The Foley scandal is over, my friend Sean Hannity declared on Tuesday night. Wishful thinking, Sean.
On Thursday, there was testimony that a drunk Mark Foley actually tried to break into the locked boarding house where the pages live. There was also testimony from Foley’s former Chief of Staff that he told senior staffers in the Speaker’s Office in 2002 or 2003 about Foley’s advances, and that he could prove it.
The Speaker is denying any such knowledge. Does this sound like a scandal that is over?
One of the former pages involved was reportedly interviewed by the FBI on Wednesday and said that he went to Foley’s hotel room after he left the page program, but that nothing happened. Perhaps they just chatted.
“I didn’t have sex with Mark Foley,” reads the headline on the Drudge Report. Does this sound like a scandal that is over? Who knew what, and when did they know it? Sorry, Sean, that will take some time to figure out. In the meantime, according to the polls, the American people have reached some conclusions.
The first is that the Republicans cared more about protecting their political rear ends than they did about protecting the boys who work as pages. The second is that Democrats probably wouldn’t have handled it any differently. Nice. Republican leaders stink, but Democrats may be no better. Is that the best you can say for the current leadership of Congress?
If it is, what’s to be lost by throwing out the bums?
It is in that sense that the Foley scandal will continue to dog the incumbent party. It is not that the Democrats are necessarily better, but that the Republicans have proven themselves to be worse. What a sorry state we are in.
The Foley scandal is not simply a sex scandal, but an example of the ultimate triumph of cynicism about political leadership in America. If neither party can be trusted to protect the kids – the children, really – who come to carry their briefcases, exactly why should we trust them to protect the country?
There is a wonderful scene in the movie South Park where the parents come together and decide that the answer to all of their problems is simple. Blame Canada. Republicans have a similar mantra. Blame Clinton. It almost doesn’t matter what it is. They find a way to blame the Clinton administration for it.
But there are some Republicans you expect better more from. John McCain is one of them. Yet there he was, on Hannity and Colmes Tuesday night, doing just that. What is the answer to the nuclear crisis in North Korea? According to John McCain, it is to blame the Clinton administration. How helpful is that?
Now if I weren’t the nice, constructive person I am, I might point out that we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars, not to mention the lives lost, in a war against a third rate power that doesn’t have nuclear weapons, doesn’t threaten us, isn’t really part of the axis of evil, and has left our military strapped and strained. But to be honest, I’m sick to death of the blame game, and so are most people. Come on John. You can do better than that.
The honest politician of the week award goes to Mark Warner who recognized he wasn’t ready to give up his life to run for president. Reminiscent of Walter Mondale, who once said he wasn’t ready to spend his life in Holiday Inns – and then went on to spend much time in them, in 1984, when he did seek the presidency – Warner said that “it came down to the fact that if I wasn’t ready to put everything else in my life – my family, my friends, any other interests – on the back burner, then I shouldn’t do this.”
He’s right. You can’t run for president part-time. I once worked for a candidate who tried to run for president while staying home to pick judges. It doesn’t work. It’s just one of those challenges that takes everything you have, and if you’re not willing to give it everything, best to recognize it at the beginning.
Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.
Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.
She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.