The parents of a 16-year-old Congressional page contacted their congressman, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.).
Alexander says he contacted both Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) who oversees the page program.
Reps. Shimkus, Reynolds, and House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) admit they knew about it in 2005.
Kirk Fordham, Reynolds’ former chief of staff, told the Associated Press that three years ago, he had “more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives to intervene.”
Reynolds and Boehner say they told Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), speaker of the house.
Hastert says Reynolds may have told him about it, but he doesn’t remember.
At no time, did anyone contact police or the FBI. Their concerns for justice were shallow; their fears that a scandal would affect their re-elections were deep. The conservative Washington Times and several major conservative columnists have called for Hastert to resign.
For his part, President George W. Bush says he supports Hastert, doesn’t want him to resign, and called him a “father, teacher, coach who cares about the children of this country.” Almost as an afterthought, he said he was “dismayed and shocked.”
What President Bush was “dismayed and shocked” about were the actions of Mark Foley, a Republican congressman from Florida. The President apparently wasn’t dismayed or shocked about the cover-up the Republican leadership undertook to keep the information from the public, the contacts with Foley to warn him about his conduct, and their failure to discipline one of their members.
The story broke in early September when a relatively new blog, Stop Sex Predators (www.stopsexpredators.blogspot.com), reported that Foley, a six-term congressman who was co-chair of Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, had sent sexually explicit e-mails and text messages to the 16-year old male Congressional page. Within two weeks, ABC-TV’s Brian Ross, and then the rest of the nation’s major media, picked up the story. The day after Ross’s first report, Foley resigned. Subsequent reporting revealed that Foley may have had other inappropriate contacts, dating back to at least 2003.
Trying to spin his own actions, Foley said when he was a teenager he had been abused by a member of the clergy; he now admits he’s gay, and has checked himself into an alcoholic rehabilitation facility. As for Reps. Alexander, Shimkus, Reynolds, Boehner, and Hastert, and dozens of other Republicans who knew of the problem, they shuffled and wobbled, but never acknowledged why they didn’t take immediate action at least six months earlier.
Spinning and diverting, Hastert is blaming liberals for their reporting of the scandal; others have dug through the archives to find that 23 years earlier a Democratic congressman was censured for having sex with a 17-year-old page. (On the other side of the aisle, and not reported by the Republicans, a Republican congressman that year had sex with a 17-year-old female page.) Many screeched out about former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and a rendezvous he had in 1988 with a woman on a boat called “Monkey Business,” and of Ted Kennedy, MaryJo Kopechne, and the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969, hoping to cloud the blame for their own problems.
Conservative Republicans devoutly proclaim themselves the party of “Family Values.” They want the people to believe they have been anointed with divine wisdom, sacred trust, and the key to the Holy Morality. Democrats and liberals, they decree, are sin-spewing heathens. But, truth is not on their side.
Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.), homophobic founder of Young Americans for Freedom and the American Conservative Union, and a darling of the Christian Coalition, lost his House seat in 1980 after disclosures that he solicited sex with a 16-year-old gay male; Bauman two years later acknowledged he was gay. Donald Lukens (R-Ohio) was sentenced to jail for having sex with a minor. The list of local and state Republican officials who were arrested and convicted of pedophilia or other sex crimes would choke even the most forgiving defense attorney. But, let’s just look at the family values of some of the Republicans recently elected or re-elected to federal office.
The list of “family values” Republicans who committed adultery, but continued to preach a doctrine of morality in government, would fill the telephone book of a small city. Among them are Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), and former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who were leaders of the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton; former presidential candidate Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas); former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), whom the Republicans planned to vote into office in 1999 as Gingrich’s successor, but whose career came unraveled by his admission of “marital infidelities”; Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.), who had a five-year extramarital affair with a woman 35 years his junior and who later accused him of repeated assaults; and former Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), who told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that God pardoned her sins.
Chenoweth was a “two-fer,” committing both sexual and legal sins. While her campaign strategy was loaded with rhetoric about family values and morals, she accepted illegal campaign contributions and then failed to disclose receipt of more than $50,000 for her 1994 campaign. She served three terms before deciding not to run for a fourth term in 2000. Rep. Randall (Duke) Cunningham (R-Calif.), a seven-term Congressman, who accepted $2.4 million in bribes, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), an 11-term congressman, was first forced to resign as House majority leader after being indicted on charges he conspired to violate Texas state election laws; amid growing evidence of financial and ethical irregularities over several years, DeLay resigned from the House in April 2006.
The Republicans, whose “big tent” campaign rhetoric apparently still doesn’t include many minorities, is represented by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). Lott resigned as Senate majority leader in December 2002 after praising segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), suggesting that if Thurmond had been elected president on the Dixiecrat ticket in 1948, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years.” Lott-who opposed the Voting Right Act and voted against creating Martin Luther King Day-recently asked, “Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.”
The Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal touched mostly Republicans, with one White House official charged with obstructing a federal investigation.
And there’s George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and John Ashcroft/Ambrose Gonzales, whose six year reign is pepper-shot with lies and violations of even the most basic codes of ethics. They are the cabal that had nodded off prior to the al-Qaeda attack upon the United States, and then lied to the people prior to launching an invasion of Iraq, which had no ties to the 9/11 plot, no ties to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, and no weapons of mass destruction.
The Administration has also diverted, according to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, about $700 million from the war in Afghanistan and the search for Osama bin Laden to prepare for the invasion of Iraq. They awarded a no-bid $7 billion contract to Halliburton, which is now accused of war profiteering, diversion of funds, and numerous other questionable, illegal, or immoral practices. Billions of other taxpayer-funded dollars went to other companies that are major contributors to Republican candidates.
On domestic issues, the BushCheney Administration has violated the environment, and disregarded health care and the working class, while holding the pursuit of obscene profits to be their personal god. They have encouraged the use of torture to gain information from even the remotest of suspects, and have refused to give suspects a fair trial. They have created fake news releases, bribed journalists, released secret information about a CIA agent in retaliation for her husband speaking out against Bush’s war in Iraq, illegally hacked into confidential Democrat strategy files, illegally spied upon both American citizens and the United Nations, invaded innumerable Constitutionally-protected personal rights of privacy, suppressed freedom of expression, and instilled fear as justification for its actions. Perhaps they should no longer be called “neocons,” but Vegomatic Republicans since they believe they have a divine right to slice, dice, and chop the Bill of Rights.
Sanctimoniously proclaiming themselves piously religious and patriotic, they have forsaken both the Bible and the Constitution. George W. Bush, when asked if he had consulted his father prior to the invasion of Iraq, devoutly declared that he had spoken to his “higher father.” His actions prove that he has abandoned both his heavenly father and this nation’s forefathers. So much for honoring thy father.
The salacious “family values” Republicans have become the party of right-wing righteous indignation. But the closest any of them will come to righteousness is their fervent prayers for something tumultuous to happen so the media and the public forget these latest elephant-sized transgressions.
WALTER BRASCH, professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, is an award-winning syndicated columnist and the author of 15 books, most of them about social issues, the First Amendment, and the media. His forthcoming book is America’s Unpatriotic Acts; The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Liberties (Peter Lang Publishing.) You may contact Brasch at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.walterbrasch.com