Three-card Monte, GOP style

Criminal investigation of Foley? Fine.
But that’s no substitute for a House Ethics investigation of the Republican leadership over the cover-up that left pages vulnerable to his predation for most of an additional year after one of the pages complained.

Of course Speaker Hastert wants a criminal investigation of Mark Foley’s hanky-panky. Foley has already been thrown off the sled, and it’s very doubtful that anyone in the GOP House leadership has criminal &#8212 as opposed to moral &#8212 liability. (What the execrable John Podhoretz said of Foley applies to Alexander, Shimkus, Reynolds, Boehner, and Hastert: while they may stay out of jail, staying out of Hell is a different problem. They deliberately left a bunch of underage kids vulnerable to Foley’s predation for almost a year after one of the pages had complained, and for five years after a Republican staffer started warning pages not to get too friendly with Foley.)

The key fact about a criminal investigation is that it takes time. Anything that kicks the can down the road past November 7 gets God’s Own Predators the thing they need most, which is a way to keep this thing from dominating every news cycle until the election. Expect to hear Hastert and the rest start saying tomorrow, “Sorry, I can’t comment on a criminal investigation.”

Foley’s crimes &#8212 would he be the first Congressman in history to go to the Big House under a law he wrote himself? &#8212 are Foley’s problem, and not really a legitimate political issue. The cover-up by Hastert & Co. is a national problem, and a perfectly valid issue insofar as it instantiates their chronic abuses of power.

(There is also, as several commenters elsewhere have pointed out, an actual legislative question: Since obviously pages are vulnerable and some Congressmen are sexual predators, why not abolish the page system, send the kids back to high school, and hire grownups, or at least college students, as runners?)

Democrats in and out of Congress need to insist that no criminal probe should be allowed to interfere with the duty of the Congress to police its own members. The Ethics Committee should start tomorrow taking testimony under oath from Hastert & Co., in public if possible. If the Republicans on the committee drag their heels, Howard Berman should kick up an unholy fuss.

Footnote: If you’re following this scandal, or any Congressional scandal for that matter, the go-to place is TPM.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

11 thoughts on “Three-card Monte, GOP style”

  1. Mark, love your decency but the lack of killer instinct is precisely why we no longer have Habeas Corpus in this country. It doesn't matter what they did or did not do to cover up for Foley. Dems should be running ads against every Rep in the country accusing them of being in cahoots with the child rapist. Does not matter if it is true-like Lyndon Johnson said, just make them deny it. Until you and others like you understand that Dems must play hard ball on issues like this we will not win.

  2. Mark,
    This makes good sense to me–except that it doesn't. Foley has already resigned as a Congressman–what further authority would the Ethics Committee have over him?

  3. Sam:
    Who cares about Foley? He's off to rehab, or prison, or both, and good luck to him. The targets now are his enablers: Alexander, Shimkus, Reynolds, Boehner, and Hastert. Unless they resign, the Ethics Committee has jurisdiction.

  4. This is too rich.
    Does anyone doubt that, had these emails not been revealed but the staffer's concerns had been, that the staffer's concern would have been used by Mark as evidence of the GOP's homophobia? ("They're so homophobic that they even warn their pages about closed gay Congressman–can you imagine anything worse?")
    There's no serious allegations of coverup. And there's a party in opposition that isn't particularly well-suited to complain about this case.
    I mean, Gerry Studds did keep his committee chairmanship after being censured for a sexual relationship with a 17-year old male page, didn't he? And his constituents, liberals and Democrats apparently, did keep returning him to office, didn't they? Even as he refused to apologize for the affair! Was he denied access to pages thereafter? Was his office labeled as the office of a sex offender?

  5. Why did Thomas forget to mention that Republican Congressman Dan Crane was censured at the same time as Gerry Studds for sex with a female page. Guess it wasn't included in the official talking points. And Crane, like Studds, ran for re-election, but he lost.
    But he does have a point. We're way more critical, as a society, of adult-teen sex than we were a generation ago. That's an interesting point that deserves more than a blog comment.

  6. Andrew J. Lazarus, are you saying that the people who re-elected Gerry Studds won't be going to Hell, but anyone who failed to take action against Foley will, because social standards have changed in the past decade? I don't think God is quite that mutable.
    Obviously Prof. Kleiman's moral standards are totally mutable: what's unspeakable evil when done by a Republican is healthy tolerance and civic maturity when done by a Democrat. Fortunately, neither God nor even the American voter is quite that sanctimonious and hypocritical.

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