Our liberties have not been safe in Washington for quite some time. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that neither are our children.
By dollars and body counts, the congressional page program does not tally up as the most critical issue facing our nation or the world. But after the initial scandal and ouster of Mark Foley, insult got heaped over the injury by last week’s bipartisan House Ethics report.
This august body of representatives found no reason to penalize anyone in Congress for looking the other way.
And so Congress continues to set the worst possible example.
It is not the repugnant behavior of one man, Congressman Mark Foley, that is most frightening. It is the reaction of virtually everyone, save arguably a few staffers, to play politics first, second and always, and to never care one whit about the lives of the kids who had been entrusted to them.
Of course, there are sexual predators everywhere. But in most places, in most settings, one would expect more from those who are charged with the responsibility of protecting these young people. One would actually expect them to put the interest of the youth’s safety ahead of the predators’ position, and ahead of possible political ramifications.
The Politics of Impression
The comments of former pages speak volumes about the environment that has been created in our nation’s capitol, about the reality of children being protected. “I’m surprised they aren’t doing anything,” offered one, “but it’s not shocking, given the lack of real accountability we’ve seen in Congress in general.”
Another page, who after leaving the program, was propositioned by Foley, summed it up succinctly: “My fear is that by not holding anyone accountable it sets a precedent that political fallout is more important than young people’s safety.”
Sorta does, doesn’t it? This is the real education our young people are receiving.
No doubt, many will suggest that the new Democratic Congress will do better. But there’s certainly no evidence to support their hope.
Congressmen in both parties treated the Foley situation as just another political football. Republicans hid the truth; Democrats sought headlines for political advantage, not justice. As the Washington Post editorialized, “The committee found that the e-mails were treated — by operatives on both sides — as a political issue, not as one of moral responsibility.”
Moreover, this was indeed a bipartisan ethics committee report. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Howard Berman of California, stood with his fellow Republican careerists to protest urgently: “This is not the jerry-rigged result of a series of compromises.”