Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Cong. Foley soap opera: As the Stomach Turns?

Okay, everybody is presumed innocent. But, when you resign 24 hours after the damning reports, when the Speaker and the Republican Leadership tell Foley no defense is going to fly here-- you can turn out the lights--The party is over for Cong. Foley. Unless he can develop a bi-polar, substance abuse, “I lost my mind defense,” the guy is going to do some serious time. And, unless the Republican Party can show the Republican Party Leadership did not cover this up, it will be Speaker Pelosi and maybe Majority Leader Reid, come November 7.

As the saying goes, "I can handle my enemies, but God help me with my friends." This has to be President Bush's thoughts right now. Aren't there supposed to be grown-ups in the House who know how to get rid of people like Foley before he brings down his Party.

Rolling Stone took my line before I got my post online, “Foley turns over a new page.” See here.

"Three years ago, Cong. Foley held a news conference in Florida to say that he would refuse to talk about his sexual orientation ..." See here. [Ed. note, always a bad sign-- lacking in "gay pride," no doubt.].

Just when the National Republican Party thought it was turning over a new page of its own in the November 7, 2006 mid-term election, it is jolted back to reality by yet another Republican scandal. Jack Abramoff and Cong. Duke Cunningham started the deep descent for the national Republican Party. Then there was the daily onslaught of bad news from Iraq, with the Bush Generals murmuring over the sectarian violence replacing terrorist insurgents as the primary threat. The nation seemed to be saying it did not sign up to be peacemakers in an Iraqi civil war. And, there were high gas prices. And, that all followed Katrina and Michael [Great Job] Brownie.

Bush’s approval ratings tumbled and the generic congressional polls turned sharply in favor of Democrats, i.e., the nation was saying gimme a Democrat congressperson, almost no matter in whichever part of the country the voters were and no matter between whom the choice was.

Then, in the last few weeks, the national Republican Party seemed to have found its footing. Gas prices were tumbling downward. President Bush was out making positive speeches and the case for the Iraq War. Once again, the President was sounding the popular, bi-annual Republican theme, “It’s National Security, stupid." Iraq was simply the central front in the War on terrorism. If the terrorists were drawn to Iraq, that was all to the good. Better to fight them in Baghdad than in Chicago, New York, Dallas or even in San Francisco.

More than 4000, or so, Al Qaeda, troops were said to have been killed in Iraq. Not a bad three years work, notwithstanding the loss of Coalition troops and massive injuries to same. Yes, the NIE may have said that the Iraq War had become a cause Celeb and a recruiting tool for terrorists, but it also said that the ultimate defeat of the insurgents in Iraq [finishing well, as 6th CD candidate Senator Roskam might put it] would be a major blow to Al Qaeda and other terrorists.

The Bush approval ratings were, on average, out of the high 30s and into the low or mid 40s. The generic Congressional poll had become a tie between Rs and Ds. The National Republican Party was no longer tanking. The Republicans, once they got past their internal dispute between the President and the maverick Senate Leadership i.e., Senators Warner, McCain and Graham on defining torture and the rights of non- U. S. citizen detainees, i.e., accused foreign terrorists, had laid a nice trap for Democrats. And, in large part, Pelosi and Reid fell for it, letting the Ds once again define themselves as the Party not to be trusted on National Security.

Then, what happens? Six term Chief Republican Deputy Whip, Cong. Mark Foley [Southern Florida] announces he is resigning, all but conceding he had engaged in terribly wrong, shameful and most likely, unlawful, communications with a minor, male page, communications which a former FBI agent has said could probably be viewed as unlawful solicitations of homosexual sex with a minor. [However, there are some reports that 16 might be age of consent in that area] [See here].

Major Garrett, no left wing, radical Democrat sympathizer and a correspondent on Fox News Channel’s nightly Special Report, said on Friday night’s program, “To call today’s events dramatic and shattering would be a grotesque understatement.”

Speaker Hastert, when asked Friday afternoon about the Foley resignation, said, “He has done the right thing. I have asked Cong. Shimkus, who is head of the Page Board to look into this issue regarding Cong. Foley. We want to make sure that all of our pages are safe and the page system is safe.” Hastert reported further, “None of us are very happy about it.” Garrett commented that would be “another classic understatement."

Meanwhile, questions are being raised [including some late breaking questions reported by Nightline at the end of its Friday night segment] as to what Speaker Hastert and other members in the Republican Leadership knew about allegations of this type with respect to Foley’s improper communications with minor House pages, and when did they know it, to resurrect the famous Watergate phrase. Further, what did they do about it? [The folks on the hot seat include, among others, NRCC Chairman and Cong. Reynolds [R-NY]; Cong. Shimkus [R-IL] and Majority Leader Boehner [R-Oh], and, significantly, a senior staffer to the Speaker, which could implicate the Speaker, himself].

