Why the Foley scandal has legs; why the Wall Street Journal is wrong

The Journal blames the GOP's failure to stop Foley on tolerance for "private lifestyle choices."

Published October 3, 2006 2:04PM (EDT)

When it comes to the Mark Foley scandal, it seems to us that Kevin Drum is right in his analysis even if he's a little optimistic in his conclusion. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is, well, the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

First, here's Drum, writing over the weekend: "Even my eyes glaze over a bit when I try to remember everything that was going on with Jack Abramoff or even Duke Cunningham. But Foley? That's easy. He was preying on teenage pages, and the Republican leadership looked the other way and allowed it to continue for nearly a year. It doesn't get much easier than that. This scandal may not expose systemic corruption the way the Abramoff scandal did, but it has plenty of legs. It involves sex, it involves cover-ups, it involves powerful players turning on each other to protect their own skins, and it involves lots of documentary evidence. Unlike the Abramoff scandal, this one is going to get covered in People magazine and the National Enquirer. It may finally be the GOP's Waterloo."

And here's the Journal this morning: "In retrospect, barring [Foley from] contact with pages would have been wise. But in today's politically correct culture, it's easy to understand how senior Republicans might well have decided they had no grounds to doubt Mr. Foley merely because he was gay and a little too friendly in emails. Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert's head are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys. Are these Democratic critics of Mr. Hastert saying that they now have more sympathy for the Boy Scouts' decision to ban gay scoutmasters? Where's Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on that one?"

The Journal's editors have what they call an "admittedly traditional" view of such homosexuality. There's another way to describe it: noxious, offensive and wrong. Let's put aside the fact that it's not just liberals who are calling for Hastert's head. Would Foley's actions have been any less unacceptable if he'd spent his IM time asking teenage girls to measure their breasts or describe their methods of self-arousal? Are we really supposed to start assuming, at this late date in our supposed evolution, that all gay men around us are probably looking for dates with our children? And are we really to believe that Hastert's sensitivity to gay-centric political correctness -- like the National Republican Congressional Committee's Tom Reynolds, he scored exactly 0 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's latest congressional scorecard -- somehow explains the Republican leadership's failure to do more about Foley sooner?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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