The Mark Foley story, that is. Truthfully, this is the kind of story I don’t take much interest in. The latest headline is that GOP leaders knew of Foley e-mail in ’05. Some people I respect, like Captain Ed, have been harshly critical of Speaker Dennis Hastert for knowing of the Foley scandal and 1) not doing enough about it, and 2) allegedly lying about his knowledge of the Foley matter.
Well, maybe. But the starting point is to figure out what Foley did. As far as I can tell from the news stories I’ve read, there is no claim that Foley did anything with any House page. The claim is that he sent inappropriate emails to one or more pages. These emails were described to Hastert, apparently, as “over friendly,” but he was also told that the family of the page in question “didn’t want the matter pursued.” I’ve never been Speaker of the House, but I can imagine that such a conversation would not be among the most significant Hastert has had in the last year, and would not necessarily make a deep impression. Foley was, I take it, generally assumed to be gay.
Our younger readers may not be aware that House pages have figured in several scandals over the years. Congressman Gerry Studds (D-MA) had an affair with a teenage male page that, I believe, included sex within the precincts of the Capitol Building. Studds refused to admit that he had done anything wrong, and turned his back on the House when it censured him for this misconduct in 1983. The voters in Studds’s district didn’t seem to mind; they continued to re-elect him until he retired in 1996. He is remembered mainly as a pioneering crusader for gay rights.
Then there is Barney Frank, who was reprimanded by the House for using his Congressional office to intervene on behalf of his boyfriend, a homosexual prostitute, to dispose of at least 33 parking tickets. The boyfriend also ran a prostitution ring out of Frank’s house. Today, Frank is one of the most powerful members of the Democrats’ House caucus.
So I’m not particularly surprised that Foley wrote some “over-friendly”–I’m sure I would find them creepy–emails to one or more underage pages. He has resigned, which is appropriate. Studds and Franks should have resigned, too. But, in view of the history of far more egregious cases in the House, the idea of pursuing the House leadership on a “when did they find out that Foley sent a creepy email” basis seems ludicrous, and is understandable only in the context of two facts: Foley is a Republican, and there is an election in five weeks.
UPDATE: Patterico wrote to point out that the emails and instant messages were way beyond “over-friendly,” and beyond “creepy,” too; some were evidently too explicit to reproduce. But the point I was making was not to defend Foley, who, as I said, should have resigned, and did. My point was that according to published news accounts, they were described to Hastert as “over-friendly.” If Hastert had seen the actual emails and not done anything, I think he could be subject to legitimate criticism. But if, as has been reported, he was merely told that a gay member of his caucus had sent “over-friendly” messages to a former page, but that the page’s family didn’t want to pursue it, and further that Hastert’s office “referred the matter to the authorities last fall,” I don’t see any particular basis to criticize Hastert or anyone else, other than Foley.
Of course, the facts continue to evolve. The AP story I linked to last night has now been revised, and I no longer see the reference to the Louisiana page’s family not wishing to pursue the matter. It may be that as the story continues to develop, facts will emerge that indicate the House leadership is somehow blameworthy. Based on what we now know, however, I don’t see it.