Political MoJo

Salacious Exchanges With Underage Male Pages

| Mon Oct. 2, 2006 9:26 PM EDT

No, it's not a line out of Gilbert and Sullivan; it's a line out of this AP story, which takes up the crucial question in the scandal all of Washington is calling, with cheeky brilliance, "Foleygate": "What did GOP leaders know and when did they know it?" As Media Matters notes, the press inititally bought Dennis Hastert's spin that the emails Republican leaders were "over friendly" (which they were!), but is now rallying to the the view that, as one Republican strategist says, "[It's not] so much about Foley as it is about the handling of this." Democrats, once again the beneficiaries of a Republican disaster they did nothing to bring about, are "delighted."

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Foley Now In Deeper Trouble

| Mon Oct. 2, 2006 4:50 PM EDT

Congressman Mark Foley, already in enough trouble for sending sexually explicit and other inappropriate messages to adolescent Congressional pages, is now looking at a more serious charge. It turns out that Foley made repeated attempts to get a page to rendevous with him at night.

"I would drive a few miles for a hot stud like you," Foley said in one message. This text, according to the FBI, could constitute what it takes for the government to make a federal charge of soliciting for sex with a minor on the Internet against the former Congressman. There is also at least one message that indicates that Foley met with at least one page in San Diego, though the nature of the meeting is not known.

Here is the text of one message:

Maf54: I want to see you
Teen: Like I said not til feb…then we will go to dinner
Maf54: and then what happens
Teen: we eat…we drink…who knows…hang out…late into the night
Maf54: and
Teen: I dunno
Maf54: dunno what
Teen: hmmm I have the feeling that you are fishing here…im not sure what I would be comfortable with…well see

Foley, former co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, has checked into a rehab facility in order to deal with his alcoholism. He once said, "We track library books better than we do sexual predators." Apparently, Foley was counting on a continuation of that poor tracking.

Environmental Damage: Another Reason Why a Border Fence is a Bad Idea

| Mon Oct. 2, 2006 4:43 PM EDT

Ranchers like Mike Vickers, and others who make their living on the US-Mexico border, aren't the only ones who think building a fence to keep out illegal immigrants is a dumb idea. Environmental groups working along the border and the National Park Service object to a fence on environmental grounds. Where illegals routinely cross the border you find millions of tons of trash, erosion from thousands of illegally carved trails and roads, and habitat fragmentation, among other environmental effects. Building a fence doesn't solve that problem; it just shifts it to another location as immigrants cross somewhere else. "We realize that the problems we are facing environmentally in this region are a direct effect of past border patrol strategy that have relied primarily on walls," says an environmentalist in a new Mother Jones piece. Read it here.

Supreme Court Declines to Take Up Sex Toys

| Mon Oct. 2, 2006 4:24 PM EDT

The Justices have declined to consider whether a Texas law making it a crime to promote sex toys shaped like sexual organs is hilarious unconstitutional.

As the AP explains, an adult bookstore employee in El Paso, Texas, sued the state after being arrested for showing two undercover officers a device shaped like a penis and telling the female officer the device would arouse and gratify her.

As we pointed out a few issues ago, sex toys fill a lucrative—and increasingly mainstream—niche of the multi-million-dollar-a-year sex industry. And let's just say they are increasingly being wielded, brandished, and generally waved around as weapons in the culture wars. Take Alabama, where it's a crime to engage in the production and sale of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs."

Keep an eye out -- this might become a wedge issue.

Texas to DC: Don't Fence Me In

| Sun Oct. 1, 2006 8:08 PM EDT

You know things are getting interesting when Mike Vickers, rancher, ex-Minuteman, and poster boy for the South-Texas-has-had-it-with-immigration line says Congress' fence not only won't help, but will actually make life worse in his neck of the woods. All along the Rio Grande, it turns out, people who otherwise couldn't be more hard-line about the border are appalled that Congress actually approved what for a while seemed like just one more election-year fantasy. Read the rest in a fine piece by the LA Times' Miguel Bustillo; for an early report on the current round of border posturing, pull up Michael Scherer's "Scrimmage on the Border." And once you're ready for the full-on, no-excuses tour de force on what is going on along La Linea and why no amount of liberal or conservative posturing will fix it, go see Charles Bowden's three-decades-in-the-making "Exodus" in Mother Jones' September/October issue.

Update--PERA Has Passed In the House of Representatives

| Sun Oct. 1, 2006 1:12 PM EDT

The Public Expression of Religion Act has passed the House. As a rule, bills of this kind do not make it through the Senate, but these days, who knows? The Senate's companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, is receiving support from civil liberties haters all across the country.