The Republicans have one shot to get past the situation: answer the Foleygate questions promptly and thoroughly- pulling no punches. They, of course, will hope that Hastert, Boehner and/or others in the Republican Leadership can survive them. If not, the rank and file need to cut them loose. It is their collective butts that are on the line. In any case, they better Moveon.Republican and put the ball back in the National Security court. The Foley court is not user-friendly to congressional Republicans.

Because-- if the next few months end up being about the below, the Democrats likely will add at least 11 Democrat pick-ups in the House to the almost certain pick-ups of the Delay seat in Texas, Ney Seat in Ohio, Foley seat in Florida, 8th CD in Arizona, bringing about an early retirement for J. Dennis Hastert as Speaker, and disaster for many House candidates-- and the gavel will go to Speaker Pelosi, if not Speaker Murtha. Further, the Senate could go Democratic, as well, meaning the Congress could turn into Bush Investigation, 24-7. Talk about a living Hell for a President. W, say Hello to Ways and Means Chairman Rangel and Judiciary Chairman John [not so Jr.] Conyers [D-MI], just to mention a few of the new Chairmen in the House.

As indicated above, the question for the Republicans is when did the Republican Leadership first learn of this issue? With whom among the Leadership was this information shared? Was it withheld, as is being alleged, from the Dems on the Page Board? Why shouldn't the information have been shared with the entire Page Board? with the Democrats? Were the initial reports appropriately followed up on? By whom?

Early reports are that the Republicans may not have performed too well on this score. Remember, it is always the cover-up that is the major political problem. Look at President Nixon. That’s the reason he had the choice of resigning or being impeached. Look at President Clinton. Perjury was much more of a factor than sex in the Impeachment of Mr. Bill.

Take a look at the alleged email exchanges between a 16-year-old page and Cong. Mark Foley, as reported by Nightline last night and on it’s web page [see here].

Florida Rep. Mark Foley's resignation came just hours after ABC News questioned the congressman about a series of sexually explicit instant messages involving congressional pages, high school students who are under 18 years of age. In Congress, Rep. Foley (R-FL) was part of the Republican Leadership and the Chairman of the House caucus on Missing and Exploited children.

He crusaded for tough laws against those who used the Internet for Sexual Exploitation of children. "They're sick people; they need mental health counseling," Foley said. [Foley has met the sick people and they are him.]

...According to several former congressional pages, the congressman used the Internet to engage in sexually explicit exchanges. They say he [Cong. Foley] used the screen name Maf54 on these messages provided to ABC News.
Maf54: You in your boxers, too?
Teen: Nope, just got home. I had a college interview that went late.
Maf54: Well, strip down and get relaxed. [Ed. Note, well there you go, how is that for mentoring, as Foley first defended to Republican investigators what he was doing in the emails].

Another message:

Maf54: What ya wearing?
Teen: tshirt and shorts
Maf54: Love to slip them off of you. [Ed. Note, more mentoring?]

And this one:
Maf54: You’re horny, though. [Ed. Note, even more mentoring].
Teen: Well, yeah, a bit. But, I’m still a virgin.
Maf54: Everybody wants you. [Ed. Note, some helpful congressional assessments of his page desirability--teen was much in demand for his coffee getting ability would be Foley's defense? .
Teen: If you say so.
Maf54: You like being the only one?
Teen: Of course, less competition [Ed. note, tutoring on the antitrust laws would be Foley's defense].

The language gets much more graphic, too graphic to be broadcast, and at one point the congressman appears to be describing Internet sex. Federal authorities say such messages could result in Foley's prosecution, under some of the same laws he helped to enact.

"Adds up to soliciting underage children for sex," said Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and now an ABC News consultant. "And what it amounts to is serious both state and federal violations that could potentially get you a number of years."

Foley's resignation letter was submitted late this afternoon, and he left Capitol Hill without speaking to reporters. In a statement, he said he was "deeply sorry" and apologized for letting down his family and the people of Florida. But he made no mention of the Internet messages or the pages.

One former page tells ABC News that his class was warned about Foley by people involved in the program. [Ed. note: But had those involved in the Program discussed with Shimkus? Had Shimkus investigated? Discussed with authorities? What obligations did Shimkus have to report to authorities? to others on the Page Board?]. Other pages told ABC News they were hesitant to report Foley because of his power in Congress. [Ed. note: What about Shimkus? Did he cover this up or did he act properly? And, now Speaker Hastert turns to Shimkus [D-IL] to determine if the page system is safe? Wouldn't Shimkus have a bit of a conflict?]

This all came to a head in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, we [Nightline] asked the congressman [Foley] about some much tamer e-mails from one page, and he said he was just being overly friendly. [Ed. note: another grotesque understatement? ]After we [Nightline] posted that story online, we began to hear from a number of other pages who sent these much more graphic messages.

Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at