for Catholics. When booze didn’t work as an excuse for Foley’s activities (since we are a pretty ethanol-soaked nation and all might be suspect), he tried to blame it on the Church, claiming “victimization” at the hands of priests. Now that is not going to help with the Catholic vote. Belatedly understanding this, Foley and his handlers (a whole new sense to that word) made it clear that they were not blaming the Pope’s men, just providing a sense of Foley’s personal history. Sure. Or David Letterman again: “The Republicans reacted quickly. They transferred Foley to a different parish.”

The web and the late night shows are alive with this stuff. Tune in and enjoy.

But unfortunately even if the Dems win this election (and they are entirely capable of botching it even now), there will be no change in the bloodshed in the Middle East. Rahm Emanuel, Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Israel Lobby and the Dem establishment have already hand picked pro-war Dem candidates. And this scandal will perhaps keep the Xtian fundamentalists at home, but it gives nothing to the Dem antiwar base. The Dems clearly hope to win in this way ­ with as little concession as possible to the antiwar forces in their base but simply by suppressing the turnout on the other side. So Foley’s shame, although good for a laugh and crucial for the Fall election’s outcome, will change nothing fundamental in Congress. Laugh through your tears.

JOHN WALSH can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com He welcomes any information about the mysterious House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.



John V. Walsh, until recently a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for the San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, Asia Times, LA Progressive, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch and others.