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Mark Foley Has No Coattails By: Alan Nathan
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Calamitously enough, the mass media's discussion about former Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley and his likely impact on individual House and Senate races has become the most glaring exercise in pedestrian ignorance. The banquet of stupidity in our nation’s capital is unmatched.

Please understand, I find nothing troubling about even the most acrimonious debate. As Shakespeare surmised, “Sweet are the uses of adversity, which like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head.” It’s not that we’re hungry for innocuous bipartisanship that would otherwise belie serious opposing views. However, public debate should be layered, substantive, and not gravitate to the lowest common denominator simply because of it has become the conventional wisdom.


Under focus is whether Mark Foley’s cybersex behavior with young Congressional pages was known by any of his GOP leadership and, if so, when did they learn it? That’s credible, and if people are found complicit, let the heads roll as they should. What’s not credible is the contention that somehow uninvolved Republicans will or should be held politically accountable for Foley's misdeeds. Republicans are buying into this fear, while Democrats hype the broad-brush strategy because both incredulously think that voters outside the districts of culpable candidates truly judge their own through the prism of “guilt by association.”


Unwittingly exposing this silliness is Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel. The Washington Post recently cited his defense of Missouri candidates who have been accused of compromising national Democratic ideologies in order to prevail in the upcoming midterm elections. He argued that, “You’ve got to get candidates who fit culturally and politically,” and added, “They’re not running for national office. They’re going to represent the people who live in that district.” Bingo, Mr. Emanuel! And it is this truism that applies to all races relevant to all issues.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office recently announced, “Republicans just don't get it; every mother in America is asking how Republicans could choose partisan politics over protecting kids, and the Republicans are still asking who could have blown their cover-up.” Message to Pelosi: Republican voters will be no more put off by their representatives than will Democrats be swayed from theirs because of bad acts committed by any of their respective party brethren. If that weren’t the case, then she and other Democrats would have been punished at the polls for repeatedly supporting chairmanship positions for the censured and self-confessed pedophile Democrat Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts.


He was snagged in 1983 but enjoyed consecutive reelections till he retired in 1996 despite his multiple sexual trysts with boy-toy pages. Representative Pelosi didn’t mind working along side a child molester for 10 years and consequently, like a cracked bell, her indignation over this story rings less than true.


Fortunately for the Bush administration, the Democrats’ worst nightmare came true. Presidential Advisor and political guru Karl Rove arranged for North Korea’s nuclear test to reduce the prominence of Foley’s debacle in the front pages. (Yes, I’m kidding.) However, this event should at least compel the press to share its reporting space with issues of greater import.


On my radio show I’ve interviewed a few hundred U.S. representatives and a quarter of the Senate. Most have told me that they’ve won elections by keeping in tuned with things most relevant to the constituents of their districts and state – not with those of another. Once a Representative or Senator is understood as unattached to a scandal, local priorities trump the coincidence of that member’s party affiliation with a given culprit, but you’d never know it by the media coverage.


In Tennessee, Democratic Congressman Harold Ford is running a strong Senate race against former Chattanooga Mayor Republican Ted Corker. Ford won’t lose because of Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson getting caught with $90,000 of alleged bribe money in his freezer. Conversely Corker won’t lose because of the larcenous and currently imprisoned former Congressman Randal “Duke” Cunningham of California. And it goes on.


The only time politicos lose is when they’ve displeased their own, not because others have displeased theirs. And the only reason why one party takes over the other in either chamber is when the latter disproportionately forgets that lesson.

The craziest irony here is how Democrats are undercutting their own potential “mandate” spin. Now if they win either side of Congress or both, it will be attributed to Foley’s messages instead of their own.

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Alan Nathan, a combative centrist and "militant moderate," a columnist, and the nationally syndicated talk show host of "Battle Line With Alan Nathan" on the Radio America Network.

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