Monday, October 09, 2006

Local connection to the Foley mess

I haven't blogged in a while. The cable went out on Thursday, and for some reason I was incredibly tired for most of the weekend. I thought of writing this on Thursday, when it was more relevant. Instead, I'm writing this on the day North Korea tests a nuclear bomb. Let's see, congressman sending inappropriate e-mails to underage pages, unstable regime with nukes... I guess we'll see which one the media is still talking about next week.

The first page mentioned in the Foley scandal is from Monroe. The local congressman, Rodney Alexander, was the one who heard about Foley's e-mails to the page. He informed Rep. Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's staff. They informed Rep. John Shimkus, chairman of the House Page Board. According to Alana, Alexander's office fielded 100 calls from the media on Thursday. Alexander is the only politician in this scandal looking the least bit positive. When he found out about the initial e-mails he contacted the page's parents. The parents decided not to pursue the matter, though no one knew about the instant messages at that point.

I'm of two minds on Representative Alexander. I think he did the right thing in this case. The page's parents said he was "above reproach". When we were waiting to hear about my application to the USCIS for a visa, his staff did some checking into response times for us. That was back in 2003. In 2004 Alexander filed for re-election as a Democrat two days before the deadline. Minutes before the deadline, he refiled as a Republican. Apparently he was not happy with John Kerry being chosen as the Democrat's presidential candidate, and he had openly supported Bush. In Louisiana multiple candidates for the same party usually run, as Louisiana has a system of run off elections. The local Republican candidate was peeved at Alexander jumping ship. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers released a letter he had written to them slamming Republican policy as anti-labour. State and federal Democrats were incensed by him. He eventually had to give back money he had collected as a Democrat, and a Louisiana judge reopened filing and had him re-file. He got away with it, though, as he was re-elected. Since re-election his voting record has taken a sharp right turn. There are still those in this district that detest the way he switched parties. This recent scandal, though, shows him in a good light and probably guarantees his re-election next month.

Other politicians don't look so smurfy. There's Hastert, of course, and the question of whether or not he knew of the scandal. According to the Wikipedia article on the scandal, he dropped the ball and probably should resign. At the same time, the more strident Democrats look like they are grabbing onto this mess because they don't have a policy of their own.

A couple of Republicans have gone so far as to blame the Democrats! One (I forget who he was) implied that Foley was a Republican in name only, pointing out that his voting record wasn't as conservative as it could be. Woah! Sorry, foul! The Republicans were happy to point to Foley as a gay congressman in order to seem "enclusive". They don't get to make him look like a Democrat now that he's done something wrong. Hastert blamed the Democrats for informing the media about the scandal. He said, "Democrats have ... put this thing forward to try to block us" and "there are some people that try to tear [Republicans] down. We are the insulation to protect this country, and if they get to me it looks like they could affect our election as well." Then there's Katherine Harris of the 2000 election fame. She went as far as to suggest Republicans knew nothing of the scandal, that it was the Democrats who knew and didn't say anything. "The media would be quite disingenuous, trying to make it a partisan issue. If anything, the Republicans didn't know about these issues, and we're going to be very anxious to see who in the media or on the other side of the aisle knew about it and kept this from the public interest, because our children were at stake." I wonder what colour the sky is in her world...

Sean Hannity on FOX was quite amusing in his take on the scandal. (Note: I only saw Hannity via The Daily Show; I didn't want anyone to think I actually watch FOX News.) He pointed out that a Democrat was the subject of a scandal involving sex with a page. This happened in 1983. I'm not sure if he was trying to suggest Democrats "started it" or if he was just trying to deflect attention. He then pointed out that Clinton had sex with a 19 year old intern, implying it was just about as bad. Except, Monica was 22 (or possibly 23) and not 19. Beside being 6 (or 7) years older than the page, she was an adult and legally able to consent.

This should not be about politics. It should be about a single man's immoral — perhaps criminal — acts. The Republicans should have taken the allegations seriously and investigated, and sanctioned, Foley. And it should have been done out in the open. Unfortunately, they didn't do that and Foley preyed on underage teens. I doubt the Republicans have learned their lesson, as they are circling the wagons and blaming the Democrats. Sadly, I don't for a moment think the Democrats would have handled it any different...

4 comments:

JAM said...

Allan, great post. I agree with some of it, and disagree with other parts.

First, Foley was gone as quick as this thing came out. Calling for Hastert and other Republican leaders to step down, was, in my opinion, uncalled for.

The point Sean Hannity was trying to make, was, in America, when Democrats do worse than Foley did, they get defiant and re-elected for 13 more years until they retire (Gerry Studds who admitted buggering a 17 year old boy who he took on a trip, 1983). A Republican and a page trade vulgar text messages (no actual sex) and he's gone in days, and Democrats are demanding that Hastert and others also quit.

Foley's a creep, but he's gone. That should have been the end of the story. And the Democrats jumping up and down on this with both feet just shows they aren't the 'tolerant' party they try to claim they are. It does prove, however, they are every bit as hypocritical as they claim the Republicans to be. Either it's ok to have homosexual sex with a 17 year old page, or it isn't. The Democrats are trying to have it both ways, the very definition of hypocrisy.

