Political MoJo

Repeat After Me: "Gay" and "Pedophile" Are Not Remotely Related

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 8:53 PM EDT

Former Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida has ironically done more to hurt the gay community by coming out than he did as a Congressman elected in the 1994 Republican revolution. After his salacious e-mails to underage pages were revealed, Foley promptly declared himself an alcoholic—which acquaintances have questioned—and checked himself into rehab. Then—as part of his recovery, according to his lawyer—Foley came out as a "gay man."

Foley apparently includes being gay among the "wrongs" that the fifth step of Alcoholics Anonymous's 12-step program requires him to admit. Foley, however, has yet to admit "the exact nature of [his] wrongs" against the teenagers who worked for him. Even more troublesome is the former Congressman's conflation of pedophilia with homosexuality.

This stereotype is so widespread that even relatively tolerant people don't address its absurdity (for examples, see here and here). But, says psychologist James M. Cantor, at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, there is no scientific evidence linking gay identity and pedophilia. That bears repeating: there is no evidence that gay men are more likely to be attracted to or to molest underage boys. Cantor suggests that the Christian right's consistent depictions of "homosexuals" as pedophiles—the same stand the Family Research Council is currently taking—relies on "mere sophistry." To generate these claims, right-wing researchers simply refer to a man who has molested boys as homosexual.

Foley is, however, something of an exception. Most men who molest boys are almost exclusively sexually interested in children or teens. Foley, however, had a "longtime companion"—a Palm Beach doctor—whose existence was essentially an open secret in the political world. It is impossible to know the nature of that relationship, partly because it has been treated like a skeleton in Foley's closet.

Were people less afraid to discuss adult homosexuality under normal circumstances, and less titillated by the fact that Foley's young targets were male, the situation might be much better for pages. Foley's inappropriate attention might have been addressed sooner, because harassing teenage girls is, alas, less newsworthy (unless you're Bill Clinton, whom Foley voted to impeach). And, as a corollary, perhaps there would be more productive dialogue about the female pages who have undoubtedly received unwanted attention from Congressmen on both sides of the aisle.

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NLRB Sets New Standards For Who Can Join Unions

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 8:33 PM EDT

In a 3-2 vote (Bush appointees comprising the 3), the National Labor Relations Board has re-defined the meaning of the term "supervisor," with the result that millions of American workers may be barred from joining labor unions. The ruling defined as supervisors any nurses who direct and oversee other nursing staff. These definitions can be--and it is expected that they will be--applied to workers in a variety of industries.

For example, restaurant shift supervisors, who wait tables and run the cash register, could, under the new ruling, be exempt from joining a union. Many large retailers, including Home Depot, Abercrombie & Fitch and Staples, have already been sued by employees for denying them overtime because they were classified as supervisors, despite the fact that they rarely supervised anyone.

The NLRB decision actually came from three different cases, one involving a Michigan hospital, one involving a nursing home in Minnesota, and one involving employees at a manufacturing plant in Mississippi.

The AFL-CIO predicts that as many as 34 million workers--23% of the national labor force--could be affected by this new ruling.

Turmoil on the Right

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 5:10 PM EDT

The Foley scandal appears to be opening a deep split in the Republican base. Bush so far defends Hastert, and is trying to tie the Democrats to the scandal. But the leaders of the New Right coalition which more than any other group is responsible for the right wing Republican victories over the last quarter century, are flat out demanding Hastert quit as Speaker.
Two of the original New Right leaders, have come down hard against Hastert. Richard A. Viguerie, the direct mail whiz who built up the conservative juggernaut, told the Los Angeles Times Hastert and the leadership were not aggressive enough in getting to the bottom of the emails when they first heard about them last year. Just warning Foley wasn't good enough and was "only the most recent example of Republican House leaders doing whatever it takes to hold onto power."

Paul M. Weyrich, another founder of the New Right, the man who began the Heritage Foundation and was co-founder of the Moral Majority, said he too couldn't understand why the leadership hadn't got to the bottom of the mess when they learned of the first emails."That's the real question, and that's what has the movement people very angry," he told the Times. Weyerich tries to get the Arlington Group, made up of conservative groups holding differing views, to demand the resignation of Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner and anyone else involved in handling the Foley situation. But the executive committee backed away from this stiff version, and the final document did not directluy criticize House leaders or call for anyone to quit.

All in all, Republican House members are bitterly angry at their leadership. Bob Novak writes today, ``The virtually sure loss of one Florida seat following the scandal surrounding Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and the possibility of a devastating ripple effect pointed to dysfunctional House leadership where the principals do not effectively communicate with each other. The anger by rank-and-file Republican House members over the incompetence of their leaders is palpable.''

But the Christian Right, another leg of the Bush base, is weirdly silent. James Dobson, perhaps the most important figure on the religious right and an ardent supporter of the President, issued a mild statement:

Focus on the Family Action weighed in on the controversy surrounding former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, who was forced to resign last week after sexually explicit e-mails between him and a congressional page were made public.

