This business with Mark Foley of Florida who had a series of instant message exchanges with a male page is beyond the pale. If you haven't read the transcripts, don't. They will turn your stomach.
In yesterday's Washington Post I was quoted as saying:
"This sense of entitlement that members of Congress can do anything to anyone, or for anyone, has got to end."
The reporter with whom I spoke, Jonathan Weisman, makes it appear that I was speaking about Republicans only, but I had made it clear to him in the conversation I was talking about the Congress as a whole.
No matter. I stand by the words.
The notion that the Republican leadership knew about the Foley business and did nothing appears to be off the mark. From the current reporting it appears that the Congressman, a Republican from Louisiana, who had appointed the Page told the head of the Republican House campaign committee about the exchanges.
It appears that the response - based upon what was known at the time - was apt.
According to the Washington Post, "[Chairman of the Page Board, John] Shimkus (R-IL) questioned Foley, but at that time, he had seen only suspiciously friendly e-mails, not the explicit instant messages revealed recently."
Shimkus had a conversation with Foley and told him, in effect, to stay away from the kid and, for that matter, stay away from any of the Pages.
It is not in the nature of any organization to rat out a member in good standing on thin evidence. If the e-mails were only "suspiciously friendly" then a warning was probably the appropriate response. Unfortunately, the instant messages were way more than friendly in any known meaning of the word.
Congressional Democrats are pretending that they are outraged about the Foley-Page business, but they know perfectly well that there are Members on their side who are but one phone call to a local news bureau away from having their careers come to a screeching halt because they, too, have been "pursuing" Pages or young staffers.
In fact, back in 1982 there was a Republican male Member of Congress who got caught having sex with a female page. He was not re-elected. At the same time there was a Democratic male Member of Congress who got caught having sex with a male page. He was (a) from Massachusetts and therefore (b) was re-elected several times.
The Lad was a Page back in the early 90's. He told me that female pages were specifically warned to stay away from certain Member of Congress who is no longer in office.
Here's what should happen. Tomorrow: Speaker Hastert should contact Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and ask her to appoint three senior Democratic Members of the House to match the three senior Republican Members of the House that Majority Leader Boehner will appoint.
Their task? Spend the time between now and January, when the new Congress opens, coming up with an outline for a new code of conduct for Members and their staffs.
It should be a code of conduct which is on the other side of onerous. Well on the other side of onerous. It should make it clear that MEMBERS OF CONGRESS SHOULD ACT LIKE ADULTS - in their personal dealings as well as in their professional dealings.
The new code of conduct should make Members of Congress think twice about whether it's even worth spending 75 years of their life as Members of Congress or whether, once they have served their constituents for 10-or-so years, they should return to the life the rest of us lead.
This won't happen, of course. First, I'm not certain there are six Members of Congress who can - or will - put politics aside even for three months. Second, the other 429 voting Members of the club will never approve a set of rules which requires them to give up the perquisites of office which they believe they so richly deserve.
More's the pity.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the WashPost article in which I was quoted, a Mullfoto which reminds us that it will all be OK; and a Catchy Caption of the Day for which I'd walk a mile.