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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Sex-texts and politics

    Stan Molevercolumnist
    Stan Molever
    columnist

    On Friday, ABC News broke the story that Representative Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, exchanged sexually explicit e-mails and text messages with an underage congressional page. Appropriately, the representative resigned almost immediately. But Foley isn’t the only one who owes the American public a serious explanation. The Republicans should be ashamed of themselves, and the Democrats aren’t getting off easy either.

    Rep. Foley’s actions are despicable. And no less because he was the co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus – a position from which he backed national legislation to create steeper punishment for online child pornography and Internet predators.

    But more puzzling than Foley’s choice of House committee positions is the question of who knew about the explicit e-mails and when. The organization that should be most ashamed of itself: the Republican Party.

    House Republicans first became aware of inappropriate text messaging and e-mails at least as early as last fall. In November 2005, a 16-year-old congressional page (Old English for Starbucks runner) approached his parents with an e-mail from Foley containing a request for the page’s photo, but not any sexually explicit content. The parents complained to the boy’s sponsor, wanting the behavior to stop.

    By spring 2006, Rep. Tom Reynolds, head of the House Republican Campaign Committee, had learned of Foley’s inappropriate November 2005 request for a photo. Reynolds then informed House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (Though yesterday an aide alleged that Hastert may have been informed as early as 2003.)

    Additionally, the photo-requesting message was turned over to Rep. John Shimkus, the Republican head of the House Page Board, which oversees the page program. Shimkus then privately instructed Foley to cease contact with the page.

    The problem? The other two members of the House Page Board were never consulted, and no formal hearing or inquiry ever took place. Additionally, when overtly sexual and graphically inappropriate messages surfaced at the end of last week, Hastert argued that he had never heard any claim against Foley. Of course, when Reynolds reminded him they had spoken directly about Foley’s behavior months ago, Hastert did not deny the conversation.

    Sure, reporting the photo-request incident to the entire House Page Committee when it initially arose would have caused a scandal. But there is also a good chance it would have launched a formal inquiry capable of discovering alleged sexually explicit messages dating back to 2003 and preventing the criminally graphic ones made public last week.

    Top all of the Republicans’ ineptness off with always-eloquent White House Press Secretary Tony Snow’s declaration that the correspondences between Foley and the pages were “”simply naughty e-mails”” and the Republican Party has successfully undercut its credibility in the eyes of America. We are talking about gross negligence at best and a serious cover-up at worst. Republicans on the Hill should be ashamed.

    But they aren’t alone in their ineptness. The Democrats have also significantly undermined their credibility. Instead of acknowledging the problem and simply supporting the call for an investigation, Democrats are releasing statements telling their constituents not to vote for their opponents because the Republicans “”stand up for Mark Foley and the Republican House leadership (instead of) under-age children.””

    Seriously? The Democrats have turned Foley’s heinous messages into a circus, using them as a tool going into the November elections. The Republican Party may need to provide some serious answers, but it will receive enough pressure from the media without the Democratic mudslinging.

    The Republican Party has successfully undercut their credibility in the eyes of America. We are talking about gross negligence at best and serious cover-up at worst.

    Democrats have failed to break into national offices in the last six years because they focus too much on bashing the right wing and too little time promoting better ideas. The message to Democrats: Foley will answer to the people of this country; don’t waste our time telling us how despicable he is. Instead, try nominating politicians who won’t commit sexual indiscretions themselves.

    As for the Republicans, win back a little credibility by demanding the resignation of Hastert. He is directly responsible for not launching a more thorough investigation into Foley’s behavior after being made aware of the inappropriate photo request, and he’s at least indirectly responsible for sidestepping the House Page Committee in order to deal with the matter discreetly.

    As of Tuesday, Foley had announced that he is an alcoholic, a homosexual and a victim of child molestation himself. None of these are excuses for his disgusting actions. And the blame cannot end with Foley.

    Republicans have a lot of work to do to prove they aren’t culpable for not getting the congressional pages out of harm’s way, and the Democrats better change their tune before someone notices how self-serving and hypocritical they’re acting. Only then will some good faith and credibility be restored to Congress.

    Stan Molever is a senior majoring in philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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