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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It defies common sense

Fred Dooley is mad at me, again, this time because I mentioned the other day that I was waiting for him to condemn the House Republican leadership for promoting and protecting the predator Mark Foley. Fred's response is twofold. One, he says, he was waiting until the House leadership settled on one story to stick to (I'm paraphrasing), and two, Democrats also do bad things.

The story that the House leaders seem to have settled on--which K. Carpenter helpfully spells out in Fred's comment section--is that, whoops! The leadership never even saw the emails! If they--and by they, I mean NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds, Majority Leader John Boehner, and Speaker Dennis Hastert--if they didn't see the emails, it was because the willfully wanted to remain ignorant about the situation. Perhaps Hastert and Boehner wanted the plausible deniabilty. Perhaps they hoped, upon learning that the parents were not ready to press charges or anything, that the story would melt away. But when you're a leader, and you hear that there is suspicious contact between one of your guys and a 16-year-old boy, you demand the emails. If you do any less, you fail to do your job.

We at least know others did see the emails: Rodney Alexander, the Republican who sponsored the page in question, and John Shimkus, who swept the matter under the rug by keeping the rest of the House Page Board out of the loop. (Shimkus appears to have known about Foley's behavior longer than just this round of emails.)

But one reason this whole story makes me crazy--and incredibly, incredibly sad--is that I know what I would do if I were in the situation of, say, Alexander, or of Tom Reynolds, who was the first person Alexander told. If a student or a parent came to me with emails from another teacher telling the student how hot he looked, asking for pictures, and so on, I would not stop until that teacher was out of the profession. If the teacher didn't resign on his own knowing the emails were out, I would start by going to the principal (Boehner), and, if that failed, I'd go to the superintendent (Hastert) and the board and the police and, if it came to it, the press. I would not shut up until that man stopped working with children.

I've known Fred (virtually) for a long time now, and I have to believe, given Fred's penchant for taking down anyone who writes, as Tony Snow might call them, "naughty emails," that Fred would do the same. If a parent went to Fred with those emails from a teacher to a student, Fred, too, would not quit until the man was out of teaching for good. That's the kind of tenacity Fred has always shown in these matters.

And I think that's what's at the root of so many Republicans' discontent right now: The House leadership didn't even rise to the moral and ethical standards a couple of two-bit Wisconsin bloggers hold. It defies common sense. It's why everyone from Bay Buchanan to John Cole to Michelle frickin' Malkin agree that those who knew--or should have known but decided to remain willfully ignorant--aided and abetted an abuser.

This was a week in which we saw the National Intelligence Estimate declare that the war in Iraq in increasing terrorism worldwide; Colin Powell say he was fired; Condi Rice on the verge of having to resign; Bill Frist say that the Taliban should rule Afghanistan; that the White House met with Jack Abramoff 485 times; that Abramoff knew about "the coming war in Iraq" in early 2002; and Bob Woodward's book saying the Bush administration is lying about Iraq. That's a lot to digest, a lot of reason to vote for Democrats in November. But much of that is nuance, or requires a knowledge of stuff that not everyone has, or calls for connecting too many dots. This Foley thing is one story, one simple story, and it resonates.

The Republicans protected and promoted a predator. Period.

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