The ensuing scandal has led to calls for the resignation of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, on the insinuation that he didn't address Foley's behavior quickly or proactively enough.

Tom Minnery, Focus Action's senior vice president of government and public policy, said Foley "should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law" if he is guilty of preying on boys.

But he added the preoccupation with the political aspects of the incident were unfortunate.

"The lives of real families have been devastated by the conduct Mr. Foley stands accused of —so it's sad that so much of the dialogue today is so political in nature," Minnery said. "Those truly interested in protecting children from online predators should spend less time calling for Speaker Hastert to step down, and more time demanding that the Justice Department enforce existing laws that would limit the proliferation of the kind of filth that leads grown men to think it's perfectly OK to send lurid e-mails to 16-year-old boys."

Minnery added that the public's outraged reaction to the incident "indicates that as a society we do understand there are limits to 'tolerance' of our culture's anything-goes view of sexuality."

"If any lasting cultural good could come out of this awful incident," he added, "it would be Americans discarding the politically correct notion fed to us by those on the left that obscenity is just another form of free speech."

Foley: Who Knew What and When

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 4:17 PM EDT


The New York Times has a nifty infographic timeline thingy showing the Foleygate (time to retire the scare quotes) events in sequence. Click on the image to go see.

Premature "Mission Accomplished" Party Planning

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 2:53 PM EDT

Thom Shanker's story on the front page of today's New York Times reveals that "tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation's capital "for commemoration of success" in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.
The original legislation empowered the president to designate "a day of celebration" to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to "issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Following the gaffe that was President Bush's flight-suit clad appearance on an aircraft carrier to celebrate "Mission Accomplished," one would think that lawmakers would have been more circumspect than to let such a provision stand. It's not as if I'm against celebrating the successes (or honoring the sacrifices) of the military, but we are so far away from anything resembling success that authorizing the celebration funds is like booking the DJ for your embryo's Sweet Sixteen party.


After Five Years Al Jazeera Journo Still at Gitmo

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 1:48 PM EDT

Al Jazeera cameraman Sami Muhyideen al-Haj was detained by Pakistani intelligence in December 2001, shortly after the fall of Kabul, as he and his crew attempted to cross the border into Pakistan. Turned over to U.S. authorities, who have accused him both of acting as a bagman for Chechen rebels and of aiding al Qaeda, he has spent close to five years in Gitmo where he, like his fellow detainees, has been held on the basis of secret evidence and with no legal recourse. As the Committee to Protect Journalists' Joel Campagna writes:

The military labels the allegations as "evidence." But a review of the public documents shows that they are assertions of wrongdoing without the documentation or testimony normally considered by a court to be evidence. Supporting evidence, if any, is part of the U.S. military's classified file — off-limits to the public, al-Haj, and his lawyer.

Among the more troubling aspects of al-Haj's detainment is the subject his captors have routinely sought to interrogate him on. His lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, told CPJ that "virtually all of the roughly 130 interrogations al-Haj has been subjected to have focused on Al Jazeera.... He said military officials have appeared intent on establishing a relationship between Al Jazeera and al Qaeda, questioning al-Haj about prominent network journalists, the station's finances, and how it pays for airline tickets."

Beyond pumping the journalist for information on Al Jazeera, American and British interrogators may have also tried to recruit him to spy on his employer. According to declassified notes of visits between al-Haj and his lawyer, which were obtained by the Guardian last year, he has been offered U.S. citizenship in return for informing on Al Jazeera. "They have said, 'If you work with us, we will teach you journalism, we will get you a visa to live anywhere you want, we will even give you US nationality, we will protect you, we will give you money,'" al-Haj has said. "'We will help you write a book and then we will publish it. This will help make the al Qaeda people contact you, and work with you.'"

If true, the fact that the government wants a mole inside Al Jazeera shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, since many military and administration officials regard the network as al Qaeda's de facto propaganda arm. But the government may also have other motivations for seeking to infiltrate and potentially undermine Al Jazeera. As a recent Congressional Research Service report on military information operations points out, the network "is considered by many to be a 'market competitor'" for U.S. propaganda efforts.

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Hastert Will Go -- It's the Disloyalty, Stupid

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 1:24 PM EDT

Marc Sandalow at the San Francisco Chronicle doesn't see any way Hastert can survive (nor does our own James Ridgeway), and I tend to agree.

Even if he manages to deflect blame for the humiliating page scandal, he will be left with a Republican leadership team whose disloyalty and instinct for self preservation have been fully exposed....

The conduct of the House has been so troubling that several Republicans are proposing to abolish the page system (which prompted Democratic columnist Harold Meyerson to suggest in this morning's Washington Post that, rather than punishing the victims, if House members cannot handle the temptation of young pages: "How about building a 700-foot fence around all Republican members of Congress?''

The only live question, so he argues, is when Hastert goes -- that is, how the Republicans' will time his departure so as to minimize the pre-election damage.

