Monday, October 02, 2006

On The Predatorgate

This is Atrios's name for the Foley scandal and it's as good as any I can think of. The topic is one that swamps everything else in American political debate, and no wonder, really. It has all those button-pressing qualities: sex, gayness, minors, power, hypocricy and cover-up. I spent some time today reading the comments threads on the ABC news website, to get an idea of the general trends in the conversation (my comments threads are a lot superior, by the way), and the trends are the expected ones: Some commenters blame the Republicans, some commenters argue that the Democrats are even worse, some commenters focus on the need to protect the minors from predators and some commenters focus on homophobia. And there are naturally many comments which express shock and outrage in general, but also shock that something like this can be politicized.

Notice how writing it down like that makes me look nonjudgemental? How all the different opinions appear to be given equal credibility? It's odd, isn't it, to see how reporting something can twist it. Because it's pretty clear that Foley was guilty of abusing the power that his mentor position lent him with respect to the Congressional pages, and he certainly was guilty of hypocricy in supporting legislation to outlaw the very activities that he engaged in. And it's also getting clearer that the Republican leadership was guilty of not protecting the pages sufficiently, despite having known about some of the complaints for quite a long time. It is hard to see how this could not be politicized, especially as the Republican party sells itself as the party with values, though I do get the point of how such politicization shouldn't lead to further exploitation of any of pages in the form of excessive media attention, say.

That Foley is gay and appeared to grooming young boys for sex should be no different from a situation where a heterosexual politician does the same to young teenagers of the opposite sex. It probably would be treated differently, partly because of homophobia, but also because of sexism, especially if it was a straight man preying on teenaged girls. Girls are sometimes expected to be harassed, you know. It's only biologically natural that a good-looking girl needs attention. (And yes, I'm quoting from something I read on the net last night.)

No, it is the misuse of unopposed power that is at the core of the predatorgate, and in this it shares with many of the other recent Republican scandals. Maybe a one-party government isn't such a good idea, after all.

That much seems clear to me. But weird fringe arguments sprout up all over the place, from the article on the front page of the New York Times which mostly praised the warmth and caring that Mark Foley demonstrated in his grooming activities to Matt Drudge's recent claims that compared the teenaged boys to beasts, thus rearranging the blame for the events. These are not going to help the Republican party if that was the intention. And neither is the alcoholism defense which Foley has decided to use, except in that it lets him go into hiding.