Paul Jacob

Oh, no. Of course not. How could anyone even suggest such a thing?

Déjà Vu All Over Again
Let’s note, too, that this sick, sad state of affairs is anything but new. Remember the congressional page scandal of 1983?

Daniel Crane, a Republican from Illinois, had sex with a 17-year old female page. Without the character to resign, Crane apologized, asked forgiveness and campaigned to stay in office.

Gerry Studds, a Democrat from Massachusetts, had sex with a 17-year old male page. He also gave alcohol to a minor. He did not apologize. And Studds was found to have propositioned other male pages, both 16 and 17-years of age.

Both men were censured by the House, but not expelled. Crane was thankfully sent packing at the polls in 1984. But Studds was re-elected and served in the House another 13 years.

The lesson was unmistakable: Power in Washington is unaccountable to the people, even when the behavior brought into question is repulsive and, in part, illegal.

Congressmen at that time took what their press releases no doubt exclaimed to be bold action. They established a Page Board made up of three lawmakers, the House clerk and the sergeant at arms to watch over the program for these young pages.

But the just-released House Ethics Committee report found that the board didn’t regularly meet and was kept in the dark about the Foley matter by Rep. John Shimkus, the board’s chair.

Now comes new Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She says she’ll reform the Page School program. First, she’s going to require regular meetings of the Page Board.

Yes, the board should meet! Brilliant! That’s precisely the thing to do!

And, if I may be so bold to suggest: at the meeting, they should speak to each other. Yes! Reform is really taking off, no?

Pelosi will also add a parent of a current and former page to the board. This makes some sense. But are we really supposed to believe that this new board -- comprised overwhelmingly of members of Congress and their employees, with two parents, who are not physically on the scene, thrown in -- will control wayward congressmen any better than before?

If there are not ever any consequences for predatory behavior, nor for despicably covering up such behavior, nor for exploiting the disgusting situation for political gain - all at the expense of protecting young people, which is your moral responsibility - it seems a tad too little, too late. "The Page School is a national treasure, and the young people who attend it and work in the Congress are our special trust," Pelosi said recently. "We must do all we can to protect them."

If she’s serious, she’ll listen to Rep. Ray LaHood. After the Foley scandal broke, the Illinois Republican was roundly criticized for saying that the present page program should be ended, that minors ought not be working with members of Congress. But LaHood happens to be right. The program was dangerous 20 years ago and it is dangerous today.

It’s a terribly sad truth. But true nonetheless.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.