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Monday, October 09, 2006


How Great is The Foley Scandal? Let John Podhoretz Count The Ways!
From Podhoretz's New York Post column:

This was the perfect political hit for nine reasons:

1) It instantly lost the GOP a House seat. Democrats need only a net 15 seats to take over the House. The news came out late enough that Republicans can't replace Foley's name on the ballot, which will effectively hand the seat to the weak Democratic candidate who was running as Foley's rival. That means Democrats now need to net only 14 seats to take control (13 really, since they're in the same favorable situation with former GOP honcho Tom DeLay's seat in Houston). That was a big score in itself

2) The scandal couldn't be contained by Foley's resignation. Usually, if a politician misbehaves and quits, everyone else can say good riddance. But because the scandal involved teenagers working on Capitol Hill, this one had an entirely different provenance. If this was an institutional failure, then the people who run the institution have to shoulder the blame too, no?

3) It fit beautifully into a pre-existing story. The nation doesn't like Congress. Thinks members of Congress put their own needs before everybody else's. Well, a closeted gay member of Congress hunting for quail among the teenagers sent to D.C. to "work" in cute little uniforms makes that point almost perfectly.

4) There was no defense. Clinton partisans didn't have to blush when they said the sex life of their president was nobody else's business. After all, Clinton had gotten himself involved with a 21-year-old. Republicans couldn't say any such thing about a 50-something congressman going after teenage boys.

5) It wasn't too gross. It's salacious, since it involves sex, but not too salacious, since Foley (so far as we now know) did not have sexual relations with anyone involved. Therefore, we could all continue to talk about it and joke about it and obsess over it without feeling as though we were all dealing with something truly and unspeakably heinous. There's no Gap dress, there seems to have been no crime committed and the dirty little secret is that, even for Republicans fearful about the loss of the House, this scandal is kind of fun.

6) Hastert's excuse is too hard to understand. The speaker has been forced to say that, yes, he knew about the original "too friendly" e-mails but not the grotesque "instant messages." This distinction eludes many people, and not just illiterate yahoos without computers. Chris Matthews of "Hardball" needed it to be explained to him. Very slowly. And he still didn't get it after the explanation was done.

7) It can go on and on and on. The page program has been around forever. Drunken, lascivious congressmen have been around forever. We're going to be hearing and reading about passes, would-be passes and the like from now until the ratings dip, which may be never.

8) It could still lose the GOP more House seats before the election. Say we find out some elected House member really did know a lot about this and said nothing. He will probably have to quit in the next couple of weeks. If that were, say, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, his seat would go Democratic as well, thus reducing the Democratic number to 12.

9) It will depress Republican turnout. The way for Democrats to win isn't to get Democrats hyped up. Democrats need to dampen Republican enthusiasm to keep GOP voters from journeying to the polls on a midterm Election Day. This has done it.

The one great irony is that if Democrats do prevail in November, everybody's going to know the election wasn't a referendum on Bush, which is what they most wanted. But you can't have everything.



Also, Novak has the following in his column:
"It's really moot," one of Hastert's most severe Republican critics (who would not be identified) told me. "We are sure to lose the House, and Denny never would want to be minority leader." With Hastert's last performance as speaker coming in a predictably do-nothing lame-duck session after the Nov. 7 election, the month of October will be challenging for him and his party as he decides what to do with plans to campaign for challenged House candidates.

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