Tom Maguire, struggling as hard as he can to avoid drawing the obvious inference that the leaders of his favorite political party in the House of Representatives are a few bricks shy of a full moral load, spins a fantasy in which Democrats respond to the Foley Follies with a massive outing of gay Republicans, and demands that liberal bloggers pre-emptively denounce said fantasy.
Done. I think Maguire’s fantasy is disgusting. If any Democrat starts outing gay Republicans, I’ll think he’s lost his moral compass (to say nothing of his political sense). But Maguire’s idea is a fantasy, and nothing more.
A couple of other points worth noting while we’re at it:
1. In the view of anyone but gay-baiters (i.e., in the view of almost any non-Republican), the issue here is sexual exploitation by adults of minors, and in particular by powerful men of minors entrusted to their care. It’s not homosexuality. Similarly, the McGreevey scandal wasn’t about his being gay, but his stealing from the taxpayers by putting his lover (who, as it happens, was male) on the public payroll. The scandals would have been exactly the same, morally, had McGreevey’s squeeze been a woman and Foley’s victims teenage girls rather than teenage boys.
2. The Gerry Studds affair was twenty-four years ago. He and his Republican colleague, who engaged in the same behavior, were treated the same way. I thought at the time they should both be expelled. Things were different back then; Congressmen were more protective of one another, even across party lines, and the press was more protective of all of them.
3. “Outing” is an issue among gays, and particularly among gay men, some of whom feel betrayed by people who deny their sexual orientation and either attack gays as a group or serve institutions that do so. I’ve never heard a straight liberal with a good word to say for it. (Yes, there was lots of speculation about which White House staffers might have been employing the services of prostitute Gannon/Gluckert, but a female prostitute given special access to the White House in the guise of a reporter would have attacted no less attention.)
4. The Christian Right and its allies, trying to escape the obvious meaning of the Foley affair (that the right-wing politicians running the House of Representatives are pond scum) want to make it instead about homosexuality. Some right-wingers are starting to circulate the idea that the failures in the Foley case were due to a “network” of gay staffers, centered on Kirk Fordham, and that the right response is a purge. This would be strictly analogous to the response of the Pope and other reactionary Catholics to the pedophilia scandal: ignore the institutional problems, and keep celibate homophile men out of the priesthood.
I understood the Corn column as a pre-emptive strike against that movement. Whether it was a good tactic or not I don’t know, though I note that, to my knowledge, not a single Democratic politician or Blue blogger has pursued the theme. I’m on one email list that goes to a bunch of Blue bloggers, and the only traffic I’ve seen about his has to do with the fear that the Republicans will try to stir up a moral panic about gay Congressional staff.
5. Maguire, like the other apologists for Hastert, continues to ignore the most salient point: Hastert didn’t have to choose between denouncing Foley and letting the problem fester. The right thing to do was to find out how big the problem was, by having someone inquire among pages, former pages, the staff of the page program, and other Members and staff, about whether anyone knew anything about inappropriate behavior by Members toward pages. No need to mention anyone’s sexual orientation. No need to name names, either of the kid who first complained or of the suspected Congressman.
Yes, those emails weren’t obviously salacious, though the request for a picture was more than a little bit odd. If I’d been a newspaper editor, I’d have hesistated to publish a story based on them. But if I’d been the Speaker of the House, I would have made damned sure that someone took a hard look at the problem, rather than just asking Foley “Have you been naughty?” and then telling him “Okay, don’t do it again.”
Hastert preferred not to know, just as he preferred not to know about DeLay’s extortion, Cunningham and Noe’s bribe-taking, and the massive “transactional lobbying” by Abramoff and MZM. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Add ’em all up, and what do you get? Evil.
Update Kevin Drum and I agree, both about the moral question and about the political tactics. Apparently the “list” comes from some gay activists, and is not the tactic of any Democratic politician or strategist. I think linking the Foley problem to homosexuality, rather than keeping the focus on sexual misconduct with minors, is a mistake of analysis and a tactical blunder. I also think that people’s sex lives ought to be their own business until they make it the public’s business: for example, by putting a lover on the public payroll or, as in this case, messing around with minors.
Second Update: As might have been suspected, Tom Maguire’s accusation that Democrats were going to pander to homophobia was a preparation for Maguire’s … pandering to homophobia. He’d love to blame the whole thing on a cabal of gay Republican staff members. Disgusting.