Published Oct 6, 2006

All the liberals I know are pretty thrilled at this whole Mark Foley (R-FL) gets caught molesting underage congressional pages thing; they’re enjoying the potential lost GOP House seat, the bloodiness of the scandal, the threat to Hastert leading the House. But not me; I think it’s all a Republican conspiracy, and, like most Republican conspiracies, it’s working.

See, there’s been a lot in the news in the past few days. Bob Woodward’s book, reports debunking the administration’s optimistic view of Iraq, the revelation the administration was warned about 9/11 back around 7/10, complaints by the army that they’re broke and stretched thin, and news we may be losing in Afghanistan, not to mention the breaking news about the impending nuclearization of North Korea and Sudan’s threat to attack peacekeepers sent to stem the genocide there; all of this is breaking and all of it points to the Bush administration’s inability to manage the international situation and provide for the national security of the US. We should be discussing how becoming involved in an optional war has deprived us of the troops we would need to win in Afghanistan and keep the Sudanese and Iranians in their places. We should be discussing how we’ve pursued a policy with North Korea that’s left us in a corner, just hoping that rogue state doesn’t go nuclear. We should be discussing how more Americans have died in Iraq than died on 9/11. We should be discussing how we still haven’t caught Osama. Those are all real issues.

Instead, we’re wondering if the pages were 16 or 17 or 18, Foley just flirted or if he touched, if someone should have done something earlier, if he’s gay or a pedophile or an alcoholic or a Democrat. That’s not a substantive discussion at all, and it’s probably not even important. In a few weeks, Foley will be forgotten, in some rehab center somewhere, and either the storm will have blown over Hastert or that corpulent individual will have resigned his House Speakership, and there will be another two weeks before the election in which the GOP can smear the Dems all over again.

So it’s a tempest in a teapot; and I think it was planned. The Republicans have kept Foley in their back pocket for years, knowing he’s just a scandal waiting to happen and knowing that he could be thrown to the wolves if they really needed to. Foley was their Plan C, the knowledge that they could distract the public if things went really badly even if the Dems hadn’t screwed up and even if their own party didn’t have any dirty tricks up its sleeve.

To keep their “get out of jail free card”, they let Foley stay in the House even after they made it clear they wouldn’t let him run for Senate. Rather than sending the already-outed man home, promising him the position of County Comptroller for the next 20 years if he would just leave Washington and spare the party from scandal, they kept him around but prevented him from advancing, knowing they’d maybe lose a House seat if they pulled that ripcord, but that it would only be a House seat, and at least that wasn’t a Senate seat.

So, they caught wind of bad news just a month before the election, and then threw (not so) poor Mr. Foley to the lions. And we all got distracted. In two weeks, all we’ll remember is that the Republicans are the party that’s tough on national security, the Democrats are cut-and-runners, oh, and maybe we’ll also remember that they’re for the gays and, hey, wasn’t there just some thing where some gay was into kids? So isn’t being pro-gay just like being pro-pedophile? Let’s not vote Democrat, honey, those pedophiles are disgusting.


I dunno. The polling sure looks like a big chunk of people got the point that the GOP leadership knew about an ephebophile and tried to keep him under wraps to preserve their majority. If this was planned (which I don’t believe — these guys are thugs, not geniuses) then it’s gone badly awry.

I’ll grant that it’s likely to be “done” by about the two-week mark, but I think that’s fine — we can go right back to pointing out their weakness on national security.

Yes, but the whole national security thing ain’t stickin’. Now we’ll be distracted for two weeks and two weeks further away from figuring out how to make it stick. All they need is fear to get people to vote against getting blown up, and they can keep that long enough to have their election.

(It’s also possible they’re trying to lose the election, so that they have two years of troubles to blame the Dems for in two years. But that’s a conspiracy theory for another entry.)

Yeah, the trying-to-lose one is considerably more credible (though still, I think, giving them more credit for foresight than they deserve). If the Dems did have both houses of Congress, they still wouldn’t be able to get much done (Bush would veto everything and the Senate would filibuster frequently), but they’d be able to claim, in ‘08, that we should go back to having the GOP control Congress and elect another right-wing president, because the Dems didn’t clean up the economic mess in two years of facing an obstructionist.