“What’s the point of electing Republicans?” the party’s base voters must be asking in the wake of the Foley scandal. Family-values voters, who think gays are a bigger threat than Al Queda, now learn that the GOP leadership was, at minimum, aware that one of its caucus’ members was writing inappropriate notes with a romantic subtext to a youth of the same sex.
Whatever fog is coming from Hastert and Boehner to explain their actions, the signals should have been sufficient to prompt action to protect the other pages. The fact that these leaders were so uncurious should outrage every American, but will have a particular effect on the homophobic “base” that Karl Rove has worked so hard to bring to the polls.
I would think the leadership’s lassitude would also upset the kind of GOP voters who see Republicans as more business-like managers. It sounds like Hastert and Boehner were just hoping the problem would go away — the kind of magical thinking that CEOs and military commanders cannot afford to indulge in.
However, the Democrats are not in a strong position to exploit this mess. Sexually predatory behavior focused on the young on the part of Democratic leaders has not exactly caused party leadership to leap into action in the past. The one Democrat who was willing to condemn President Clinton for having his way with a 21-year-old intern, Sen. Joe Lieberman, had his 1998 speech criticizing Clinton thrown back in his face as an act of party disloyalty during his recent primary campaign against Ned Lamont. If the Democrats try to make this into an issue, there are undoubtedly lots of quotes about “private behavior” that the Republican opposition-researchers can inject into the debate via friendly bloggers and talk-radio hosts.
But it’s outrageous that Hastert and Boehner did so little to protect the other pages. Is pederasty now tolerated in Washington? Are congressmembers so impressed with themselves and the power they wield, they now think they can behave like Roman emperors? Perhaps the tradition of youthful pages and interns needs to be suspended until we can start electing less grandiose leaders.