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Taking the GOP CYA Train

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UPDATE:  Well, this is odd — why does the Page Alumni website now have a disclaimer statement that reads:  "Because of the current situation. I am shutting down the board until I can provide a proper statement about my part in what has been going on. I appreciate your patience."  What is THAT about?  (H/T to Meta for the find.)

The Republican Leadership in the House is trying to pull a fast one on the public and the press.  But I'm not buying.  And neither is Glenn:

…The letter sent by Hastert to the DOJ yesterday does not ask for an investigation into the issue at the heart of this scandal — namely, whether GOP House leaders failed to take action against Foley despite having ample reason to suspect strongly, if not fully know about, Foley's predatory behavior with underage pages. To the contrary, Hastert's letter has two overriding and clear purposes: (1) to exclude this wrongdoing engaged in by Hastert and the GOP House leadership from the DOJ investigation; and (2) to demand instead a criminal investigation into the parties responsible for the disclosure of the Foley story generally and the wrongdoing of Hastert and company specifically.

For that reason, Hastert's letter is plainly designed to bolster the cover-up, to intimidate those who have revealed information about this scandal, and to deter those who might come forward with more information. The letter worsens the scandal because it itself is corrupt….

Worse, the Boehner machinations in the House, flipping Nancy Pelosi's direct call for a full and immediate investigation into a possible maybe investigation:

Majority Republicans engineered a House vote Friday that refers the Foley matter to the House ethics committee, but lets that panel decide whether there should even be an investigation.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, pressed the committee on Sunday to begin investigating and make a preliminary report within 10 days. She demanded to know who knew of the messages, whether Foley had other contacts with pages and when the Republican leadership was notified of Foley's conduct.

"Republican leaders have admitted to knowing about Mr. Foley's outrageous behavior for six months to a year, and they chose to cover it up rather than to protect these children," she wrote. (emphasis mine; H/T Prof)

If the House Ethics Committee feels like getting around to it after the month long Congressional GOP-scheduled paid campaign vacation break, that is…well, it sure looks to me like we've entered phase two of the GOP strategy to take the CYA train, with the stall and cover-up maneuvers in high gear.

Let's do some analysis on Hastert's letter and see exactly what was written, shall we? From Roll Call:

“Former Representative Mark Foley resigned from the House of Representatives on Friday, September 29, 2006, after improper and illicit communications between Mr. Foley and former House pages were made public. While the House of Representatives on that day voted to refer this matter to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for investigation, they do not have jurisdiction over federal law or over him upon his resignation from office.

“As Speaker of the House, I hereby request that the Department of Justice conduct an investigation of Mr. Foley's conduct with current and former House pages to determine to what extent any of his actions violated federal law.

Okay, so this starts out well, I suppose — put the emphasis on former GOP Rep. Foley, his alleged conduct, and any alleged violations of law which may have occurred. It would have been better had someone in the GOP leadership done this referral six to eleven months ago when these allegations surfaced (as CREW did when they received the e-mails and immediately referred the matter to the FBI, fyi).

But hey, no one is perfect, right?  And I'm certain that a man with such a stellar reputation for digging in to find out the truth no matter the consequences to himself or his party as Denny Hastert wants the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in this investigation. Right? Um…not so fast.

“As I am sure you are aware, there are two different and distinct communications at issue here. First, Mr. Foley sent an email to a former page of Representative Alexander in the fall of 2005. This email was determined to be "over friendly" by Representative Alexander's office but was not sexual in nature. Second, based on media reports, there is a different set of communications which were sexually explicit instant messages which Mr. Foley reportedly sent another former page or pages. These communications, of which no one in the House Leadership was aware to my knowledge, reportedly were sent sometime in 2003.

Let's pick this apart bit by bit. Hastert makes it seem as though the two sets of e-mails/IMs are separate and distinct. But that is not the case. As any person who has ever dealt with an investigation of potential sexual harassment/child sexual abuse and/or solicitation knows, you are most often dealing with a person who has a prediliction for a certain mode of behavior…which they can and often do act on multiple times, but often in a similar pattern of behavior.

You may have the same screen name used in the grooming, pick-up or other communications — something that would be used in court as evidence should any criminal charges be filed. You may have the same IP address — was the Congressman using his Congressional computer and/or blackberry or other official trackable devices?  Who knew about the "send me a picture" set of e-mails and who knew about the "do I make you horny?" masturbate into a towel measure your penis set of e-mails?  And why is Denny Hastert pretending that these are even remotely separate in terms of conduct of an adult who would be grooming a teenager or young child for some sort of sexual chat or worse?

