Jonah Goldberg

The Democrats prayed for an October surprise, and like manna from heaven, a hypocritical, sexually disturbed Florida Republican dropped into their laps. They looked at the cyber-stalking ephebophile and said, "Behold, this is good."

Overnight, Nancy Pelosi has emerged as the nation's soccer grandmom, leading the mob alleging a GOP cover-up of a supposed sex predator and pedophile. (Foley may or may not be a predator, but pedophiles don't dig post-pubescent teens; ephebophiles do.)

Almost as instantaneously, Democratic candidates denounced their opponents for taking money from Foley, as if acceptance of such funds constituted support for pederasty.

Let me be clear: I carry no water for the House GOP. Less than a month ago, I wrote that it would probably be a good thing if the Republicans lost the House, so I'm hardly inclined to rally to their flag because of their handling of this Foley mess. But let me make a prediction: Despite the moral panic sweeping Washington right now, this will backfire on Democrats, liberals and the gay left.

Self-described progressives are great at whipping up a moral frenzy when it serves their purposes, and hilariously indignant when moral majority types return fire. Remember the national St. Vitus' dance over sexual harassment in the late 1980s and early 1990s? Liberals made sexual harassment their signature issue, rending their clothes and gnashing their teeth over Sens. John Tower and Bob Packwood and Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, among others. The puritanical zeal of these inquisitions cannot be exaggerated.

Then came Bill Clinton, who was, by any fair measure, a worse womanizer than Thomas or the rest of them. The Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit led, inexorably, to revelations of alleged rape and scandalous behavior with an intern. Forced to choose between power and principle, liberals and feminists held an impromptu fire sale on principles.

Whereas once feminists insisted "women don't make these things up," accusations of rape were dismissed instantaneously. Whereas once zero tolerance was the rule ("no means no"), feminist deity Gloria Steinem suddenly advanced a one-free-grope rule for powerful men. Whereas once even the appearance of impropriety was unacceptable, feminists suddenly argued that everyone should lighten up. Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, elected in 1992 - the "Year of the Woman" - as part of the anti-Thomas backlash, argued that female interns should count themselves lucky in the Clinton White House. After all, she said, "30 years ago, women weren't even allowed to be White House interns."

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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