Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Personal Asides: The Mark Foley Matter Two-Faced Tony.
The timing of the Mark Foley disclosure along with the George Soros-funded nature of CREW, the organization that helped tip it, gives every indication of last-minute pre-election Democratic bean-ball but this doesnt excuse House Republicans from criticism. Three immediate pointsand one over-arching ignored principle. First immediate: there was no excuse for Illinois Republican Congressman John Shimkus, chairman of the group that monitors pages, for not going to his Democratic opposite number when the irregular nature of Foleys communications with the page surfaced. The impression has gained currency that Shimkus first thought and action was to protect the Republican majority rather than look after the well-being of the young page.
Second immediate: House Speaker Dennis Hastert did not cover himself with glory in the follow-up first denying he heard of the matter, then saying he may well have but he forgot. Evidently again, no one thought to notify the Democratic member of the committee with supervision over page well-being. This dereliction also pertains to Hasterts staff.
Third immediate: the salutary decision of Mark Foley to resign was generally in line with accepted Republican practicemuch at variance with established Democratic policy when caught in a scandal which is to hang on, blast the criticism and flaunt disrespect for laws of morality and convention. As one who used to visit the House every week, I well remember when Democrat Gerry Studds brazenly turned his back on his House colleagues while they voted to censure him for preying on a young male page Studds maintaining that the page at age 17 had reached the age of consent. Studds continued in the House, was reelected several times At the same time, Illinois Dan Crane was censured for having sexual relations with a female page. Crane tearfully accepted his punishment and resigned. Add to this the intransigence of Bill Clinton who was asked to resign by several members of his party for sexual indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky: he refused. None of us can forget Barney Franks decision to bull it through and stay in the House where he still serves today, despite romancing a House male page who turned Franks apartment into a whorehouse where homosexual trysts were arranged for pay. It is to the nauseating discredit of House Democrats that Frank suffered not a whit for his decadenceand still bellows forth as the ranking loudest mouth of the caucus.
So theres more than enough scandal to go around and the action of the Senates major lachrymose whitened sepulcher Richard Durbin silent through the aforementioned Democratic House scandals when Durbin was a Representative and blusteringly defiant in defense of Bill Clinton when Durbin violated the role of a Senator in an impeachment matter to remain neutral as a jury member to now throw his hands up in holy horror because the Republicans who control the House are embarrassed is rather sickening. Since Durbin is so interested in the morals of the House does anyone remember him screaming when Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was caught with a wad of cold cash in his office refrigerator? Nary a peep out of the sanctimonious Senatorial hustler. But enough about him.
The overarching principle which governs the matter of House ethics is this: Denny Hastert has proved a bad exemplar of legislative integrity. Remember when he joined with the Democrats to protest the FBIs entrance of Congressman Jeffersons officebabbling that nonsense about separation of powers? He was seen as believing members of Congress have special rights of privacy that no other American has to protect their swag. There is a good old boy insensitivity in the Speaker that cannot serve the public interest well. There is also a moral ambiguity in the Republican party generally. In an attempt to be all things to all people, the national GOP has endorsed the idea of Log Cabin Republicans, a caucus of those who see as paramount the protection of gay rights to which a good number of vote-seekers go including former Congressman Foley and current Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona (who got his start here as a staffer for Illinois governor Dick Ogilvie).
The Bush White House has an official liaison between it and the homosexual communitywhich tells us that it is willing to shed privacy for public recognition and, in a sense, approbation of homosexual acts. These are political gestures just as the accordion-playing of Judy Baar Topinka at gay rights rallies is a political gesture. But Topinka is what she is: an affable low-rent. The Bush administration which espouses traditional moral values has no business playing on that side of the street: Topinka can because she endorses gay rightsbut when you testify in support of heterosexual marriage and oppose special treatment for homosexuals, you shouldnt try to wheedle around having it both ways. Does this mean homophobia? Nobut if a political party says it disapproves of special rights, it should stick with its position. This Republican party nationally has not.
