When it comes to Washington sex scandals, hypocrisy is nothing new. The latest scandal to rock the capital involves Mark Foley, a six-term Republican congressman who resigned on Friday when he learned that ABC News was ready to air a story about sexually explicit electronic messages he sent to male pages who worked for the House of Representatives.
While the Republican leadership initially expressed shock that one of their own could be involved in such disgusting behavior, it turns out that some leaders had been warned months ago that Foley was a problem. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., have admitted that they learned in 2005 that a 16-year-old page had received inappropriate e-mails from Foley.
But no one did anything to launch an investigation. Instead, Foley received a private warning not to get too friendly with the pages from the chairman of the committee that oversees the program. There are now calls on Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign.
The Republican leadership should be ashamed of itself. But pardon me if I don't get quite as exercised as some in the media have over the Republicans' inaction. This is hardly the first time a politician has used his power and access to prey on a vulnerable young person entrusted to his care. No, I'm not referring to President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky (she was, after all, 21) but to the last big page scandal, which occurred more than 20 years ago.
In 1983, when Democrats controlled Congress, two congressmen, a Republican and a Democrat, admitted to having sexual relations with pages. Daniel Crane, a conservative Illinois Republican, admitted he had sex with a 17-year-old female page in 1980. Gerry Studds, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, described his activity with a male page a decade earlier as "a mutually voluntary private relationship between adults," despite evidence that he plied the 17-year-old boy with alcohol before initiating sex. The House Ethics Committee also charged that Studds unsuccessfully solicited sex from two other male pages.
The House of Representatives voted to censure both members but chose not to expel either one, with some members saying it was up to the voters to decide whether the men deserved to keep their seats. Crane was defeated the following year, but Studds went on to be re-elected six times. If there is any lesson in this scandal, it is that Republican voters are less tolerant of such misbehavior than Democrats.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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