My cute little house looked a lot better before my meager possessions were strewn aimlessly across every flat surface. It didn’t help that this was an unusually busy week at work. I did, however, manage to catch this spot-on essay from Michael Kinsley, at Slate. He writes:
Here in Washington, we’re all competing to see who can be more po-faced about Mark Foley and the congressional pages. Who can deplore Foley’s behavior the most? Democrats, sensing a deeply wounded Republican Party, are going in for the kill. It’s the final evidence that the GOP is terminally corrupt: A congressman was cyber-molesting teenage boys, and his party leaders evidently didn’t even care. Republicans answer: Hey, we invented child molesting! As an issue, that is. We own family values, and we’re not about to let the party of Monica Lewinsky* and Heather Has Two Mommies outflank us on the sexual morality front. And then there are gay voices, eager to remind people that being gay and molesting children are two different things, which, of course, they are. But just to make the point clear, gays want everyone to know that they defer to no one in their distaste for Foley’s behavior.
So, everyone claims to be terribly distressed. We glare at each other, looking as grim as possible, and the first one to break into a grin or a smirk or a snort loses. Stop it! It’s not funny! But then, who are all the people watching Letterman and Leno, Stewart and Colbert, and laughing–laughing!–at Mark Foley’s shenanigans? Who are the people cracking jokes on the Internet? They are so distressed that they can’t stop giggling, and they find the whole subject so distasteful that they can’t get enough of it. This is not a traditional case of politicians’ hypocrisy. This is politicians accommodating the hypocrisy of voters.
One other part caught my eye. Kinsley is discussing the case of Gerry Studds, the former Democratic congressman who had a sexual affair with a congressional page. He was censured for this back in 1983. Kinsley writes:
The Studds case came paired with that of Republican congressman Dan Crane, who had an affair with a female page. In a mutual disarmament agreement, both miscreants were “censured,” which was actually a ratchet up from “reprimanded,” or “scolded,” or “tickled,” or some other term recommended by an outside committee. Speaker Dennis Hastert says that if Mark Foley hadn’t resigned immediately, he would have been bounced. Maybe. But Crane, like Studds, was renominated by his party in the 1984 election. That would be the Republican Party. (Unlike Studds, Crane lost.)
Here’s why I find this interesting. About five minutes after the Foley scandal broke, braying right-wing pundits like Sean Hannity were fulminating about Gerry Studds. On The Daily Show that night, Jon Stewart commented it was as if he had the Encyclopedia of Congressional Sodomy at his fingertips. Virtually every right-wing pundit that turned up on cable or on radio was talking about Gerry Studds.
But prior to reading Kinsley’s column, I had never heard of Dan Crane.
Where were the left-wing pundits ready to bring up Crane every time the right-wingers brought up Studds? Why did the hapless, pseudo-liberal talking heads you see on cable allow the issue to become Democratic hypocrisy rather than Republican willingness to ignore Foley’s conduct? Why were the left-wing pundits so unprepared?
I shouldn’t be surprised. But for some reason I am.