Thursday, October 05, 2006

This Isn't Brain Surgery
Here's my last political post for a bit--tomorrow is the Battlestar Galactica premiere, and there's some football game of note in Philadelphia this weekend that I think I'd like to muse on some.

But as this Mark Foley scandal continues to metastasize, a couple points. First, this episode finally illustrates the whole narrative of gross corruption by power that Democrats have been trying to explain for two years now, mostly without success. While the Jack Abramoff bribes-for-votes affair is much more upsetting as an indictment of how our system of governance has been perverted, and the failues of the Bush administration in Iraq are much sadder in terms of the pure human cost and illustrative of the failures of both policymaking and oversight that characterize Republican one-party rule, the Foley story is simply easier to explain. Try making a TV Movie of the Week about Abramoff or the failure to secure post-war Iraq; you can't. But the Foley story can and will be cinematized, and probably anyone reading this could write the script in the span of a coffee-fueled weekend.

There's the human element--a guy with personal demons living in denial of his true self (I mean, I knew Foley was gay in 2004; it was the reason he didn't run for Bob Graham's Senate seat. And a colleague who has many more national political connections than I said to me today that the gay community spent years trying to ease him out of the closet, through flattering profiles in The Advocate and other measures, giving him passes on bad votes and everything), who probably had a lot of self-loathing and some purer instincts to go along with his perversions and despicable actions. And there's the corruption-of-power arc: it seems clear that a lot of people knew that Foley was into teenage boys, but they figured tolerating his predations was a worthwhile exchange for his fundraising prowess and the near-certainty that he could hold Florida's 16th District for as long as he wanted it. This went on for years, kicked up and down the hierarchy of the Republican House leadership; as is generally the case in dysfunctional organizations, nobody took ownership of the problem, and the result is the ugly and inevitable crossfire now engulfing fat tub of crap Denny Hastert, Cigarette Smoking Man John Boehner, RCCC chair Tom Reynolds, and others.

But the culture of corruption remains, at its core, the demon child of Tom DeLay, the man for whom all tradeoffs were acceptable if they strengthened his grip on power. I keep waiting for Hastert to tell the truth: that for the first six years of his nominal Speakership, he was nothing more than DeLay's grossly oversized hand puppet, and that it was the Bug Man who knew of Foley's sins and forgave them in exchange for his abilities to raise big piles of cash. In addition to this being almost certainly true--DeLay, like all great political operators, reputedly knew everything about his caucus members--it's also politically convenient: the guy is gone, and he's not coming back. Is it possible that fear of DeLay remains so strong that the Republicans aren't even willing to use him as a scapegoat?

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