I have to admit, that I'm not impressed with the leadership of either party. I've gotten so disgusted with politics lately, I, well, never mind. I do try to keep up though, because I do think it's important, and I vote.

By the way, what's wrong with Fox news? Next thing, you'll probably be quoting Keith Olbermann as a level-headed paragon of virtue.

Allan Goodall said...

Allan, great post. I agree with some of it, and disagree with other parts.

Thank you! And the world would be a troubling place if everyone agreed with me.

The point Sean Hannity was trying to make, was, in America, when Democrats do worse than Foley did, they get defiant and re-elected for 13 more years until they retire (Gerry Studds who admitted buggering a 17 year old boy who he took on a trip, 1983).

Careful mentioning the Democrat Studds, because then you also have to mention the Republican Dan Crane, who also admitted to having sex with a 17 year old page. In 1983 both came before the Ethics Committee and both were treated the same way (a reprimand, though they were later both censured by the House). So, from a politics point of view, the bi-partisan ethics committee treated them equally.

I think you'd be hard pressed to find a Democrat who thought having sex with underage pages, of any gender, was okay. Yes, Studds was re-elected while Crane was not. I don't know why, though Studds' case occured 10 years before it came before the Ethics Committe. At any rate, you can't equate the morals and voting patterns of a single district with those of the party they voted for. If that were the case, neither party would look pretty good...

Either it's ok to have homosexual sex with a 17 year old page, or it isn't. The Democrats are trying to have it both ways, the very definition of hypocrisy.

I don't think you can make that claim at all. If you mean that Studds wasn't reprimanded enough in 1983, you are right, but neither was Crane and in both cases it was a bi-partisan committee that decided.

It was also 23 years ago, and a lot has happened in U.S. politics since then. The government is more polarized. There's a greater emphasis on responsibility. Sure, the Democrats are jumping up and down. They have a right to. The first thing Hastert said was he wasn't made aware of the Foley case. Then he changed his mind and said he was made aware, but he didn't know the ramifications of it. There's a widespread belief that Hastert isn't giving the full story.

I think Hastert should resign because someone in his office dropped the ball. I would expect the same regardless of who was in power. Someone has to start taking responsibility for what happens in their office. "The buck stops here." Hastert could have, and should have, resigned. That would have been the end of it. Instead, he looks like he's clinging to power.

By the way, what's wrong with Fox news? Next thing, you'll probably be quoting Keith Olbermann as a level-headed paragon of virtue.

Gosh, what's right about it? (I haven't seen Olbermann, and so I can't comment about him.) The first time I really saw the channel was the night they said that a chemical weapon plant was found in Iraq. They are blatantly biased. As my friend Michael once said, there's a feeling that balanced reporting is "two idiots spinning in opposite directions". This is why FOX News justifies spinning to the right, the truth be damned.

Here's a Wikipedia article with a list of the FOX News controversies.

JAM said...

I see your point about FOX. But I disagree. I started watching it right before the 2004 election. I was recovering from back surgery where they cut me in front and went through my abdomen to work on the front of my spine, then flopped me over and finished up in the back. (I haven't tried to go through a metal detector since then, we'll see.) At any rate, I was pretty much living in my recliner for about the first month after this. And sleep was an hour here an hour there. This coincided with the last three weeks up to and including the election.

Until then, I usually watched CNN, the regular one. But that much time spent in front of a TV had me switching back and forth between the cable news networks.

I started to notice something that I had never watched enough TV news to notice. Quite often CNN and MSNBC would have guests on. Of course this being the run-up to the election, they were the spin artists for one side or another. And I found myself getting quite angry. I'm sure my pain lowered my tolerance for the spin guys, but more times than I was able to take, CNN and MSNBC would only have on a Democratic spin guy. No problem, that's the way it has pretty much been all of my adult life.

I started switching to FOX more, because only once or twice during that whole 3-4 week news saturation I got while sitting there, did FOX only have one or the other. They ALMOST ALWAYS had two guys, spinning for either side. I like to joke and kid with people, it's my nature, but I am NOT joking here. I'm as serious as I know how to be.

I lean right on most issues, but the spin guys of BOTH sides make me want to punch somebody, and I'm a really laid back guy. But over those three weeks, I started paying less attention to what they were saying as much as I was who was on each network.

I know this will have you rolling your eyes, but after that saturation period, I became a FOX news watcher. I saw just too many panels on CNN that would sit and discuss issues without even one conservative. Many times they did, many times they didn't, you never knew what you were going to get on CNN.

FOX sold me on themselves because they truly did have two sides almost every time I watched. And as I said, I watched a whole lot.

So when I hear or read people say how biased FOX is to the right, the only thing I can come up with to explain it is that CNN and MSNBC have been so far left for so many years that FOX seems to be leaning right.

At any rate, intellectually, I understand that most of American's decisions are really based on feelings and emotion, rather than straight logical reasoning. What seems to be straight down the middle to me, may seem far right to you.

