Kathleen Parker

As politicians square off over shamed congressman Mark Foley's cyber-sexcapades with underage boys, one question persists: Can we just get rid of the whole bunch?

Amid the blustery outrage of Democrats, whose house is hardly spotless -- and Republicans' denial and dereliction of duty -- one finds comfort in the thought that someday soon, some of these people will be gone.

No one reading this can be unfamiliar with the tale.

Foley, a Republican who represented Florida's 16th District, has been e-mailing and instant messaging teenage boys for at least several years. He's always deflected questions about whether he is gay, but his attorney confirmed late Tuesday that Foley is indeed gay. The attorney also reported that Foley, who has entered a rehab and mental health clinic, was molested by a clergyman as a teenager.

Apparently, some people on Capitol Hill already knew about Foley's preferred pursuits, but failed to take any corrective action. A CNN timeline of events shows that several high-ranking Republican officials, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, knew several months to a year ago that Foley had been writing some ``over-friendly'' e-mails to a 16-year-old former page. Hastert says he doesn't recall being notified, but says he wouldn't dispute others' recollections.

What they didn't know until a few days ago, say the Republicans, was that Foley also had written some sexually explicit instant messages to other pages. ABC News reported details of these messages, appalling and embarrassing to read, on the day Foley resigned.

The pieces of Foley's secret life have landed like trinkets from a political pinata, with each party scrambling to grab their favorites.

Democrats, always delighted to highlight immorality among the family values crowd, have hoisted the prism of hypocrisy and accused Republicans of a cover-up. Republicans have reached for a shard of mirror, pointing out all the bad boys among Democrats.

Suffice it to say, human weakness is bipartisan, and Washington is a lousy market for glass houses.

Republicans also are calling foul on the timing of the story. Why now when many news organizations and others knew of the Foley e-mails months, if not years, ago?

On the right, observers are suggesting a conspiracy to release the e-mails at a time when they could do the most damage. What? Politicians acting politically? Surely not.

On the left, others suggest that Foley was buying cover when he donated $100,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in July -- right after he was warned to stop his ``over-friendly'' e-mails.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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