Sunday, October 01, 2006

Everything I Need to Know About Mark Foley & Republican Party Leadership I Learned From `The Sopranos'

GOP Staffer Warned Pages About Foley 5 Years Ago, Says President of Page Alumni Association

Congressional pages at State of the Union address. In Republicans' charge, Congressional pages put in harm's way.

For the last couple of days, I've been listening to journalists on all of the cable news outlets (from Mike Viquiera and Chris Matthews at MSNBC to the line-up at CNN) say how they've known Mark Foley for years, twelve years, since he's been in office. They've talked about how much they like him and how badly they feel for him. One journalist who had obviously just gotten out of a Republican spin session, suggested how Foley's behavior must have been due to the rum. How do these people manage to land jobs in this highly competitive medium, television? [Communications majors, with little or no education in any other field relative to what they cover in the news.]

On Monday's Hardball:
MATTHEWS: A.B., you cover the Hill all day long, you know the culture. I‘m not building you up, you know. You know that culture up there?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: I do. And I want to say that I‘ve known Mark Foley for 12 twelve years, and I am not in the House Republican leadership, but if I knew that he was too friendly with the pages, I think it was up to the Speaker Hastert to be aware of it, as well. And the fact that they didn‘t...

MATTHEWS: Did you know there was fire behind the smoke, though? Beside having a covert interest in these kids?

STODDARD: I think when it comes to children, you have to treat smoke as fire. That‘s what I would do if I was running the House. If I found out about this, I would have looked into it more and done my level best to maybe wrap this up a year ago, ask Mark Foley to leave.

MATTHEWS: What were the indicators, was it the fact that he showed in black tie for the page graduation or what?

STODDARD: No, he was just, he was know—look, Mark Foley is a very nice guy, and as I‘ve said, I have talked to him many, many times over the years. He was very well liked by all of his colleagues. There are closet homosexuals in the Republican party, they are not known in the pages.

Mark Foley was not know as a drunk, Mark Foley was known as a really nice guy who happened to spend a lot of time attending meetings of the page program, welcoming addresses, et cetera, the functions that they had. And he was just very friendly with them, you know, as they make their way through the building and stuff. It was just a known fact and it just wasn‘t really—it wasn‘t comfortable, it wasn‘t appropriate.

And I think the leadership clearly knew about this. I think when they learned this a year ago, they could have done more to investigate it or wrap it up. And they missed an opportunity to protect themselves.

MATTHEWS: Were they afraid that they would offend the gay community if they went after someone who was perceived to be gay, just because of his orientation?

STODDARD: I do not think that‘s why. I think they swept it under the rug and didn‘t tell Dale Kildee because they wanted to save themselves.

MATTHEWS: You‘re right. That was the guy mentioned as the real straight arrow, not straight, but straight arrow, in the Republican—he‘s the only Democrat in the Committee they could have told about this. They didn‘t do it. They were afraid to let him know.

OLIPHANT: The more people you tell, the more you widen the circle, the more you protect yourself. I mean, this is a wonderful example of what happened when you have one of these tight little circles, and people don‘t think outside the bubble, you are asking for it.

STODDARD: That‘s right.

I, too, have known Mark Foley for the same twelve years that these journalists have known Foley - from his time on the air since he entered politics. I have never liked him. I have always seen Foley as a closeted gay man, hiding in a political party that makes no bones of their hatred for homosexuals. How self-loathing must you be to work and raise money for, and serve the interests of a group of people who want you outlawed?

Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman and currently a television personality on MSNBC, said that he and Foley entered Congress at the same time, 1994, the Newt Gingrich revolution. Scarborough said that he knew the first time he met Foley that Foley was gay. If I knew it through the television screen, and Scarborough knew it standing right next to him, everybody in the Republican party had to have known it. How is it that all of these people could know and like Foley for years, and for it not to have changed their minds about gays and gay rights legislation?

It's one thing for Republicans to come up with hateful and wrong-minded legislation on that which they are ignorant and fearful of. But there's no learning curve with Republicans. They refuse to change their opinions, no matter what - whether it's about homosexuality, global warming, the origins of islamic hatred of the west.

How can we expect a group of people who don't understand the difference between homosexuality and pedophilia (and who don't want to know) to be trusted to keep Americans safe from terrorist attacks?

Okay, technically, pedophilia is defined as obsession with pre-pubescent children. A middle-aged man fixated on teen-aged boys isn't illegal, coarse advances on them are untoward and not becoming of a member in the U.S. House of Representatives. What Mark Foley did was illegal in the truest sense of sexual harrassment laws regarding subordinates in the workplace. Had the Republican party not gutted the House Ethics Committee, Foley would have been brought up before them. In the current climate (the Christian right's influence over the Republican party), Foley would have been thrown out of the House. That's not altogether a bad way to handle this case of an emotionally immature lawmaker with poor judgment, arrested sexual development, making sexually explicit advances on the offspring of his party's wealthy contributors, wandering the halls outside of their dorm, drunk and disorderly.

But that wasn't how Republicans dispensed with Mark Foley. They decided, as long as three years ago, to do nothing. I can think of a couple of reasons why, but the most obvious one is that Foley is an "earner." Foley's PAC donated directly to the campaigns of Republicans in both Houses of Congress, rivaling In just less than 3 years, Mark Foley gave Tom Reynolds committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, a group that aids and coordinates Republican efforts to re-elect their own in the U.S. House of Representatives, $330,000 (that includes $100,000 the summer after Reynolds learned of the messages), ranking Foley as one of the campaign's largest single contributors:

Another "earner," closeted gay character `Vito Spatafore,' reluctantly marked for death by the head of the Soprano crime family after he's outed.

To decide to do nothing, Republican leadership had to have also made a conscious decision that the children of their wealthy contributors were expendible. These teen-aged pages weren't the children of the evangelical Christian base of the Republican party. If and when the Christian Right base ever got wind of it, Republican leadership (Hastert) would just say "I just learned about it, too."

There was a blueprint for handling situations like this. Republicans have been quick to point out two congressmen on whom the blueprint was followed twenty-three years ago:
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 a consensual sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male page that began ten years earlier in 1973.

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. As his colleagues in the House read their censure of him, he turned his back and ignored them. He too held a press conference afterwards. Standing beside him was the male page with whom he had the relationship. And instead of apologizing, both Studds and the page said that what had happened between them was nobody's business but their own. The twosome pointed out that they had been consenting adults acting in private. And if people had a problem with that it was just too bad, because it was none of their business. 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 only commonality between the Studds, Crane and Foley scandals is that each involves sex, only with Studds and Crane it was a single consensual affair. Mark Foley, however, is the poster-man for everything that the Republican party says is wrong with Democrats, only lo' and behold, it's one of their own being protected by their party's leadership. This scandal exposes Republicans' hypocrisy. What remains is whether the Republican base (evangelical Christians) realize that the Republican party has been playing them for fools, using them to gain majority status in order to rob the American people blind.

ABC News reports:
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.

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."

Staff members at the House clerk's office did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Some of the sexually explicit instant messages that led to Foley's abrupt resignation Friday were sent to pages in Loraditch's class.

Pages report to either Republican or Democratic supervisors, depending on the political party of the member of Congress who nominated them for the page program.

Several pages for members of Congress tell ABC News they received no such warnings about Foley, R-Fla.

Loraditch says the some of 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 US 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.

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