Ten years ago next month, video taken a few days after the 1996 elections was shown over and over again on the nation's television screens. In that video, the country saw a newly re-elected Bill Clinton greet intern Monica Lewinsky in a South Lawn rope line. Those pictures presaged the next two years, when Republicans harped on "moral issues" en route to one-issue star-chamber-style impeachment proceedings. A partisan special prosecutor leaked salacious details at every opportunity to a prurient press, and everyone had an opinion one way or another on the behavior of the president.
Now the Republican Party finds itself mired in its own sex scandal, and they are now finding out how hard it is to wiggle out from under it. While most people may not understand geopolitics, and hardly anyone understands global economics, everybody understands sex. This is why sex scandal stories nearly always make their way to the front page and the first few minutes of the evening news.
The start of this week saw another few bombshells drop--The Washington Post reported that Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman from Arizona, saw some of disgraced GOP congressman Mark Foley's inappropriate instant messages to pages as far back as six years ago, and confronted Foley about them. Up until this point, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert claimed that the earliest the GOP knew about Foley's actions was last fall, which is disturbing enough. Kolbe, the only out gay Republican member of the House, is retiring at the end of this year.
I hate to use the term "swiftboating," seeing as it has been used so much that it has lost its real meaning, but it is starting to look like the new GOP push-back on this Foley issue is almost a textbook definition. "Swiftboating," for those who remember 2004, is to get a group of individuals to make dishonest and unprovable claims to the mass media about something in order to muddy the waters enough to remove an opponent's possible advantage. Not one of the claims made by the "Swift Boat veterans" about John Kerry's military service in Vietnam were provably true, yet the "questions were raised" tactic spread from partisan media to mainstream media. In the end, the effect was to tar Kerry's actual heroics to enough people to negate the contrast of his military service with George W. Bush's AWOL behavior during Vietnam.
By the end of last week, Republican partisans began to blame Democrats for what is totally and completely a 100 percent Republican scandal. Consider this exchange between Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Oct. 8's Late Edition, when McHenry tried to argue that Democrats knew about Foley's e-mails and held the information until just before the election:
Rep. McHenry: Well look at the fact points . . . four weeks out from a national election . . .
Blitzer: Yes or no: Do you have any evidence, Congressman?
Rep. McHenry: Do you have any evidence that they weren't involved?
Blitzer: I'm just asking if you're just throwing out an accusation or if you have any hard evidence.
Rep. McHenry: No, it's a question, Wolf. The question remains, were they involved? And if they were not involved they need to say clearly, and it's a question, it's not an accusation.
"Do you have any evidence that they weren't involved?" This statement is mind-boggling on its face. Besides trying to make Blitzer impossibly prove a negative, McHenry is insinuating that the Democrats must be involved, even when every report has shown that the Foley IMs first came to light from Republican sources.
On Oct. 6, Republican leaders even called for top Democratic leaders to appear before the House ethics committee to determine "whether any Democrat members or political operatives were aware of, and attempted to conceal these same activities." It's the "I Know You Are But What Am I" defense, played out on a national scale.
It's very clear that Speaker Hastert knew about Foley's behavior for almost a year and did nothing. If that isn't a cover-up, then the words have no meaning. There's plenty for the House ethics committee to examine, but it's all on one side of the aisle, and that's the side with all the elephants on it.
Foley may not have been a "pedophile," per se, since all the messages he wrote were to kids around the age of 15 or 16--we should probably be using the term "statutory rapist." But that the GOP leadership would try to distract from the fact that one was hiding in their midst, knew about it for almost a year, and now claim the other side knew as well is shameless beyond belief.
Just think, if this is how they handle their affairs among themselves, you can only be more relieved that they are the party of a strong foreign policy. Say, does anyone know what's happening in Iraq and North Korea right now? H
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201