Talk about a bad weekend to take off
huffing glue blogging. When I first heard about this Foley story, right before I dropped off the radar, it seemed like a minor kerfuffle. As far as I could tell he didn’t even touch anybody. Now Abramoff, there’s a juicy scandal. Forget about one guy’s bad netiquette (to put it mildly), Abramoff had already brought down a fistful of GOP luminaries and exposed a massive criminal enterprise that corrupted the basic core of our governmental system. Just look at the latest reoprt – the White House plainly lied through its teeth when it tried to minimize the extent of its contacts with Abramoff’s operation.
Except, as Kevin Drum points out, the Abramoff story is basically white-collar crime and white-collar crime is boring. People generally assume that politicians are crooks anyway, at least as far as money is concerned. So a little more crookedness in appropriations and policymaking will generally interest federal investigators more than it will your average news consumer. There seems to be a general shrugging of shoulders when a politician gets caught doing what everybody assumes that they’re doing anyway. Even when, like in the case of William Jefferson, they do it with a bit of tabloid flair.
Looking back over forty eight hours of reporting I am not sure that I have ever been this wrong. Clearly the lesson is that whatever politicians do with our money people really, really don’t like politicians messing with our kids. Whack me three times with the obvious bat. Foley undoubtedly did the right thing by rapidly checking out of Congress and into rehab. But in this scandalquake, politically speaking, the survivors may soon begin to envy the dead.
Did the House leadership know about Foley’s problems one year ago? Five years ago? Either way Hastert and Boehner come out looking incompetent, at least, for doing nothing. From a criminal perspective their refusal to act may expose then to conspiracy charges and from a political perspective their decision to let the Foley campaign go ahead with this massive shoe waiting to drop seems inexcusable. Kos has a credible account of what may have motivated Hastert’s thinking:
Foley represented a moderately conservative district, FL-16. In 2000, Bush beat Gore 53-47. In 2004, Bush beat Kerry 54-46. It was a district which Foley had represented since 1994, with his worst showing his first election with a 58% victory. In 2002 he won with 79%, in 2004 with 68%. This was a safe Republican district. Foley also raised a lot of money, and as the recent $100K gift from Foley to the NRCC attests, the party needed his fundraising skills.
Then 2006 rolls around. The GOP is facing a tough reelection with history, Bush, and their own incompetence weighing down their chances. The DCCC has had a banner fundraising and candidate recruitment year. And suddenly, Foley faces the GOP’s worst nightmare in Tim Mahoney — a Democratic challenger who 1) was a former Republican, and 2) is worth $8 gazillion and can self-fund his race. Mahoney announced his candidacy October 12, 2005, right around the time the House leadership was trying to figure out what to do about Foley’s predatory practices.
Without Foley on the ticket, not only would the GOP suddenly face a competitive contest in a relatively safe district, but it would cost them $2-3 million to defend — money that they no longer have available.
A risky gamble, but gambling is what Republicans do. See war, Iraq.
Here’s how one senior Democratic aide summed up the Foley situation this morning for The Note: “The R’s desperately want this to be about whether or not they knew of the sexually explicit e-mails/I.M.’s.
“Most parents we talked to over the weekend (including my own conservative R mom) feel the issue is that the R’s were given and ignored a huge warning with the first set of e-mails.”
“Had there been an investigation at that time, the sexually explicit emails may have been uncovered. But, Members lost that opportunity when the R’s chose to protect Foley instead of those kids.”
Finally, read this political analysis from Josh Marshall. If he’s right, well, super, but once in a while I would like to see the Democrats win on their own merits and not because the Republicans took a ten-meter triple lutz* into an empty swimming pool.
(*) Yes that is a figure skating term. I didn’t actually take off from huffing glue.
For those few still wondering whether WH Press Secretary Tony Snow is your archetypal wingnut hack, please click through to a slightly shrill Joe Gandelman.