From Foleygate, another story and another conflict

Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe says he didn't confront Foley in 2000 -- but that he did inform the House clerk's office about inappropriate communication with a former page.

Published October 10, 2006 5:24PM (EDT)

GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe has just issued a statement responding to reports that he learned in 2000 that Mark Foley had had inappropriate communications with a former House page. If Kolbe's memory is to be believed -- and it's fair to say that Republican recollections on Foleygate haven't been entirely reliable so far -- then the gentleman from Arizona did both more and less about Foley at the time than his office seems to have suggested earlier this week.

In his statement, Kolbe says he didn't actually see the e-mails in question in 2000, didn't know that they were sexually explicit and "did not have a personal conversation" with Foley about them. That last claim contradicts what the Washington Post reported Monday. The Post said that Kolbe "personally confronted Foley" about the e-mails in 2000. While Post reporter Jonathan Weisman didn't attribute that statement to anyone, it seems that he had confirmation from Kolbe spokeswoman Korenna Cline, who told him that she didn't know whether Kolbe's "corrective action" went beyond the confrontation he had with Foley.

What does Kolbe say he did about the e-mails? He says he asked that the complaint from the former page be forwarded to Foley's office and to the House clerk who supervised the page program. That version of events dovetails well with claims that a supervisor in the clerk's office was alerting pages that Foley was a little "odd" as early as 2001, but it doesn't square so well with the Republicans' defense of how they responded to the "overfriendly" Foley e-mail exchange they saw last year. If the clerk's office had knowledge of prior issues between Foley and clerks, shouldn't it have pushed for something more than a let's-take-Foley's-word-for-it approach in 2005? We may know more later today, when CNN says that former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl will "break his silence" about Foleygate.

In the meantime, House Speaker Dennis Hastert is taking another shot at damage control. Back home today in Aurora, Ill. -- funny, but Republican candidates don't seem too eager to have their speaker join them on the campaign trail just now -- Hastert said that he still doesn't think anyone in his office did anything wrong in handling Foleygate. But "if they did cover something up," Hastert said, "then they should not continue to have their jobs." We've seen this movie before, and we're pretty sure we know how it ends. Anyway, Wonkette notes that the Hastert version isn't quite as smart as the original: If you're trying to stage your political comeback, Mr. Speaker, maybe it would be better not to pose for the cameras in front of a graveyard.

By Tim Grieve

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

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