Connecting The Dots
Well here is an interesting piece of information in this morning's NYTimes article:
Other suggestions surfaced on Wednesday that Mr. Foley’s undue interest in pages had previously been known. Representative Deborah Pryce of Ohio, a member of the leadership, asked the current clerk of the House, Karen L. Hass, to investigate reports raised this week in a [Republican] party conference call that Mr. Foley was once turned away from the pages’ living quarters and that the staff in the page program had raised concerns about him with the former clerk. (emphasis mine)
Well, that IS news, isn't it? And just how long have the folks on that GOP conference call known about this?!?
I mean, honestly, when you put that together with the e-mails the page sent in with the "sick, sick, sick…" notation and the questions raised there, aren't you beginning to see a bunch of huge red flags that ought to have been considered together as a big pattern of behavior on the part of former GOP Rep. Foley that warranted more than simply sweeping it under the rug…again…for political expediency's sake?
Since Fordham's resignation from Rep. Tom Reynolds' (R-NY and chair of the RNCC) staff yesterday, a new flurry of statements and counterstatements has been flying. Thought it would be useful to connect some dots. From the NYTimes:
“I had more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest levels of the House of Representatives, asking them to intervene when I was informed of Mr. Foley’s inappropriate behavior,” Mr. Fordham said after resigning from Mr. Reynolds’s staff. “I have no congressman and no office to protect.”
Mr. Fordham said he had informed Mr. Palmer of the concerns while working for Mr. Foley, after the House clerk, Jeff Trandahl, approached him. Mr. Trandahl told him, Mr. Fordham said, that pages had come forward with accounts about Mr. Foley’s behavior. Mr. Trandahl, who resigned his position last year, did not return calls on Wednesday.
The accounts did not include accusations of overtly sexual advances and did not involve e-mail or instant messages of the sort that surfaced last week, Mr. Fordham said. Instead, they encompassed reports that Mr. Foley had been “way too friendly” toward the pages, he said.
Mr. Fordham said that he could not recall the specific date of his meeting with Mr. Palmer, but that it was between 2001 and the end of 2003.
A spokesman for Mr. Hastert, Ron Bonjean, issued a statement in Mr. Palmer’s name saying, “What Kirk Fordham said did not happen.”
Again, there is no reporting on any paper trail on this. For a Congressional official to not have paper documentation for CYA purposes is unusual, frankly — although in cases where sexual harassment or worse are feared, in the corporate world, anyway, there is often an effort to try and sweep the problem under the rug and avoid liabilty within the business entity by NOT documenting anything in writing — keeping everything verbal, so it's harder to trace for a potential litigant. Some serious questions need to be asked about this — and about how things must be handled in the future in terms of documentation — because members of Congress ought not to be given some protected status when it comes to the safety of the teenage pages who work in their halls.
Howard Kurtz has some more notes on Fordham this morning as well.
So you had the top aide to the House's senior GOP campaign guy trying to keep the seedy details out of the media. No wonder some critics are charging cover-up. That's what's driving this whole thing, the sense that key Republicans were more concerned with the politics of the Foley mess than protecting the teenagers he was hitting up online.
That's a good summary of some of my questions, I'll say that much for it.
Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) says the pages were more protected in the page program than a lot of kids are in their own homes. I'm sure the upstanding parents who sent their children to participate in this program are feeling loads better about it now — and that Mr. Shimkus' constituents are feeling loads better about the high standard to which Shimkus and others in the Republican leadership hold themselves in caring for the children under their supervision. Nothing like "we're better than a lot of people who sexually abuse their own kids" as a standard, eh?
Perhaps Shimkus should read the Chicago Tribune, with whom I agree wholeheartedly in this sentiment (something you don't hear from me very often):
Young people have served as congressional pages for 177 years. The best way to protect them is to severely punish anyone who takes advantage of them.
Absolutely correct. Members of Congress should be treated no differently than any other member of the public when it comes to protecting children from predatory sexual harassment or other behaviors. Period. No one should be given a pass in terms of the law just because of their status, their power, their connections or their ability to sweep things under the rug — and the Republican leadership in Congress should get this message loud and clear from everyone, because what has occurred up until now is simply unacceptable.
Sydney Blumenthal has a review of this, and reading through the Foley contacts in the article is truly nauseating. The WaPo has even more — reading the two together is disturbing, and shows a clear pattern of behavior in terms of Foley's actions. Something the Republican leadership in the House could have discerned from requesting an investigation into this when intitial questions were raised about Foley — something they did NOT do. It took a news organization to take this problem seriously…how's that, Denny?
And Denny Hastert is ducked an interview with a non-wingnut radio announcer who planned on asking him tougher questions than what he got from Hannity and Rush. Hmmmm…crappy leadership and a chicken. Lovely.
Let's review, shall we: (1) Foley may have been turned away from the pages' living quarters at some point. (2) The staff of the page program has raised concerns about Foley and impropriety of his relationships with young pages. (3) There are news reports that Hastert and others in the Republican leadership were notified as early as 2001 about problems with Foley and the pages. (4) E-mails are turned in by a page to Rep. Alexander's staff and others with the notation "sick, sick, sick…" coming from the page. (5) The House Republican leadership does not disclose this information to the House page board but, rather, it goes through the political hierarchy of the leadership via Shimkus, to Reynolds, to Hastert…and no further. (6) After learning about all of this, Reynolds still pushes Foley to run for re-election in his district. (7) Reynolds' chief of staff (now resigned) goes to Florida to help Foley do damage control, and to deliver a message from the NRCC chair that Foley has to resign only after ABC news begins to report on this issue and investigate the matter — which leads to even more egregious internet correspondence which shows a clear pattern of explicit sexual contact with minors in the House Page program. (On one occasion, during a vote on the House floor.)
Does that about sum up what we have here? Have I missed anything? Blergh. Had enough?
Oh, and a big thank you to Keith Olbermann for raising the accountability issue with regard to FOX's mis-labeling of Foley as a Democrat on O'Reilly's show. Turns out they tape the show hours in advance…which just makes the whole thing even more egregious, doesn't it?