***scroll for updates***
I’ve been absorbing as much commentary on the ‘net and radio about the Foley mess as I can stand today.
What I am hearing from some conservatives inclined to pooh-pooh Foley’s behavior and carry on about Barney Frank instead does not sit well with me. You can’t possibly read Foley’s communications with minors that have been disclosed so far–including his attempts to rendezvous with one–and dismiss them as merely “naughty e-mails.” Yet, that’s how White House press secretary Tony Snow described some of them this morning. Though he admitted to being too “glib” and “clarified” those remarks with tougher words this afternoon, the damage has been done. Fair or not, it makes the White House look flippant about sexual predation. Parents of all political persuasions are not going to be receptive to that.
At this point, I think the GOP is making a mistake banging the drum so hard over the apparent far left/MSM orchestration of the story. However long the other side sat on the e-mails and IMs, the fact is that Mark Foley–and Mark Foley alone–is responsible for giving his enemies something to spring upon his campaign in the first place.
It is also impossible to ignore the appearance of calculated grooming by Foley of potential young targets. AP:
Former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., told House pages in warm farewell speeches over the years that he took “a special interest in each and every one” of them, identifying many of the youngsters by name and thanking them for their service.
Foley, who resigned Friday after being questioned about sexually explicit e-mails to former pages, gave the speeches during traditional June ceremonies honoring them in 2001, 2002, and 2004, according to the Congressional Record.
The comments show a friendly familiarity with some of the teenagers, who wear navy blue uniforms, open doors and hand-deliver messages for the lawmakers.
In a June 6, 2002 send-off, Foley warned “all of you not to cry in front of me, please, so I can get through this very important day with you without shedding tears as well.”
“Of course we have got several Jasons, a few Laurens. Adam, thank you for the graduation announcement,” Foley said in the 2002 speech. “I sent you a handwritten note, and I was actually going to put some money in it as a graduation present.
“Then I realized he would tell all of you, and then I would get hundreds of graduation announcements. So I chose not to. I hope the handwritten note will suffice for your scrapbook,” he said.
He described taking one of the young men who was the highest bidder in “lunch with Mark Foley” to Morton’s Steakhouse in his BMW…
Here’s a fuller excerpt of his speech to the pages in June 2002 via the Congressional Record:
Mr. FOLEY. I warn all of you not to cry in front of me, please, so I can get through this very important day with you without shedding tears as well.
First, I want all of you to salute two people that I know at times were tough on you. They are taskmasters, they are disciplinarians; but they love you in an incredibly personal way. I would like all of the pages to clap for Ms. Sampson and Ms. Ivester, your supervisors.
Ms. Sampson is on the back rail. She does not like to come too close here because she may cry, too; and she does not want any of the kids before you depart on Saturday to see her being a vulnerable person. It is true.
I hear so much laughter here and I am glad that there is laughter, because this is a wonderful time of your life. Every time we celebrate the departure of a page class, we remember your first day here and, of course, we are here at your last. You came in very shy and meek and very polite and for the most part you have remained polite, but no longer shy and meek. You have taken on your respective roles as junior Members of Congress and oftentimes I get a kick when I walk by the back row, Mr. Foley, please mention the pages so our parents will hear us on C-SPAN. The nice thing about today is you are on C-SPAN. And this is recorded. And you will get to see this replayed. And you will get to see your faces now assembling as if you were Members of Congress.
Some probably cannot wait to leave and get back and see your best friends and loved ones and some are anguishing about your departure. Mary Kate Leonard was on the back row crying. I asked why. She said, “I’m losing my best friend, Rachel.”
I said, “Really? Where’s Rachel?”
“Oh, Rachel is a Republican page.”
I said, “Oh, you are all bipartisan, too, huh?” Because Mary Kate is a Democrat, which shows how friendships can cross an aisle and cross ideological divide. So I asked Rachel to come from the cloakroom, and she thought I was kidding, to join her friend who was crying and I said, “I can’t let her cry alone. You have to be out here to be part of this.” Now I have got you both crying and I am starting to well up.
I have got a lot of other stories. Of course, Christopher made sure I came out of the cloakroom to see that his mother and family were sitting up in the gallery this morning as I quietly mentioned to him, “Remember, we’re not allowed to gesture to the gallery.” He said, “Oh, just wave to her, so she knows I’m important.” He is important and she is above us now.
Of course we have got several Jasons, a few Laurens. Adam, thank you for the graduation announcement. I sent you a handwritten note, and I was actually going to put some money in it as a graduation present. Then I realized he would tell all of you, and then I would get hundreds of graduation announcements. So I chose not to. I hope the handwritten note will suffice for your scrapbook.
Patty Mack, of course, also known as Patrick McDonald, when he said, “Mr. Foley, who made you say that?” I said, “I made it up myself. I’m Irish. I get it.” Fabulous young man. This is not made to make fun of him or anyone else.
The tag team of Dominic and Hilary. Who will forget their exuberance coming in the room? Bubbly, excited, cheerful. Of course Jordan and Eddie. Eddie’s mother I met today. They are from Florida. He is a constituent and hopefully a future voter of mine if I choose to run statewide, so Eddie will be my next best friend.
