Forty-four subpoenas have been issued by the House Ethics Committee in the preliminary inquiry into the mess surrounding former GOP Rep. Mark Foley and what the Republican House Leadership did or did not know, among many other issues. According to the WSJ, the Republican leadership has turned to two pillars of ethical standards for advice on navigating the troubled waters of the Foley flood of bad news: Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.
No, I'm not kidding.
The hang-tough strategy is being urged by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, conservative talk-show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, and increasingly, according to several Republicans, by party Chairman Ken Mehlman and White House political advisers. "Get indignant," as one former House Republican and top party strategist put it. "We don't have to take any lectures from Democrats."
Aside from the lunacy of taking ethical advice about sexual misconduct and perversion from Gingrich and Limbaugh, they have reverted to the time-honored Republican tradition of just making shit up. (Again, no, I'm not kidding. Via the WSJ):
Advocates of this approach call for avoiding responsibility for not taking action against Mr. Foley, while reminding the public about past Democratic sex scandals, notably President Clinton's, involving former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. They suggest — so far without evidence — that Democrats held on to information about the Foley emails and instant messages until close to Election Day. "As much as we'd love to take credit for chasing a child predator out of Congress, their charges are ridiculous," said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Here is a thought for all the reporters out there: how about the next time some Republican talking head raises the straw man that Democrats planted this story, why not simply ask them to produce some proof other than just tossing off a straw man.
The fact that Brian Ross of ABC News who broke this whole mess says this accusation is untrue — that his source was a Republican — makes me wonder if the source was a Republican who is gunning for Hastert's leadership position. Wouldn't that make a nice, fat, juicy story for a hard-working reporter to break instead of just allowing people to spew unsubstantiated ass-covering talking points with no foundation in fact whatsoever and then not calling them on it? Yeah, I thought so.
Another Gingrich theme in that campaign was moral leadership and family values. He drove the point home with an ad claiming that if Shapard were elected to Congress she would leave her husband, a local businessman, behind, while Gingrich would keep his family together. This issue was a subject of particular irony among the Shapard campaign staffers, where gossip about Gingrich's roving eye was widely believed and it was assumed that the Gingrich marriage was on the verge of breaking up. "As the days dwindled down in the end of the campaign," Shapard says, "the campaign workers had an unofficial pool going on to see how long it would take him when he got to Washington to dump [Jackie.]"
Not long, as it turned out. Jackie Gingrich went to Washington with her newly elected husband, but she did not return for his second term. She says that Gingrich walked out on her in the spring of 1980. That fall, while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery for uterine cancer, he appeared at her bedside with a yellow legal pad outlining the details for their divorce. The next year, he married his current wife, Marianne Ginther, a small-town Ohio woman fifteen years younger than Jackie, who was then a personnel clerk with the Secret Service.
Democrats considered it the height of hypocrisy for Gingrich to go after Wright for his peculiar book deal when Gingrich himself had made not one but two unusual book arrangements. The first was in 1977, before he actually won his seat, when he accepted $13,000 from his supporters to write a book that he never completed. The second case, involving Gingrich's 1984 manifesto for the Conservative Opportunity Society, concerned a unique arrangement by which twenty-one "investors" paid $5,000 each to a limited partnership, run by Mrs. Gingrich, to raise money to promote the book.
Gingrich stoutly maintains that his deal is "fundamentally different" from Wright's because the money given for his book by each partner was "an investment, not a gift" –so defined by Gingrich because each partner had a chance to reap a profit if the book became a best-seller. (It didn't.) However, Gingrich's wife didn't recruit just businessmen in forming the partnership, she recruited supporters of Gingrich's, many of them constituents, and at least fifteen of the people who have contributed to his political campaigns. Some of them have said that they had no intention of making money, they just wanted to do something for Gingrich.
Gingrich has taken the assault hard, and was reportedly shaken to the point of tears when he heard that four Democratic colleagues were asking that a special outside counsel pursue the charges. He says he was "surprised and hurt," and spent long, anguished hours wondering if he had in fact done something worthy of investigation.
But Newt Gingrich didn't get this far by indulging in self-doubt. The next day the bomb thrower was back on the attack, accusing the Democrats of "an amateur smear," and bullying the press for refusing to blithely accept his definition of an "investment" (House rules prohibit gifts from individuals in excess of $1,000). He played the annoyed college instructor, hectoring and ridiculing reporters. When he told Andrea Mitchell of NBC News that she was "overreaching" with a question, she expressed the sentiment of many in the room by snapping back, "It's an environment you helped to create."
Hello, members of the press and the public. This is the Gingrich Way — do wrong, and then bully people into stunned silence by accusing them of wrongdoing for even suggesting the need for the merest whiff of accountability. Stop falling for it, stand up and do your damned jobs.
As if you need a reminder, Media Matters has put together a fantastic compendium of the GOP's attempt to play "Pass the Republi-buck." No accountability, no real acceptance of responsibility, not a whole lot of evidence of remorse or fear for the kids involved in this either — but a helluva lot of finger pointing, shiny objects, and attempts to shift the blame.
Repeat after me: arrogant abuse of power under Republican leadership. Had enough?
(And as a creepy aside, Radar Online reports that mark Foley's residence in DC is a mere 0.2 miles from the dorm in which Congressional Pages reside. Location, location, location… H/T to reader "DK")