I personally don't have a problem with FOX, I honestly see it as the most balanced of the cable news networks. Obviously you see them as biased right.

A note about Hastert and the rest of Capital Hill. It truly would be nice if everyone was a stand up guy and you could count on everyone doing the right thing on principle. Sadly, that's not who we elect in this country. Right and left both only seem to clutch and try to gain more power. I'm still not convinced that Hastert should/should have resigned. I don't know the answer to this dilemma; Washington seems like such a cesspool. I look at places like Massachusetts and wonder how Ted Kennedy and Barney Frank keep getting elected, but then again, they probably look at Florida and wonder why in the @#$^%^& I keep voting for Dave Weldon.

I didn't mean to write War And Peace in a comment, but I wanted to explain why I asked you about your FOX remarks. I tried to watch all of them, but after my convalescence, was a FOX news convert. In comparison to CNN, they just seemed to play closer to the middle. CNN didn't even seem to try. I have always felt that CNN was talking AT me, it seemed like the FOX people were talking TO me.

Allan Goodall said...

FOX sold me on themselves because they truly did have two sides almost every time I watched. And as I said, I watched a whole lot.

That's quite interesting. I don't watch FOX News enough to see this, mainly because at night they don't typically do news. They have folks like O'Reilly and Hannity on. That's not news, it's opinion. In fact, I try not to watch CNN or the other big news outlets, either, so it wouldn't surprise me that they are biased toward the left.

On the other hand, it flies in the face of the Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) studies that have shown that Republicans are favoured over Democrats to appear on TV news. In a 2001 study, FAIR found Republicans outnumbered Democrats on CNN 57% to 43%. On the supposedly "liberal" CBS, the numbers were 75% Republican to 24% Democrat, as stated in a 2002 study. NPR favoured Republicans 3 to 2 over Democrats in a 2004 study. Even when Clinton was in obvious, NPR favoured Republicans 57% to 42% (in a 1993 study).

In their article, Right, Center Think Tanks Still Most Quoted", FAIR found that conservative think tanks were quoted 50% of the time in 2004, compared to 33% for centerist think tanks, and 16% for left (FAIR uses the term "progressive" instead of the emotionally charged "liberal") think tanks.

As FAIR said in their, "Still Failing the 'Fair & Balanced' Test" article, "Conservatives often defend Fox ’s rightward slant by claiming that it simply counterbalances a predominantly left-leaning media. But previous FAIR studies have found that, across the supposedly “liberal” media, Republican sources dominate—and Fox simply skews even farther to the right." The article goes on to describe how FOX is clearly biased to the right.

When I watch TV news, I tend to go with PBS. They almost always have people from both sides of the argument, and they give them enough time to talk that there's almost no shouting to get their point across. Every Friday they have Shields and Brooks recapping the week in politics. I've seen a number of times when the two men agree with each other, in spite of being on opposite poles politically. It's all so... civilized.

On the other hand, they've recently been bashed for not having enough diversity. FAIR has a report that The News Hour on PBS is not as diverse as ABC's Nightline. 2/3 of The News Hour's guests are Republicans, and for every guest they've had suggesting a pull out of Iraq, they've had five guests suggesting they stay the course. Even still, I've always found The News Hour to be fairly balanced. Perhaps they only appear to be.

I suggest you also take a look at Media Matters (mediamatters.org). Yes, they are biased to the left. On the other hand, just the list of inaccuracies they mention is quite fascinating in its own right. There's quite a lot of stuff that the major networks accept as "fact" without any analysis. Media Matters is liberally biased. If you also take into account conservative arguments against Big Media, you see that in fact Big Media is a huge failure. They don't get it right, regardless of whether you are conservative or liberal.

So when I hear or read people say how biased FOX is to the right, the only thing I can come up with to explain it is that CNN and MSNBC have been so far left for so many years that FOX seems to be leaning right.

It's not just a perception that FOX is leaning to the right, they really are, as found in the FAIR study.

It truly would be nice if everyone was a stand up guy and you could count on everyone doing the right thing on principle. Sadly, that's not who we elect in this country. Right and left both only seem to clutch and try to gain more power.

This may or may not surprise you, but this is the view in other countries, too. My mother frequently complains that she only has three viable parties to choose from!

I'm still not convinced that Hastert should/should have resigned.

The more I read, the more I think someone else should have resigned, because something is definitely not right in the upper echelons of the GOP. Kirk Fordham, a senior aide to Foley, went to Hastert's office about Foley's behaviour in 2003. Hastert's office didn't confront Foley until 2005. Tom Reynolds, of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) was apparently asking Foley to seek re-election this spring even after he was apparently informed by the e-mails. This is from an article by Robert Novac, who isn't exactly known for being a liberal. Foley only resigned because the e-mails were about to become public knowledge. No one in the GOP leadership asked him to step down, and in fact they asked him to run again.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that at the end of August Foley had $2.7 million in his war chest, and that Reynolds had accepted $100,000 from Foley's PAC, as mentioned in The Daily Politics blog and a Los Angeles Times article.