Paging Mr. Hastert
Could a gay Congressman be quarantined?Wall Street Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Tuesday, October 3, 2006 12:01 a.m.
Florida Republican Mark Foley's sexually explicit emails to a Congressional page certainly warranted his resignation from the House, and they may well merit prosecution. But this being five weeks from an election, the GOP House leadership is also being assailed for not having come down more strongly on a gay Congressman for showing a more than friendly interest in underage boys. That's a different issue altogether. At least this seems to be the essence of the Democratic and media charge against Speaker Dennis Hastert, who admits his office was told months ago about a friendly, non-explicit 2005 email exchange between Mr. Foley and another page. In that exchange, Mr. Foley had asked the teenager "how old are you now" and requested "an email pic."
In our admittedly traditional view, this was odd and suspect behavior, especially because Mr. Foley was well known as a homosexual even if he declined to publicly acknowledge it. And Mr. Hastert was informed that fellow Illinois Republican John Shimkus--who oversees the page program as part of a six-member board--spoke privately with Mr. Foley, who explained that the email was innocent.
What next was Mr. Hastert supposed to do with an elected Congressman?
Assume that Mr. Foley was a potential sexual predator and bar him from having any private communication with pages? Refer him to the Ethics Committee? In retrospect, barring contact with pages would have been wise.
But in today's politically correct culture, it's easy to understand how senior Republicans might well have decided they had no grounds to doubt Mr. Foley merely because he was gay and a little too friendly in emails. Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert's head are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys. Are these Democratic critics of Mr. Hastert saying that they now have more sympathy for the Boy Scouts' decision to ban gay scoutmasters?
Where's Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on that one?
Mr. Foley's explicit emails--which were sent to a former page who had returned home--clearly crossed the line into "vile and repulsive," as Mr. Hastert put it yesterday. And the Floridian has now resigned in disgrace and is being criminally investigated. This is harsher treatment than was meted out in the past to some Members of Congress who crossed another line and actually had sexual relations with underage pages. Democrat Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was censured in 1983 for seducing a male teenage page, but remained in the House for another 13 years and retired, according to the Boston Globe, with a rich pension.
Mr. Foley lied to many people over the years, most notably to himself. It's one of those human mysteries that someone so prominent, and so active as a spokesman against sexual predators, would send emails that he knew would destroy his career if they became public.
That kind of psychoanalysis is above our pay grade.
Yes, Mr. Hastert and his staff should have done more to quarantine Mr. Foley from male pages after the first email came to light. But if that's the standard, we should all admit we are returning to a rule of conduct that our cultural elite long ago abandoned as intolerant.
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