Readers respond to "Don't Ask -- He Won't Tell," by Jake Tapper, and "Vigilante Injustice," by Max Blumenthal.

Published May 28, 2003 8:55PM (EDT)

[Read "Don't Ask -- He Won't Tell."]

I do believe that Mr. Foley's sexual orientation would, in a perfect world, not be the subject of media speculation. Unfortunately we don't live in that world.

One of the reasons we don't live in that world is the insistence of the Republican Party on trying to criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults. This was seen in the 1998 attempt to impeach President Clinton, and it is seen in the refusal of the Bush administration to comment on the Texas case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding sodomy laws.

For a Republican who supported President Clinton's impeachment to complain when the media speculates about his sexual orientation is ironic. It would be even more ironic if speculation about his sexual orientation led to his defeat.

-- John Logan

Jake Tapper's article acknowledges that Foley voted for two of the four articles of impeachment, then quotes James Carville as saying that he "doesn't think Foley's role in Clinton's impeachment should have any bearing one way or another."

Hogwash. Mr. Foley is trying to invoke a right to privacy that the Republican Party has actively trashed, both in its rabid pursuit of President Clinton and in its pandering to "the base" -- i.e., the fundamentalists who want to abolish abortion, homosexuality, and anything else that doesn't fit within the party's narrow and rigid worldview.

As a party, the Republicans have lived by this particular sword. They want the other side to put its weapons away now that the same sword may be used against one of their own. I say it's time we started putting up a fight. Don't give an inch. Don't be misled by their two-faced arguments of "being reasonable." They never were reasonable and never will be. Why should they, when bullying, intimidation and smearing have worked so well for them to date?

The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. If the occasional individual candidate -- even one who may be appealing on a personal level -- must suffer as a consequence, so be it. Politics is nothing if not a rough-and-tumble sport.

-- Linda Mundy

Far be it for me to agree with any Republican, but alas, I do agree with Senate wannabe Mark Foley about the personal and private nature of sexual orientation.

I also want to know (with a nod to Gore Vidal, who never tires of asking this question) what "a" heterosexual and "a" homosexual might be. There are no such things. As Vidal correctly observes, "homosexual" and "heterosexual" are adjectives, not nouns, and neither word existed even as a modifier until so-called modern times.

I wouldn't vote for a Republican for dogcatcher, but will this country ever, ever, ever grow up? Probably not.

-- Peter Kurth

Sadly, the article focused on Mr. Foley's apparent homosexuality. Even though it carefully avoided starting rumors of its own, it did in fact -- by citing other sources -- support these rumors, even though it took a negative stance toward them in general. What really irked me, though, was the neglect of a more important question: What if Mr. Foley is, indeed, straight? What if his ethics lead him to not answering that question? Are only gay people allowed to dodge questions about their sexual orientation? Perhaps Mr. Foley accepted a disadvantage in his campaign -- namely, being regarded as a closet homosexual -- in order to keep his principles intact, and his firm belief in privacy.

The article did a good job of telling us the positions of gay advocacy groups, and even managed to hint that Mr. Foley had problems with his own orientation. Even when quotes were in favor of Foley not answering, it came off sounding as if he was gay by taking that approach. This reminds me of the movie, "The Contender," in which a vice presidential candidate is accused of partaking in orgies in her youth but neglects to answer these accusations even though she did not.

The article did not focus on the real issue here: whether people should be allowed to know about a candidate's sexuality (which is very much different from being in the Klan or having committed crimes), and whether it is possible for politicians to keep a shred of personal integrity despite constant media pressure -- not whether the fact of being gay would hinder Mr. Foley's campaign.

-- Patrick Pricken

W.B. Yeats once said that it is degrading to live in a country where one has to pay attention to public opinion. No doubt Mark Foley agrees with this statement, at least part of the time. As for me, I can't decide which party is the more disgusting: the Democrats, who are gleefully gossiping about Foley for their own partisan advantage, or the Republicans, who don't want to be seen as tolerating one of "those people," lest they offend Jerry Falwell's bigot brigade.

