Robert Novak

Even though the sexually explicit messages sent to other former pages in 2003 and 2004 were not yet known, this was the time to ease out Foley. But Reynolds indicated to me he urged him to stay, in hopes of keeping non-incumbent districts to a minimum. Until the Foley scandal broke, Reynolds was being heralded by Republicans as a savior whose astute managerial skills improved prospects for keeping the House.

Late last Friday afternoon on the House floor, as Congress prepared to adjourn until after the midterm elections, unhappy Republican members speculated about a campaign plot hatched by Democrats and the liberal news media. It came, they grumbled, just as prospects were looking up for the GOP with a burst of legislative activity (including passage of a border protection bill).

But by this week, Republicans were turning on their own leaders with difficult questions. Why did the unusual attention paid to teenage boys by a homosexual man not flash warning signals? Why did Shimkus not alert his Democratic counterpart on the page board, Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan? Above all, why was Foley urged to run again?

These questions are being asked by not only rank-and-file House members but by elected members of the leadership. Indeed, Hastert, Majority Leader John Boehner and Majority Whip Roy Blunt all were acting disjointedly as the scandal broke this week (with Boehner publicly declaring it was the speaker's responsibility). The failure of the 109th Congress to satisfy the Republican conservative base seems linked to failure to deal effectively with Mark Foley.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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