(Look, I know the ick factor is high on this, but let's be honest:  this happens in life.  If you have children, you need to be aware of this — and you need to take steps to talk with your children about internet predators.  And you need to be honest with yourself, for your child's sake, about what these folks do.  Rep. Foley asking a former page to measure his penis, discuss in graphic detail how the child prefers to masturbate and whether he is hard was not just some casual chitchat…no matter that Tony Snow says it was just "naughty e-mails."  It's not naughty, it's disgusting, perverted, and wrong for a grown man to ask a child to talk about masturbation in graphic detail — and Tony Snow would know that if he weren't more interested in playing GOP CYA than protecting children.)

Then Hastert says this:

“According to an Editor's Note that appeared on the St. Petersburg Times' website yesterday, the Times was given a set of emails from Mr. Foley to Representative Alexander's former page in November of 2005. (See "A Note From the Editors" located at http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz /, visited on September 30, 2006). The editors state that they viewed this exchange as "friendly chit chat" and decided not to publish it after hearing an explanation from Representative Foley. Acting on this same communication, the Chairman of the House Page Board and the then Clerk of the House confronted Mr. Foley, demanded he cease all contact with the former page as his parents had requested, and believed they had privately resolved the situation as the parents had requested.

Hastert attempts to minimize the Foley conduct by using the words of a newspaper editor to say that it was "friendly chit chat." Which, in turn, is an attempt to minimize his culpability and that of the rest of the GOP leadership for sweeping the Foley matter under the "cover up Uncle Pervy" rug. Foley's e-mails to the page from Louisiana were, at best, creepy — and ought to have raised some red flags for further inquiry. And with more pages coming forward with revelations every day that they were warned by page staffers about Rep. Foley's alleged "friendly advances," I have to start asking myself what it would have taken to get Denny Hastert's attention on this. The protection of the children involved should have been the primary concern — not the cover-up. Period.

Hastert continues:

“Unlike the first communication, the second communication was a set of instant messages that contained sexually explicit statements and were reportedly generated three years ago. Last week, ABC News first reported these sexually explicit instant messages which led to Representative Foley's resignation. These sexually explicit communications warrant a criminal referral in two respects. Initially, since the communications involve interstate communications, there should be a complete investigation and prosecution of any federal laws that have been violated. In addition, since the communications appear to have existed for three years, there should be an investigation into the extent there are persons who knew or had possession of these messages but did not report them to the appropriate authorities. It is important to know who may have had the communications and why they were not given to prosecutors before now.

“Therefore, I also request that the Department undertake an investigation into who had specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement. I request that the scope of your investigation include any and all individuals who may have been aware of this matter-be they Members of Congress, employees of the House of Representatives, or anyone outside the Congress.

“Your attention to this serious matter is appreciated. I am also sending to the Department of Law Enforcement for the State of Florida a request to investigate whether or not any state laws were violated by Mr. Foley or anyone else with respect to this matter.”

Oh,. golly gee, the news madia found out some information by immediately digging into this story and investigating it rather than just setting it aside and hoping it would go away until after the election. So now we are forced by the media to deal with this, we'd like you, investigating people, to look into who may have released these e-mails and to prosecute them, too, if you can. Yes, you read that correctly. Look at this phrasing:

…In addition, since the communications appear to have existed for three years, there should be an investigation into the extent there are persons who knew or had possession of these messages but did not report them to the appropriate authorities. It is important to know who may have had the communications and why they were not given to prosecutors before now….

Therefore, I also request that the Department undertake an investigation into who had specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement. I request that the scope of your investigation include any and all individuals who may have been aware of this matter-be they Members of Congress, employees of the House of Representatives, or anyone outside the Congress.

Looking for a convenient scapegoat and a way to turn the story, anyone?

I can understand wanting to get to the bottom of whatever has or has not happened — I could have understood it more had this been requested immediately upon being notified that there might be a problem. But now federal authorities have also been asked to dig into any potential "blame the victims" evidence on former pages who may have been contacted by Rep. Foley as kids, and not disclosed the improper contacts out of fear or shame or whatever other personal factors may be involved in this. 

These were children, being allegedly hit on by a 50-some year old elected Republican representative in Congress.  Of the two, who was supposed to be the reponsible adult party in this?  And with regard to the GOP leadership in the House or the teenage pages, who was responsible for ensuring the safety of these kids — the teenagers or the adults who were supposedly in charge?

Accept some responsibility for hells sakes and do not blame the potential victims.  Or find a convenient political scapegoat to change the subject.  Hmmm, you ask, what's that? 

Well, here's a news flash for the Republican leadership of the House:  whether or not Foley is an alcoholic, that doesn't excuse years of inappropriate advances on young kids under your supposed care in the page program.   Being a drunk doesn't make you like young kids, but it does make you sloppy about trying to hit on them.  Any investigator who has worked these cases can tell you that.  Try asking. 

In fact, why didn't try asking a whole lot of these questions months ago?   And why, now that the rest of us are asking questions, are you so much more concerned about pinning the blame on anyone but yourselves?  News flash — you were in charge, you swept it under the rug, you got caught, you face the consequences.  Period.

It's called accountability.  Look it up — you clearly need a refresher.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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