-- John Mize

[Read "Vigilante Injustice."]

For all the jingoistic rhetoric about Mexicans and Central Americans coming to the United States for the express purpose of milking our welfare system, the immigrants I have known come here to work. Hard.

I'm tired of the hypocrisy that decries illegal immigration while turning a blind eye to how we benefit from its cheap labor. If "Anglos" weren't hiring, you can bet these immigrants wouldn't take the trouble to cross the border illegally -- especially when they face unhinged vigilante lunatics determined to keep our border hermetically sealed, even if it takes physical violence.

-- Christian Gulliksen

Although vigilantism is probably not the way to deal with illegal aliens, the issue still needs to be dealt with. If you're not a citizen, you don't belong here, period. There is a legal process that enables people seeking a better life to enter this country. Skirting this process is an insult to every American citizen that spends untold amounts of time in line at the DMV, or buying city stickers or sitting on a jury, etc. These activities are part of citizenship and they are not optional.

The differences between the United States and Mexico are no mystery; Mexico as a country doesn't function as well as the U.S. There is more corruption and crime, and women don't enjoy many basic rights. Letting people over the border wholesale is foolish at best. It's apparent that assimilation is not happening on a large scale, so how exactly are we benefiting from this? We're not, and yes, we do get to decide what's best for us.

My first job was washing dishes; most of my friends had similar jobs -- all paying less than minimum wage. There's always some willing to work who's already here.

-- Ian Smith

It would, in fact, be simple enough to at least diminish illegal immigration. I do not think it can be completely stopped -- not without a wall running the length of the border, if even then.

To curtail the illegals, the emphasis needs to be shifted. Since the deportation of undocumented workers does nothing to stem their influx, the emphasis would clearly be better placed on severe sanctions for those who employ undocumented or illegal workers. Perhaps the same sort of "property seizure" sanctions employed against suspected narcotics dealers could be put in place against employers of illegal workers. Surely the probability of diminishing illegal immigrant traffic would then be higher than with the simple continuation of present policies.

But what's the possibility of such an approach ever becoming "policy" in the U.S.? Close to nonexistent. The complete lack of will to solve the problem exists because our economy depends to a certain extent on easily replaceable, low-paid workers being kept quiet and tractable by the fear of deportation or other abuse.

-- Alan Lloyd

The debate about illegal immigration causes one to suffer from cognitive dissonance of the first order.

Here in California, Republic Pete Wilson ran for reelection as governor in 1994 on a strong anti-immigration platform. Wilson is generally viewed as a moderate Republican. Supposedly liberal Democrats continually attempt to set up "sanctuaries" for illegal immigrants and express concern for the poor and oppressed from south of the border.

The U.S.-Mexico border was a sieve during the reigns of Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Reagan assisted in pushing through an "amnesty" in 1986, which made legal many illegal immigrants. That maneuver encouraged more folks to head north, convinced that another amnesty would one day make them legal as well. When Clinton took office, a formidable fence was suddenly erected at the border, thus making it much more difficult for the illegals to cross.

Historically, the illegal immigrants have worked for the smaller businesses and industries, and for farmers who need seasonal help. These folks were mostly Republicans who favored the illegals, because they work much more cheaply than legal citizens.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, used to be tied firmly to organized labor. Organized labor is interested in a decent wage and decent working and living conditions for its membership.

So here we are now faced with many Republicans importing illegal workers, yet criticizing the presence of those same illegal workers. We have many Democrats turning their backs on organized labor and assisting illegal immigrants who are brought here to keep wages depressed.

The United States cannot save every person in the world. Perhaps we should once again hew to the maxim that charity begins at home.

-- Steven Flowers

There's been so much wrong for so long with the border situation that what we are seeing is almost a natural result.

As a Salon subscriber and true "conservative Democrat" (in my mind, at least), my question is, Why should citizens of a foreign country be allowed or subtly encouraged to illegally immigrate? What do we truly owe to them as opposed to our own citizen land owners?

I don't have the answer, but I do have an understanding of the feelings of the immediate participants.

-- Gary Coakley

By Salon Staff

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