Democrats miscalculate on Foley mess

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Oct 16, 2006 12:00 AM
Democrats miscalculate on Foley mess

After news broke that former Republican Congressman Mark Foley had sent salacious instant messages to a former congressional page, liberals hoped that all their political dreams would come true. It seemed that a juicy sex scandal was just the thing to help Americans forget that most Democrats want to cut and run in Iraq, provide Geneva Convention protections to terrorists, and prevent the President from authorizing warrant less wiretaps of calls from Al Qaeda members into the United States.

But it seems that things haven’t turned out quite like the Democrats expected. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken between October 5 and 8, three-quarters of respondents said that the Democrats wouldn’t have handled the Foley matter any better than Republicans had. What’s more, a Pew Research Center survey taken between September 21 and October 4 found that the scandal hadn’t changed the margin by which voters reported they preferred Democrats to Republicans. In fact, the job approval of Republican leaders actually rose one point after the scandal broke.

Despite all the left-wing attempts to portray the Foley matter as a symbol of Republican decadence and corruption, it’s revealed much more about the character of the Democratic Party than about the GOP. Examples are plentiful.

First, it’s shown that some Democrats are truly clueless when it comes to issues of personal morality and responsibility. Democratic congressional candidate Debbie Farrell (running against incumbent Chris Shays in Connecticut’s 4th district) called on Speaker Hastert to resign in the wake of the Foley scandal. Somehow, she saw no inconsistency in denouncing Hastert as she campaigned with Senator Teddy Kennedy. It fell to her opponent to point out that even the worst allegations against Hastert fell well short of the behavior to which Kennedy had admitted at Chappaquiddick. Even then, Farrell didn’t understand. “My jaw dropped,” she reported, upon hearing Shay’s comments.

Second, it’s become clear that some Democrats are hypocrites of the first order. Claire McCaskill, Missouri’s Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, says of Bill Clinton, “I think he’s been a great leader, but I don’t want my daughter near him.” If Bill Clinton is, indeed, a “great leader” despite his own sexual history, it’s not clear upon what principle McCaskill, too, has called for Dennis Hastert’s resignation based on Mark Foley’s wrongdoing.

It’s likewise apparent that some Democrats are so desperate to gain power that they’re willing to lie to do it. Patty Wetterling, the Democratic congressional challenger in Minnesota’s 6th district, ran an ad charging that “Congressional leaders have admitted to covering up the predatory behavior of a congressman who used the internet to molest children.” Asked on CNN if any congressman had actually admitted knowingly and intentionally covering up the scandal, Wetterling conceded, “Of course not. Of course not.”

Finally, in the wake of the Foley affair, Democrats have once again revealed their profound ignorance of the Republican Party’s conservative Christian base. Just as John Kerry thought that alluding to Mary Cheney’s homosexuality would hurt the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, Democrats apparently believed that values voters would punish all Republican congressmen for Mark Foley’s moral failures. In doing so, they have overlooked the fact that people of faith understand that sin, like redemption, is an intensely personal issue, rather than a collective one.

Had the sex scandal occurred in Democratic ranks, and Republicans moved as aggressively to exploit it as their opponents have, there’s little doubt that the press would have cried foul. Ironically, it’s likely the mainstream media’s own over-coverage of the Foley scandal has actually hurt the Democrats – sanctioning over-the-top behavior that, ultimately, disgusts the uncommitted voters they most want to attract. (It will be interesting to see if they cover the emerging scandal about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s land interests with similar vigor.)

Worst of all, the Democrats seem once again to have “underestimated” the American people. By relying on a tawdry sex scandal to help them regain the majority – rather than setting out any policies on the major foreign policy issues of the day – the Democrats have signaled that they believe normal Americans are as unserious about the war on terror as they are.

Americans have the opportunity to teach the Democrats a lesson about what really matters – to them and to the country – on Election Day. It’s an opportunity voters can’t afford to squander.