And, of course, Melanie, and finally John Eunice. John was the highest bidder on lunch with MARK FOLEY. Maybe you all do not know this story, but John had paid considerable sums to dine with me. I had offered to take the winning bidder to lunch in the Members’ dining room. Then I heard how much John Eunice paid. And I said, “John, there is no way in the world after you committed so much money to have lunch with me that I would dare take you downstairs to eat in the Members’ dining room.” I said, “Where do you want to go?” He says, without reservation, “Morton’s.” I said, “Morton’s? Like in Morton’s Steakhouse?” He said, “Oh, would that be too much?” I said, “Oh, no, we’ll go.” I said, “Call your mother, get permission, make sure she notifies the Clerk and we will go to Morton’s.” And so we proceeded to cruise down in my BMW to Morton’s. And all of this story is meant to make you all feel jealous that you were not the high bidders. So we went to Morton’s, and I do not know where you all went.
He was going to slip graduation money to a male page? He took another out for a cruise in his BMW? Ugh.
There is a time and place for attacking the Dems and the MSM. Now is not that time. Parents need assurance that their kids are safe on Capitol Hill. If Beltway GOP elites can’t understand this, they are beyond hope.
Mary Katharine mirrors my thoughts on those pushing the “technically, the pages were of age in Florida” excuses:
…there remains some question as to whether Foley’s actions were illegal. Regardless of the legality, I’m glad he’s gone. Back when Democrat Gerry Studds and Republican Dan Crane were cavorting with 17-year-old male and female pages, respectively, the fact that they got out of the situation with mere censure to their names is astounding to me. Both of those illicit relationships were allegedly consensual, and the pages in questions were of the age of consent. Studds turned his back on the House as it read his censure, and was reelected to his seat multiple times. Crane was tossed out of office by voters, as he should have been, after a tearful apology.
But “consensual” doesn’t cut it, here. We’re talking about teenagers being wooed by very powerful public figures– in some cases the very men to whom they owe their sweet, resume-padding page gigs. This is not an appropriate position for grown men to put children in, regardless of whether they are technically of age. The pages’ subordinance in age, position, stature, and experience make it four times as hard to stave off advances.
Michael Reagan, who was a victim of a sexual predator as a child, and grass-roots conservative activist/documentarian David Bossie weigh in via Human Events Online:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) is coming under fire from conservatives for his failing to take action against disgraced Rep. Mark Foley (R.-Fla.), who resigned last week for inappropriate communications with teenage pages.
“Speaker Hastert had knowledge of Congressman Foley’s inappropriate behavior and chose to protect a potential pedophile and powerful colleague over a congressional page,” said David Bossie, president of conservative advocacy group Citizens United.
Joining Bossie’s call for Hastert to resign was nationally syndicated radio show host Michael Reagan.
“Any member of Congress who was aware of the sexual emails and protected the congressman should also resign effective immediately,” Reagan said. “I was sexually abused by a day camp counselor at age eight and also made to be part of child pornography.”
Hastert said in a news conference Monday that neither he nor other Republican leaders knew about the lurid exchanges between Foley and the teenage pages dating back to 2003. “As a parent and speaker of the House, I am disgusted,” Hastert said.
However, that didn’t blunt the criticism from Bossie and Reagan. Bossie’s group, which is best known for producing the movies “Celsius 41.11” in 2004 and the just-released “Border War,” said Hastert had failed in his duty to investigate the matter “before it became a public relations problem.” Bossie said the problem may cost Republicans control of the House in November as a result.
One of blogger/teacher Betsy Newmark’s former students was a page interviewed by the NYTimes. He has created an informational site about the page program to try and convince parents that their kids will be safe:
On Friday, September 29, 2006, Congressman Mark Foley resigned from Congress after news media outlets revealed inappropriate emails and sexually explicit instant messages between him and former male House pages. This news is very disheartening.
The House Page Program is a unique and incredible opportunity for high school students to work at the highest levels of government. I would hate to see potential pages deciding not to apply for the program because of Congressman Foley’s actions. Likewise, I would hate to see criticism of the Page Program because of this one outlandish incident.
Unfortunately, it’s not just one incident. And in too many quarters inside and outside the Beltway, Foley’s “outlandishness” has been given too short shrift.
Reader Wayne e-mails:
Your post on Mark Foley is right on. I am sick and tired of people
turing everything into a political issue. Foley is one sick
individual that should have never been in congress in the first
place. I could care less if he’s a republican or democrat, he’s a
deeply disturbed man.
My daughter was asked to be a page for our congressman representing
the 1st district in Oklahoma. I forbid her to accept. I have lost
all confidence in our representatives. I wouldn’t expose her to
those people. I don’t trust them with our country let alone my own
flesh and blood.
Believe me, I am not alone when I say this. If this crap continues
we the people are going to have to take matters in our own hands.
Washington is in need of an enema and we need to start with flushing
out the career (corrupt) congressman and senators from both parties.
Update: Here’s video of our discussion on The O’Reilly Factor tonight. See also the comments section. I’m not arguing with Allah Pundit about this: “If someone knew what [Foley] was up to and didn’t act to stop it immediately, they’re complicit in child abuse.” Well, of course. As you’ll see, we all agreed on that point on the show tonight. What I am saying, simply, is that there are some operatives and apologists on my side going overboard in blaming the messengers–and the victims.
I saw your appearance on O’Reilly and read your comments about the Foley disaster. You are 100% correct: I see too many Repubs and conservatives downplaying the Foley situation by pointing to past Democrat messes, such as Gerry Studds and Barney Frank. That’s not a good defense. Frankly, I’m quite surprised that more conservatives aren’t focusing on the extent of Foley’s grasp (pardon the pun) regarding the congressional pages. And there are questions as to what was known and by whom. When something like this occurs, the “family values” and “law and order” party should be addressing the page program and ensuring that kids are safe, not worrying about the timing and source of the emails or whether Barney Frank ran a brothel out of his apartment many years ago. I’m with you on this one…
Update: Here’s the Washington Times editorial. I need to sleep on this one.