by Sara Robinson
I've often said that:
a) everything you need to take down a Republican leader will usually be found in the dirtpile in his own back yard;
b) the more authoritarian a right-winger is, the bigger the dirt pile, and the bigger the mess he's hiding in it; and
c) if you want directions to where the really juicy stuff is buried, just listen to the issues he rails on about the loudest and hardest.
Exhibit 573,892 in this series is Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), who resigned yesterday after he was exposed for sending sexually explicit text messages to male Congressional pages. Foley was, of course, the chair of the House caucus on missing and exploited children; his greatest claims to Congressional fame were several bills passed to protect children from Internet pedophiles. (He unseats the previous Exhibit A, George Allen, who was hiding his Jewish ancestry behind a well-cultivated public image as a white racist. You can only shake your head....)
As predictably as a rooster will stand on a dungheap and crow the sun up, Foley stood tall on his own dirtpile, and boldly crowed to everyone what they'd find underneath his feet if they'd just start digging a little. Like roosters, right-wingers have done this since time began. As I pointed out in Tunnels and Bridges, Part I, it's their greatest weakness -- and the greatest gift they give us when it comes time to take them down. John Dean noted in Conservatives Without Conscience that most right-wing followers come equipped with highly fuctional guilt evaporators that neutralize all incoming criticism of their leaders. But even True Believers tend to flee screaming from leaders who are caught, as the old saying goes, with a live boy or a dead girl.
The fact that Denny Hastert evidently knew about Foley's fun-and-games for at least a year and did nothing -- a lapse of oversight which several bloggers have likened to the Catholic Church's epic denial of sexual abuse -- raises my curiosity about what might be found in Hastert's own dirtpile. A man who can repeatedly turn a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children under his care has obviously made some psychological accomodations that also demand our further attention.
We might also glean a lesson here about the right wing's continued insistence that male homosexuality automatically equals pedophilia. For progressives, accustomed to gay men who've been allowed to grow into a healthy adult sexuality, this assertion is simply preposterous. The gay men we know aren't like that at all. But if the gays that most Republicans are familiar with are people like Foley -- closeted souls still stunted and stuck in their own adolescence, and therefore seeking partners among their developmental "peers" -- they're simply reporting the pervsion that they're seeing with their own eyes. What they won't acknowledge is the role their own insistence on keeping the closet door locked down tight plays in creating that perversion in the first place.
Foley's district went for 54% for Bush in 2004, so this was a supremely safe Republican house seat. Though the GOP will name a replacement candidate within the week, it's too late now to add another name to the ballot; so voters in the booth will be presented with the choice between Foley, or Democrat Tim Mahoney. It's a nightmare situation for the Florida GOP.
Given that this is the same district that produced the notorious "Jews for Buchanan" in 2000, there's no telling what kind of electoral shenanigans will emerge from this. But if we wake up on November 8 to find that Mahoney is the winner, and that the Democrats have picked up exactly the required 15 House seats needed to take it back, we may be able to say that Rep. Foley's wayward (and creepy) text message disclosures of his preferred masturbatory techniques literally reversed the course of American government at a critical moment in our history. It's an irony worthy of a Greek tragedy.
The phrase "hoist on their own petard" was coined for these guys. Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch. Really.
Update: The WaPo story on this mentions that Foley was one of the movers and shakers behind the various attempts to deny birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. In other words, a real darling of the Minutemen.
Wonder what they think of him today?