Thursday, October 5, 2006

Why Cover Up?

I think the Republicans missed a golden opportunity last year to take a moral stand, deflect a lot of the corruption issues that have come up, and reverse their steady decline in popularity over the past year. I find myself wondering why.

According to statements in the Washington Express (a mini-paper published by the Post), Speaker of the House Hasturt’s staff knew at least a little about ex-Representative’s Foley’s “indiscretions” sometime last fall. Apparently Rep. Boehner and Rep. Reynolds discussed it directly with the Speaker last spring. Now a senior Congressional Aide says he brought it up THREE years ago. According to those statements…he knew.

Picture it, Washington D.C., November, 2005 – House Speaker Hasturt accuses Rep. Foley of sexually harassing Congressional Pages. He has provided copies of e-mails and instant message logs to the House Ethics Committee. Rep. Foley is expected to resign later today. Republican and Democratic leaders have issued statements calling for improved oversight of the Congressional Page program and deploring Rep. Foley’s behavior…

The media would have gone nuts – much as they have this week. The Democrats would have pointed to the moral decline of the Republican party…but not too much. That pitch would have been deflected by the fact that the Republican leadership was hanging their own man out to dry. The Republicans could have collectively shaken their heads, expressed their disappointment in Mr. Foley’s conduct and the way he fooled them AND his constituents for so long…and then continued on with business. In fact, they could have held the incident up in the future. – “We will not accept such unethical and immoral behavior in the Republican Caucus – when we find it, we will remove it, just as we did with Foley!” By now, a year later, it would have become a positive point to bring up on the talk shows, instead of an embarrassment and distraction.

Admittedly, I’m looking at this with the ease of hindsight. But it seems so obvious that it could have been a boon instead of a blunder that I wonder why it didn’t happen that way. Has Congress as a whole gotten so used to covering up scandals that this one didn’t seem to be any different? Is it possible that it ISN’T any different, that this sort of thing is rampant within the House of Representatives, and we just happened to hear about this one? Or nearly as bad, is it possible that Mr. Foley knew of enough damaging scandals to paralyze the party leadership for fear that he would take them down with him? I don’t know. I strongly suspect that the Democratic Party would not have reacted any differently in the same situation. I’m also pretty sure that the first party to clean house, dumping their own rascals in order to make themselves scandal-proof, will end up with a major lock on both houses and the Presidency. To do that, though, one of them has to have enough honest members to sit as a majority in the House and Senate. It frightens me to think that neither of them may be able to manage that.

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