Like the great white shark, a scandal must be fed, or it sinks to the bottom and dies. And the Mark Foley-congressional page scandal has not had a good feeding in 72 hours.
On Saturday, The Washington Post revealed that Kirk Fordham, Foley's top aide in 2003, concerned about Foley's fixation with pages, went to see Scott Palmer, chief of staff to Speaker Hastert.
According to Fordham, and another source, Palmer, alerted to the Foley problem, confronted him. As Palmer shares an apartment with the speaker, it seems impossible that he and Hastert would not have discussed so volatile an issue.
Thus we have a credibility question.
For Palmer denies he had any 2003 meeting with Fordham to discuss Foley, or that he held any meeting with Foley himself.
The speaker says that not until 2005, when the issue of the "overly friendly" e-mail to a 16-year-old page came up, was he made aware of a Foley problem, and not until the day Foley departed did he know of the salacious instant messages. Yet Majority Leader John Boehner and Rep. Thomas Reynolds have said they alerted Hastert to the gravity of the situation months ago.
Clearly, there is either a serious outbreak of Attention Deficit Disorder in the GOP caucus, or someone is lying. Fordham or Palmer, or Palmer and the speaker. While lying to the public is not unusual for politicians, lying to the FBI can get you a reservation at Allenwood.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that Fordham is gay. On Saturday, the Post reported that the House clerk who oversaw the page program and was sent by the speaker's office to admonish Foley in 2005 was also gay. Fordham, Foley and the clerk are now gone. We may be looking at the Little Big Horn of the Log Cabin Club.
What, then, are the elements of this multiplex scandal?
First, there is the deplorable instant messages of Foley, which all have condemned. Yet if Foley had had sex with pages, rather than write them lurid IMs, he would have violated no law. For under D.C. law, the age of consent has been dropped to 16. And there is no evidence Foley violated that law or had a sexual encounter with a teenage page.
How can Democrats credibly denounce a 52-year-old gay man for sending dirty instant messages to a 16-year-old, when Democrats have legalized sex with 16-year-olds in D.C.? Isn't that a mite hypocritical?
There are questions as well for the news media.
If ABC was concerned about the Foley threat to the pages, why did ABC hold up the story until October? And if the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald knew of the first e-mail, and chose not to out Foley, why is Hastert condemned for reaching the same conclusion?