Hey, Congressman, leave those kids alone

Augustine Marinelli

I wish I could say I was shocked to hear that a United States congressman was habitually engaged in “inappropriate contact” with underage males for the apparent purpose of sexual gratification. Unfortunately, I’m not.

When this story broke, I remembered the day I had the opportunity to visit the Georgia General Assembly to shadow a lobbyist around as a “private sector page.”

The night before I went, my esteemed father uttered the words, “Don’t let any of those old guys corner you, get you alone or get you into a janitor’s closet or anything.”

I was skeptical until I saw these legislators eyeing everything under the age of 25 that was carrying a platter of wings at the Hooters near the Capitol Building in Atlanta (full disclosure: My lobbyist took me there for lunch).

As this illustrates, legislators have long had a reputation for leering after underage kids. So, enter Mark Foley, U.S. representative from the state of Florida and by all accounts a middle-aged chicken hawk.

By now, all the ugly details about various instant message conversations between Foley and the pages are known, so I will not delve into those. However, I do want to explore the “damage control” employed by Foley and the conduct of congressional leaders. Mister Foley obviously went to the James McGreevy School of Disaster Management, and it shows. BAM!

You get caught talking dirty to underage males, what’s a man to do? Easy! Resign and declare yourself a “gay American,” an alcoholic and a sexual abuse victim. Now, when media pundits and political enemies heap scorn upon you for your sins, they’re engaging in insensitive gay-bashing against a poor alcoholic victim of sexual abuse.

Throw in guys like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins who are calling for a ban on homosexuals in Congress, and what is the result?

Everyone’s talking about homosexuality. Homosexuality is not the issue here; the issue is the fact that Foley may or may not have broken the law with his reprehensible and inappropriate conduct. No one should lose sight of that, but the congressional leadership certainly wants you to!

Despite the fact that Foley ad a reputation among peers for habitually making pages uncomfortable with his behavior, no one seemed inclined to investigate any further when the e-mails in question reached Dennis Hastert’s office. This is unfortunate, especially since it took ABC News less than 48 hours to unearth the infamous instant messaging conversations between Foley and a former page.

It would seem that Hastert and Company are guilty, at the very least, of gross negligence and at the very worst, a sinister cover-up that media personalities chalk up to election politics; the fact that Foley was a good fund-raiser, etc.

It matters not: the leadership fell down on the job and they’re scrambling to avoid the repercussions by saying anything they think will take the heat off of them.

The GOP leadership and others will tell you that democratic congressmen molested pages in the past.

Yes, that is true. That’s the problem! Democrats do not have the monopoly on reprehensible behavior. Nor do Republicans. Congress as a whole seems to be pining to make that distinction.

Mark Twain once wrote that Congress was the only naturally criminal class in America. These events go a long way towards confirming this insightful piece of commentary. It certainly indicates that we are at the mercy of a congressional culture drunk on its own excesses and unwilling to take responsibility for itself.

So what will come of all of this? The Republicans will take a beating in November. Whether they lose control of the House or not is a question beyond the scope of this article.

However, you can bet that the GOP leadership in Congress (with the possible exception of Dennis Hastert) will keep their jobs, be it as the majority or minority party.

The Democrats will certainly shout themselves hoarse over Foley’s conduct until one of theirs gets caught with his hands on a minor.

Pages will now think twice if a well-meaning congressman decides to take a friendly interest in their future plans or welfare by offering to answer questions via e-mail.

Foley will hide in rehab until he’s sure he won’t face criminal charges.

Then, he’ll take yet another page from the Jim McGreevy playbook and write a memoir about his experiences so he can pay the legal bills, the rehab costs and the rest of his scandal-induced debts.

Maybe fate will spare us the Oprah-assisted public spectacle of Foley tearfully describing his sexual experiences for daytime TV audiences across this troubled land.