...Hastert is becoming the personification of the very entrenched Washington power that voters turned against when Democrats controlled Congress in 1994. ...

Hastert was scheduled to make as many as 30 appearances in the coming weeks for Republican candidates. Don't be surprised if [he] announces that he can not continue in his current capacity long before that.

Hastert: Dead Man Walking

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 12:00 PM EDT

As a practical matter Dennis Hastert is to be the fall guy in the Foley scandal and is pretty much finished politically. The longer he twists in the wind, the more House seats Republicans will lose. Polls this morning are showing Dems either within reach of retaking the House, or winning outright. Zogby/Reuters says Dems are ahead in 11 of 15 key House races held by Republicans. The question now is what happens to at least three other Republicans, including House Majority Leader John Boehner who's also been tainted in the scandal. Who knows how many others will be exposed.

Most vulnerable is New York's Tom Reynolds, who runs the National Republican Congressional Committee. Democrats have been pounding Reynolds since Saturday, when it became known that he had been informed of some of Foley's less-explicit e-mails in late spring. Reynolds says he told Hastert about them, which Hastert denies. Congressional Quarterly Monday downgraded Reynolds' reelection chances from "safe Republican" to "leans Republican," and it's possible he might get beaten by Jack Davis, a Democratic businessman. "I don't think I went wrong at all," Reynolds said Monday at a press conference where he was surrounded by children (perhaps to shield himself from pointed questioning). "I don't know what else I could have done. What's a good citizen to do?" When a reporter asked the children to go outside to permit a more frank discussion of the matters at hand, Reynolds refused. "It's astounding to me as a parent or a grandparent that anyone would insinuate that I would seek to cover up inappropriate conduct between an adult and a child," he said.

Then there is John Shimkus of Illinois. He heads the House Page Committee and claims to have learned of the Foley emails in late 2005. Then he, together with House clerk Jeff Trandahl, met with Foley in 2005 and claims to have told the Florida congressman to cease all contact the former page. Foley supposedly promised to do so. Shimkus did not tell the other members of the Page committee, Democrat Dale E. Kildee and Republican Shelley Moore Capito, about the Foley incident.

Boehner says he first learned of Foley's "inappropriate" contact in late spring. He says he told Hastert and the Speaker assured him the matter would be taken care of. But when Hastert denied any knowledge of the Foley situation, Boehner changed his story. Now he says he can't remember his exchange with Hastert.

-- James Ridgeway

Maybe the Question Is: Who Didn't Know About Foley?

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 2:29 AM EDT

Reports the LA Times:

"Almost the first day I got there I was warned," said Mark Beck-Heyman, a San Diego native who served as a page in the House of Representatives in the summer of 1995. "It was no secret that Foley had a special interest in male pages," said Beck-Heyman, adding that Foley, who is now 52, on several occasions asked him out for ice cream.

Another former congressional staff member said he too had been the object of Foley's advances. "It was so well known around the House. Pages passed it along from class to class," said the former aide, adding that when he was 18 a few years ago and working as an intern, Foley approached him at a bar near the Capitol and asked for his e-mail address.

Is it starting to feel like "if everyone thought it was no big deal, how much more of this is going on"?

Foley Interrupts Vote Sending Money to Troops in Iraq to Have Internet Sex with Former Page

| Tue Oct. 3, 2006 10:25 PM EDT

ABC reports:

Former Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) interrupted a vote on the floor of the House in 2003 to engage in Internet sex with a high school student who had served as a congressional page, according to new Internet instant messages provided to ABC News by former pages.

ABC News now has obtained 52 separate instant message exchanges, which former pages say were sent by Foley, using the screen name Maf54, to two different boys under the age of 18.

This message was dated April 2003, at approximately 7 p.m., according to the message time stamp.

Maf54: I miss you
Teen: ya me too
Maf54: we are still voting
Maf54: you miss me too

The exchange continues in which Foley and the teen both appear to describe having sexual orgasms.

Maf54: ok..i better go vote..did you know you would have this effect on me
Teen: lol I guessed
Teen: ya go vote…I don't want to keep you from doing our job
Maf54: can I have a good kiss goodnight
Teen: :-*
Teen: [kiss]

The House voted that evening on HR 1559, Emergency War Time supplemental appropriations.

IN RELATED NEWS: Over at Political Wire, Taegan Goddard notes that: "House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), "under fire for his handling of the Foley page scandal, may have just one or two days to turn the affair around -- or quiet it -- or face being forced to step aside," Republican officials tell U.S. News and World Report.

"Hastert aides and the speaker himself have shrugged off the calls to quit, noting that now is the worst time possible for the House Republican Caucus to face a leadership race. But if that were to happen, it is likely that Majority Leader John Boehner would move up a notch. He has gone out of his way to distance himself from the Foley page affair."

In fact, Roll Call notes Boehner "reversed course" and today dumped blame for the scandal in Hastert's lap. Boehner says he told Hastert about Foley's problem "and he told me it had been taken care of."