Congressman Mark Foley and the heights of hypocrisy

In just a few days, much has been written about Florida Congressman Mark Foley's resignation over sexually explicit emails sent to underage boys. People have written about how this is bad news for the Republicans in an election season, how this reflects on House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) especially if he had an inkling this was going on, and about how Foley might be prosecuted under the laws he helped enact.

There are two issues that really bug me, though, that aren't really part of the political football game. First, how does a person in the year 2006 use IM and email to do something that would so obviously ruin their career? Second, why is it that a man who fought so hard against child pornography and was chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children end up getting in trouble for actions so disturbingly opposed to his public crusade?

One the first point, I know we have plenty of evidence that members of Congress know very little about technology and the Internet. But Foley is relatively young, just over 50, and has worked on bills dealing with child pornography on the Internet. Did he think the Internet is like a big truck, something you just dump something on? In reality, it's a series of tubes, leading directly back to your computer.* Real anonymity on the Internet is difficult - especially when the boys you are contacting already know who “Maf54� really is!

My second issue is the apparent tendency of people in power to abuse their power to pursue starkly hypocritical vices. I'm not talking about the normal, run-of-the-mill campaign promise hypocrisy that most politicians fall into. When Bush landed on that aircraft carrier and beamed to the cameras, depsite having defended the skies of Texas from the Viet Cong in his youth, it was a load of hooey, but an understandable, market-tested load of hooey. Misdeeds in office are not, of course, limited to Republicans—we all remember Clinton—but man, there is quite a list of Republicans.

Foley's emails, though, crossed a line into a larger, more robust hypocrisy, televangelist-caught-with-hookers territory. The rarefied air of “drug addicts should be put in prison, except me� with an unsettling twist of harming others as well as himself.

Why is it that those who claim the most moral superiority so often end up on the news for not doing as they say? Was Foley's crusade against child pornography a calculated, elaborate cover design to let him get away with what he wanted to do? Did he start out with good intentions, only to be tempted by power and a feeling of invincibility? Is it the Michael Jackson disorder – being surrounded for so long by people who tell you that you are great no matter what you do that you lose touch with reality?

I don't know. Sometimes it is comforting to see how the mighty have fallen. It can be nice to think, as you are lambasted by some some holier-than-thou gassbag, that it's just a matter of time before they find him with his thumb in some transvestite's rear end. But how easily some make the long leap between normal hypocrisy and big, exploitative, risky hypocrisy is unsettling to me.

*Wow, did I really just take advantage of possible child solicitation to further ridicule Senator Ted Stevens? Yes... yes I did.

  1. Usually the people who are most against something in this country, like drugs, alcohol or porn, are the ones that have the biggest probalem with it. Since they can’t control their urges they go on crusades to make sure no one else can do those thintgs either. Thye like to stand on their soap boxes and say how bad these things are then slink off away and do them to excess.
    You would think pedofiles would smarten up about the internet already. I mean how many IM transcripts does the news have to run before they catch on this is a bad idea.
    In one of my favorite examples of the pedofile hall of fame. A dentist went to Thailand and had sex with underage girls. He was then interviewed on a news program about it where he admitted he did it, but said that it was legal in that country so it was okay. Of course he is still a citizen of this country so they promptley arrested him, before he tried to escape to Mexico.

    D Wallz
    October 3rd, 2006 at 1:35 pm
  2. Republicans have madea big mess of this. They should have told him to sit pat and waited out the election. Now they’re giving up a seat and essentially admitting that Foley did something illegal, which he probably didn’t.

    He didn’t lie under oath like Bill Clinton did, and the boy was NOT underage according to the laws of the District of Columbia, where age of consent is 16. So everybody calm down and relax.

    October 3rd, 2006 at 3:33 pm
  3. steve may be right that there is no prosecutable offense. But let’s look a little closer to see why. Specifically, we are looking at 18 U.S.C. 2422, an enticement and coercion criminal law that dates back to Victorian nonsense like the Mann Act. I see two issues.

    1. Because Foley is a federal public official, he can be prosecuted under federal law. Looking at the relevant statute listed above, the determining age of consent law would be in whichever state he intended to commit the sexual act. Not all states are as lenient as DC when it comes to statutory rape.

    2. Further, he did not complete the act, so he would have to be prosecuted under “attempt” (which is in the statute). Attempt means more than thinking about the crime or wanting to do it, one must actually make some sort of substantial step towards making the criminal wish a reality. So the prosecution would need to find some sort of substantial overt act as well.

    Regardless of whether there is a crime involved, there is definitely moral hypocrasy, which is far worse than raping a baby in my book. Seriously.

    October 3rd, 2006 at 9:52 pm
  4. Mark Foley vs. Bill Clinton

    Yesterday I posted about Congressman Mark Foley’s IM and email indiscretions. I’m not an investigative reporter, so I didn’t have any new facts to add to the case, and I’m not a pundit, so I didn’t spin much in the way of…

    Unsought Input
    October 3rd, 2006 at 11:31 pm

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