One may be in favor of all the corrective and punitive things that have been done and are in prospect of being done to former congressman Mark Foley. Still, we should draw breath and ponder a couple of destabilizing points:
(l) As far as we know, no child was in fact physically molested by Foley. There is an entire blog devoted to collecting Foley-type material. It is plainspokenly titled "stopsexpredators.blogspot.com." Although it was founded as recently as in July, it appears to have had the greatest influence in baring the story on Foley, by the simple device of sending out word that it would reproduce sex-minded letters sent by prowling adults. In a matter of weeks, a portfolio on Foley had accumulated.
(2) As of this writing, no indictments have been brought. One man of affairs (CNN's Jeff Greenfield, speaking off camera) even speculated that if Foley had simply engaged in sex with one of the 16-year-olds he was writing to, he might have got off more lightly. You see, the age at which sex is permitted reaches down nowadays, in some jurisdictions, to 16. However, laws against the corruption of minors sit alongside, in apparent contradiction. Permissive sex at early ages, OK. Seductive acts, not OK.
(3) As things now stand, what is it that Mark Foley is guilty of having done? He has, to use traditional language, attempted to corrupt minors. The stopsexpredators blog does not record Foley as actually having engaged in sex. It goes no further than to reproduce e-mails from Foley that can't reasonably be construed as other than sexual foreplay. And that, apparently, is how he construed them, because a matter of minutes after he was shown the instant messages that ABC News had collected, he resigned his office, and a day later put in for treatment at a rehab center, pleading alcoholism and related disorders.
(5) Several things combined to give the Foley case the amplitude it is having. It involved a live congressman. He was a Republican. In the most felicitous irony since the inventor of the guillotine was guillotined, Foley wrote the law proscribing the kind of corruption of minors he was engaged in attempting. So we had (a) a legislator, (b) a Republican and (c) a moralizer, electing a sexual way of life that all the engines of modern society are bent on protecting.
There is a mini-movement endorsed by a few congressmen that would rescind the congressional page program which put Mr. Foley in temptation's way. It might prove easier to rescind the laws that Foley violated.
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