Disgraced GOP Rep. Mark Foley’s instant messages with an underage page are absolutely appalling. He was a 54-year-old man abusing his position of power with a 16-year-old boy. Based on all the reporting so far, and there may yet be more to come, Rep. Foley was exactly the kind of sexual predator–“sicko,” in his own words–he crusaded against in Congress. Alcoholism seems the least of his problems.
The Democrats are in full feeding frenzy, of course. Now, many blogs on the right are questioning the provenance of the story and doing good investigative work on the mysterious blog that started it all. See Clarice Feldman, Tom Maguire, Rick Moran, Blog P-I, and Allah’s round-up. See also: Were Foley’s e-mails altered?
But amidst all the “who-knew-what-when” posturing and “hypocrisy” jockeying and media coverage dissecting, I hope we don’t lose sight of the core scandal here. There are simply too many adults in Washington who cannot be trusted to ensure the safety of young people under their wing.
Not in the White House (go re-read the Starr Report, if you have the stomach).
Not in their districts (remember Mel Reynolds, convicted in 1995 by an Illinois jury on two counts of solicitation of child pornography, three counts of criminal sexual assault, three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and four counts of obstruction of justice and granted clemency by you-know-who?).
And not in the House page system:
In 1983, two lawmakers were censured by the House of Representatives for having sexual relationships with teenage pages. Rep. Dan Crane, R-Ill., admitted to sexual relations with a 17-year-old female page, while Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., admitted to sexual relations with a 17-year-old male page.
The ways each lawmaker handled the scandal — and the consequences they faced afterward — were very different. Crane apologized for his actions, saying, “I’m human” and “I only hope my wife and children will forgive me.” He was subsequently voted out of office in 1984.
Studds, who was openly gay, said the relationship was consensual and charged that the investigation by the House Ethics Committee raised fundamental questions of privacy. He won re-election the following year — in a more liberal district than Crane’s — and served in Congress until his retirement in 1996.
The scandals had repercussions for congressional pages as well. The Congressional Page Program — which has been around for more than 150 years — was overhauled and a board was created to monitor it. A dormitory for pages was created near the Capitol.
If you’ll recall, Newt Gingrich demanded the expulsion of both Studds and Crane. But their enablers and apologists in the House let them both off with censure, and the double standard in treatment of the Republican Crane and the Democrat Studds needs no underscoring.
My advice to parents of all political persuasions is to send a message and keep your children away from the page program and any other Beltway programs that make minors vulnerable to predatory politicians. Maybe it’s time to suspend the page system. It’s been abused as a sexual romper room one too many times.
We need to know more about this:
A Republican staff member warned congressional pages five years ago to watch out for Congressman Mark Foley, according to a former page.
Matthew Loraditch, a page in the 2001-2002 class, told ABC News he and other pages were warned about Foley by a supervisor in the House Clerk’s office.
Loraditch, the president of the Page Alumni Association, said the pages were told “don’t get too wrapped up in him being too nice to you and all that kind of stuff.”
…Loraditch says that some of the pages who “interacted” with Foley were hesitant to report his behavior because “members of Congress, they’ve got the power.” Many of the pages were hoping for careers in politics and feared Foley might seek retribution.
Loraditch runs the alumni association for the U.S. House Page Program, and he is deeply concerned about the future effects this scandal could have on a program that he sees as a valuable educational experience for teens.
Tom Maguire notes the difference in Loraditch’s ABC News Versus NY Times treatment.
Several House leaders had known about the matter at least since spring but failed to take appropriate action. Even accepting their insistence that they knew only of ambiguously “overfriendly” e-mail, rather than the unmistakable obscenities that have recently come to light, their reaction is disturbing.
The slightest hint of a member of Congress making advances toward an underage page is a serious matter. More so because it has happened before, disgracing two congressmen in the 1980s. It speaks directly to the integrity of the institution and the safety of the teens who work for it.
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Flashback: Reflections of a former intern