Mark Foley had always from the first day he ran for Congress maintained that his sexual orientation was his own business. Not so: not when you run for Congress any more than excessive drinking or chasing skirts is your own business. His sexual orientation would have to be the peoples business. The fact that the Republican party let him get away with it until it blew up in its face is to the GOPs discredit. Kolbe has gone public with his homosexuality. The fact that the GOP thought this was nifty and accepted him as part of its broadened, more sophisticated approach, does not fit well with a party that has campaigned for traditional values.
One never-married, pro-life Republican candidate in Illinois who has been speculated about because of his gay-rights vote has maintained publicly that he is not a homosexual: fine. He should be taken at his word and not badgered further about it. This speculation has gone on all too long after his denial. But questions should be asked whenever theyre required. More than a decade ago, I asked a single man running for Congress who spoke at the City Cluba man not known for ever going out with women, if he were gay. The room gasped; it should not have. He said no. That settled the matter. Later, he told a friend that he should not have answered the questionwhich to me indicates he was dishonest in his answer. The point is this: the Democratic party endorses gay rights and therefore it has no right to question a candidates sexual orientation. The Republican party does not officially in its platform recognize gay rights and has the right and the duty to inquire.
With Mark Foley, the GOP sensed the truth; with Jim Kolbe it knew and winked at the truth. Leaders of the party should have seen that the voters received another choice in those congressional districts; they did not. That was wrong. Mark Foleys proclivity for young people was an open secret in the Republican House; failure to stop it was a grievous wrong. A report of improper goings-on led Shimkus to do the easy thinggo to Foley and tell him to knock it off. That was ineffective and continued to put the pages in jeopardy.
Shimkus, who violated his term-limit pledge which tells you something about the man, should resign the chairmanship of that group. After this election, the House Republican caucus should reassemble and elect new leadership all down the line. The current leaders Speaker Majority Leader Whip have not been convincing in their devotion to party principle: either with spending or ethics. Better being in the minority with a Shadegg and Pence as leadersmen of principlethan in the majority with the dregs. If the GOP continues to control the House or if it doesnt, there should be a drastic overhaul. If it loses control, its past derelictions and failure to muster courage to correct them will be the causeand reason for reform.
The best thing about Political Shootout, my WLS-AM Sunday night show, is that it doesnt need a Rush Limbaugh epithet-spewing moderator to get to the truth. All I do is pick the guests, ask questions follow up when the answers are too vague and take the call-ins. Sunday Republican Cook county board president nominee Tony Peraica, a man Ive endorsed and whom I shall vote for in November, came on for a third appearance. Earlier he had told me flat-out that he was a pro-lifer. But he said also that as a lawyer he ascertained that the Roe v. Wade decision was the law of the land and not to be overruled by any board president. I said nothing at the time, adjudging that Peraica was not all that good a pro-lifer. That argument is specious and one neednt be a lawyer to know it.
Then at the City Club debate he was quoted as saying to the crowd that there is no difference between his views on abortion and those of Todd Stroger. Clearly there is a disconnect. When he came back on the show Sunday I asked him about it and he sought to clarify. He again said that as a lawyer he had respect for the Supreme Court decision which would preclude his doing what George Dunne had done and deny abortion services to poor women. Then lo and behold, Terry Cosgrove called in. Cosgrove is the executive director of Personal PAC, the pro-abort lobby. Cosgrove and I disagree on all social issuesbut Cosgrove supplied an invaluable side to the debate. He told Peraica that it would be within his power to change the abortion practice at the county hospitals just as Dunne had done. He demanded that Peraica come clean.
Peraica did not. He stormed, fussed, obfuscated and fumedbut Cosgrove was right. Peraica is in no way a pro-lifer. He is just trying to appear to be one to pro-lifers and to be pro-choice to others. As smart as Tony isand he is very smarthe should have learned a long time ago that this kind of two-facedness doesnt work on abortion. When we try to straddle you alienate both sides. I think there are still strong reasons to vote for Peraicabut his being pro-life is not one of them because well two-faced Tony isnt. And he shouldnt try to think were so dumb we wont know the different. In other words, Tony dont b. s. the troops. There: is that plain enough for you?