Monday, October 09, 2006

On The Values Party

The most recent piece of news about the predatorgate is that at least one Republican in Congress knew about the Internet exchanges in 2000:

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.

The revelation pushes back by at least five years the date when a member of Congress has acknowledged learning of Foley's behavior with former pages. A timeline issued by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) suggested that the first lawmakers to know, Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), the chairman of the House Page Board, and Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), became aware of "over-friendly" e-mails only last fall. It also expands the universe of players in the drama beyond members, either in leadership or on the page board.

A source with direct knowledge of Kolbe's involvement said the messages shared with Kolbe were sexually explicit, and he read the contents to The Washington Post under the condition that they not be reprinted. But Cline denied the source's characterization, saying only that the messages had made the former page feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she said, "corrective action" was taken. Cline said she has not yet determined whether that action went beyond Kolbe's confrontation with Foley.

I can't help feeling that an important value for the wingnuts is not to get caught. Granted, that is a near-universal value, but I expect more from the values-party. The Democrats have already been labeled the party of feminazis and sodomists and those who hate America, after all, and most everybody in Wingnuttia agrees that they have no morals or ethics. Especially James Dobson, the radical Christianist fundamentalist who exerts a lot of influence on our current administration. But even Mr. Dobson seems to think that morals can be played with:

On Focus on the Family, Dobson was responding to a New York Times column by Paul Krugman, in which Krugman wondered how Dobson would respond to the Foley scandal given Dobson's earlier criticism of former President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. From Krugman's column (subscription required):

It will be interesting, by the way, to see how Dr. Dobson, who declared of Bill Clinton that "no man has ever done more to debase the presidency," responds to the Foley scandal. Does the failure of Republican leaders to do anything about a sexual predator in their midst outrage him as much as a Democratic president's consensual affair?

In response, Dobson again criticized Clinton and then suggested that the sexually explicit instant messages allegedly sent by Foley to underage male pages were the result of "sort of a joke":

DOBSON: We condemn the Foley affair categorically, and we also believe that what Mr. Clinton did was one of the most embarrassing and wicked things ever done by a president in power. Let me remind you, sir, that it was not just James Dobson who found the Lewinsky affair reprehensible. More than 140 newspapers called for Clinton's resignation. But the president didn't do what Mr. Foley has done in leaving. He stayed in office, and he lied to the grand jury to obscure the facts. As it turns out, Mr. Foley has had illicit sex with no one that we know of, and the whole thing turned out to be what some people are now saying was a -- sort of a joke by the boy and some of the other pages.

I'm quite disappointed in the wingnuts. I expected a lot more from the values-party. Values, for example.

Bitchphd had an interesting post on this last week. Here's a quote from it:

But the Foley thing, I think, is different. First, we're a month away from midterm elections.

Second--and this is the point I was really trying to make on the air yesterday--I think that it really speaks to the heart of the Republican Party's platform in the last few years, which is all about the public/private divide. Are abortion, birth control, gay marriage private issues, or are they subjects for public policymaking? Do the problems of the workforce for parents with families constitute a public crisis, or are they merely the inevitable result of private decisions that women make about whether or not to work? Are we willing to give up our privacy in order to secure public safety? Is protecting the "homeland"--and if any sphere is defined as private, the "home" is--from political problems of the larger public world really what the Iraq war is all about? Does the renewed Patriot Act go too far by suspending the habeas corpus rights of private individuals in order to protect the American public? Does that same American public have a right to know about classified reports on issues of national import? Should the private individuals who leak classified material to public forums be considered traitors or heroes? Do we need public records of what happens in the privacy of the voting booth?

This stuff is key for the Republicans. They have built their house on the ideas that the private arena of sex, gender, and sexuality is a matter of public concern, and that the public's right to know and debate political decisions threatens the government's need to keep such decisions private--for the public good. It's pretty significant that this Foley thing is the public scandal that's keeping Woodward's book and the new Patriot Act's dismissal of habeas corpus off the front pages and the nightly news. And I think that, on some unrecognized level, Foley's role as scapegoat for Republican family values hypocrisy serves as a synechdoche for the much bigger Republican hypocrisy of turning the public and private spheres inside out.

She has a point, don't you think? But it isn't just turning the public and private spheres inside out. It's more like making everything about the lives of the powerful private and everything about the lives of the poor public. Thus, those in the government may have all the secrecy they wish but the lives of poor women on welfare can be freely dissected in public arenas. Bedrooms of the powerful wingnuts are private places, bedrooms of the rest of us have searchlights and video cameras. And the only values that matter are morals about sexuality and gender relationships and family matters, all interpreted tightly within a patriarchal tradition. Values about business or warfare or running the public sector don't matter, or are replaced by the "patriotism" of unquestioning obedience to the current administration. Values such as caring or neighborliness or justice don't matter or are made into private values.

All this allows the Nosey-Parkers among us to criticize their adult neighbors' consensual sexual behavior with other adults freely and also obviates any need to help the same neighbors when they are in financial trouble. The former is a public concern, the latter a private problem brought on by reckless spending or laziness.

The danger in all this is when the apparent and real values of the social conservatives collide in public, and this is what happened in the predatorgate. Even James Dobson then back-pedals on the importance of sexual morality and the protection of the minors, and the only reason I can see for him doing so is that these rules are for little people and don't apply to the powerful wingnuts.