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Woodward, Kissinger, Vietnam--Let's Do The Time Warp Again

| Sun Oct. 1, 2006 2:13 AM EDT

Oh well, the folks at the Post must have gotten extra server space for this one, so head on over and check out the Woodward-gets-religion show for yourself. Among the bits we haven't seen in the wall-to-wall coverage of "State of Denial" are some very disturbing ones, to wit:


A powerful, largely invisible influence on Bush's Iraq policy was former secretary of state Kissinger.

"Of the outside people that I talk to in this job," Vice President Cheney told me in the summer of 2005, "I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than I talk to anybody else. He just comes by and, I guess at least once a month, Scooter [his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby] and I sit down with him."

The president also met privately with Kissinger every couple of months, making him the most regular and frequent outside adviser to Bush on foreign affairs.

Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw it through the prism of the Vietnam War. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.

In his writing, speeches and private comments, Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of the weakened resolve of the public and Congress.

In a column in The Washington Post on Aug. 12, 2005, titled "Lessons for an Exit Strategy," Kissinger wrote, "Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy."

He delivered the same message directly to Bush, Cheney and Hadley at the White House.

Victory had to be the goal, he told all. Don't let it happen again. Don't give an inch, or else the media, the Congress and the American culture of avoiding hardship will walk you back.

They've known about Foley for almost a YEAR?

| Sun Oct. 1, 2006 1:47 AM EDT

One of the many questions that beg answering in the Foley disaster: How exactly, now that we've all lived through a decade's worth of Catholic priest scandal and outrage over institutional hierarchy whitewashing--how, after all that, do you go from late 2005 to September 2006 convincing yourself that "suspiciously friendly" emails from a powerful man to a teenage boy are not a problem? How, Bishop Hastert?

Now for the cluelessness sweepstakes:

Rich Galen, a Republican political strategist, worried that voters might lump Foley's name with former representatives Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), all of whom were forced to resign or were indicted amid various scandals this year.

No, Rich. You'd be lucky if people thought this was only as bad as Ney/DeLay/Duke.

By the Numbers: Why We Need a Timetable For Leaving Iraq

| Fri Sep. 29, 2006 8:55 PM EDT

President George Bush has often stressed that if America wins the hearts and minds of Iraqis, they will stop killing our troops and each other and the country will stabilize. For Bush, that means rooting out Al Qaeda, a strategy that the recently released National Intelligence Estimate dramatically showed isn't working; the presence of the U.S. in Iraq is recruiting terrorists faster than we can kill them. Perhaps a better way to win over Iraqis would be to (gasp!) listen to what they think we should do and leave. According government and independent polls released this week, more than 70 percent of Iraqis want U.S. troops to quit Iraq within a year, arguing that a pullout would make the country more secure and decrease sectarian violence.

Bush has argued that setting a timetable for withdraw from Iraq would only embolden insurgents. The polls suggest he's wrong. Iraqi support for attacks on U.S.-led forces has grown over the past year to a majority position—now six in ten. The independent poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that Iraqis who support the attacks also believe the U.S. plans to establish permanent military bases in their country. A majority of Iraqis said they'd be less supportive of attacks on U.S. troops, "if the U.S. made a commitment to withdraw from Iraq according to a timetable."

Our congress is not entirely deaf to Iraqi concerns. A rider in a defense spending bill that passed the House Wednesday would ban construction in Iraq of permanent U.S. bases. But Bush needs to go much further and set a timetable for withdraw. The independent poll found that a whopping 91 percent of Iraqis, including majorities of all ethnic groups, supported a pullout of U.S. troops within two years. Making even that kind of modest commitment would go a long way towards getting Iraqis on our side.

Foley Resigns Over Sexually Explicit Emails (Or, "...sick sick sick sick sick.")

| Fri Sep. 29, 2006 4:29 PM EDT

mark_foley_nr.jpg

Buh-bye

Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) planned to resign today, hours after ABC questioned him about sexually explicit internet messages with current and former Congressional pages under the age of 18.

Hours earlier, ABC News had read excerpts of instant messages provided by former pages who said the congressman, under the AOL Instant Messenger screen name Maf54, made repeated references to sexual organs and acts.

From yesterday's ABC story:

In the series of e-mails, obtained by ABC News, from Rep. Foley (R-FL) to the former page, Foley asks the young man how old he is, what he wants for his birthday and requests a photo of him.

The concerned young man alerted congressional staffers to the e-mails. In one e-mail, the former page writes to a staffer, "Maybe it is just me being paranoid, but seriously. This freaked me out."

Understandable.

The e-mails were sent from Foley's personal AOL account, and the exchange began within weeks after the page finished his program on Capitol Hill. In one, Foley writes, "did you have fun at your conference…what do you want for your birthday coming up…what stuff do you like to do."

In another Foley writes, "how are you weathering the hurricane…are you safe…send me an email pic of you as well…"

The young man forwarded that e-mail to a congressional staffer saying it was "sick sick sick sick sick."