lessons (to be) learned from foley

1. Never write anything: You’d think that people on the Hill would have learned this lesson when Jessica Cutler (a.k.a. the Washingtonienne) had her 15 minutes of fame. With the dawning of the "petabyte age" we can afford to archive vast quantities of digital information transmitted through our cell phones, PDAs, and personal computers. With our nation focused on the threat of terrorism and child predators, perhaps its even in our best interests to do so (concerns regarding digital privacy aside). But in the immortal words of Stewart Brand, "information wants to be free," so no matter how anonymous or private we think our instant messages about masturbation techniques are – in the end there will always be a way to link that conversation back to the participants… Particularly if you’re using America Online and your screen name is a combination of your initials and birth year.

2. All my idols have feet of clay: Ours is a nation founded upon great ideas and romanticized philosophical principles like the inalienable rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Perhaps this is why we view our political system through rose colored glasses – we are an idealistic and patriotic citizenry who, in theory if nothing else, can appreciate the noble aspects of political service. Yet, despite all historical precedent, we are"surprised" that politicians are human and fallible. This is not to say we shouldn’t hold ourselves and our politicians to a high standard of ethics, morality, and accountability. But if the same people who were willing to fight and die for those inalienable rights could also support slavery… should we be "astonished" that a man who helped found and co-chair the Congressional Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children might himself attempt to exploit a child? No more so than when we learn of another politician’s hypocritical behavior.

Click through to read the reamining three lessons (to be) learned and possible “conspiracy theories” (wink, wink)

3. The devil made me do it: While the Republicans have self-proclaimed themselves the party of personal responsibility, Foley’s approach to spinning his personal/political fallout is textbook. In a statement that eerily echoed Mel Gibson’s rationale for an anti-semitic tirade, Foley explained that his inappropriate behavior occurred when he was under the influence of alcohol and checked himself into rehab. We are supposed to believe Foley’s alcoholism impaired his judgment to the point of where he felt comfortable talking dirty to underage, former pages – but none of his colleagues had any idea he was abusing alcohol! We’re supposed to believe that he was never drunk while working on the Hill – but the date/time stamp on some of his IMs demonstrate he left active sessions engage in these conversations! Then Foley’s lawyer gave us the "razzle dazzle" explaining (a) Foley "never attempted to have sexual contact with a minor," but as a minor himself was sexually molested by a clergyman, and (b) Foley is now ready to admit publicly for the first time that he is gay. Let’s see if we can decode this message

"Since Foley himself was molested, but never actually molested anyone – these drunken conversations were really just bad mistakes stemming from the hidden demons of his past. And are these conversations really that bad when you think about what could have happened if Foley was really a bad person? Oh, and did I mention he is sexually deviant and pursuing children because he’s gay? I mean, we all know gays are a bunch of child molesters, so this whole thing really could have been a lot worse – and shouldn’t we find in our hearts the ability to forgive him and let all this go? PS – Foley is going to renounce his evil ways and recommit himself to Jesus in a few weeks – just a friendly heads up."

While the underlying moral relativism and homophobia in these statements is deplorable – see lesson #2 for why we shouldn’t be surprised.

4. Don’t believe the hype: When news of the scandal first broke, there was a lot of press coverage about whether or not House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the rest of the GOP leadership knew about Foley’s actions but did nothing to stop them – a negligent and potentially criminal act. Some Democrats and members of the press began to call for investigations into allegations of such a coverup – perhaps hoping that it was their turn to give the GOP a taste of their own medicine ala Ken Starr. But while the FBI is conducting a broad investigation into what exactly Foley may have done – they aren’t going to go any further than that. The Republicans still control the White House, Congress, and maybe even the Supreme Court (depending on how jaded you are). Unlike Bill Clinton, George Bush isn’t going to ask the Justice Department to open an investigation into allegations about his own his party’s misconduct. Republicans in Congress aren’t going to do any more than they already have, e.g. ask Foley to resign. Plus, if the the Republicans can win elections when their fearless leader has pushed the nation into a losing, misguided battle in Iraq, the Democrats can’t waste their energy on anything but winning mid-term elections.

5. Conspiracy theories are still fun: What good is a political scandal without the accompanying conspiracy theories?

Theory Number One: The Democrats leaked the text of Foley’s conversations to ABC as part of an intricately timed plan for winning the mid-term elections.

Theory Number Two: The Republicans leaked the text of Foley’s conversations to ABC as part of an intricately timed plan for losing the mid-term elections. "A loss this year ‘would focus Republicans’ minds and missions in tremendously helpful ways for 2008,’ suggests a GOP strategist with ties to the Bush administration."

Theory Number Three: The Republicans leaked the text of Foley’s conversations to ABC as part of an intricately timed plan to divert the public’s attention away from the declassified National Intelligence Estimate whose key judgments indicated that, "rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counter terrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position."

3 Comments so far

  1. Tracey (unregistered) on October 5th, 2006 @ 8:15 am

    I am never shocked by human failings. I am shocked at the degree of the failing. Some things are less shocking than others. If he’d cheated on his wife, had a drinking problem, or was gay it wouldn’t shock me at all. Human behavior tends to drive people towards those things but wooing a page by e-mail? You’ve got him going after a plerson in the work place, that person is underaged, and he did it by e-mail. I’d have a problem if anyone behaved so stupidly.

  2. mary ballew (unregistered) on October 5th, 2006 @ 11:08 am

    This still will not make me vote for a Democrat

  3. smouie kablooie (unregistered) on October 5th, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

    But Mary have you ever voted for a Democrat? I swing both ways (politically at least). You should try it some time…

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