Foley Fallout

Staying with the nuclear metaphors this morning, I thought I’d give a heads up to the two Foley stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The slant is in the Times – evangelical conservatives are seeing Foley’s failings not as a republican issue but a private misstep. If anything, the liberals are to blame not the Republicans; the excellent example given in the Times

David Thomas, a father taking his family to the [evangelical rock group MercyMe] concert, said that he, too, was leaning toward voting Republican and that the scandal only reinforced his conservative Christian convictions. “That is the problem we have in society,” Mr. Thomas said. “Nobody polices anybody. Everybody has a ‘right’ to do whatever.”

Interestingly the evangelicals can probably spin Republican knowledge of the scandal to their own advantage. The Washington Post has an article about new revelations about who knew what, when.

A Republican congressman knew of disgraced former representative Mark Foley’s inappropriate Internet exchanges as far back as 2000 and personally confronted Foley about his communications.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) confirmed yesterday that a former page showed the congressman Internet messages that had made the youth feel uncomfortable with the direction Foley (R-Fla.) was taking their e-mail relationship. Last week, when the Foley matter erupted, a Kolbe staff member suggested to the former page that he take the matter to the clerk of the House, Karen Haas, said Kolbe’s press secretary, Korenna Cline.

How does this work for the Republicans?

It turns out that Jim Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican in the House. This fact is paragraph seven material for the Post but would be my lede in an evangelical sermon if I wanted to give one. Kolbe is also retiring at the end of this term. To toss him to the evangelical wolves is in line with how Karl Rove works. Even if there is no wiggle room, turn the strengths of the opponent into weaknesses. Returning to the New York Times

But in dozens of interviews here in southeastern Virginia, a conservative Christian stronghold that is a battleground in races for the House and Senate, many said the episode only reinforced their reasons to vote for their two Republican incumbents in neck-and-neck re-election fights, Representative Thelma Drake and Senator George Allen.

“This is Foley’s lifestyle,” said Ron Gwaltney, a home builder, as he waited with his family outside a Christian rock concert last Thursday in Norfolk. “He tried to keep it quiet from his family and his voters. He is responsible for what he did. He is paying a price for what he did. I am not sure how much farther it needs to go.”

The Democratic Party is “the party that is tolerant of, maybe more so than Republicans, that lifestyle,” Mr. Gwaltney said, referring to homosexuality.

The Democrats seem to have been unable to point the conversation in the right direction. Not that Foley was a gay paedophile but that the supposedly anti-homosexual Republican leadership knew of the problems and still supported him and his re-election campaign. It is this moral breakdown, tied to the Abramoff scandal and the increasingly blatant lies being presented about the war on terror that the Democrats must use. The fact that the Republican leadership is morally bankrupt just isn’t making inroads into the American media.

But presenting this issue as a Democratic failing, a Democratic problem is disingenuous. Then again the Ten Commandments doesn’t say ‘don’t lie’, it says ‘you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’ (Exodus 20:16). Basically don’t lie about other people. This apparently gives the Republican leadership the religious out they need. It’s OK to lie, just don’t talk about specific people; it’s OK to use distortions against political parties, sexual orientations or when creating timelines.

Especially if the political fallout is religiously radioactive. But only for Democrats.

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