Democratic Hypocrisy on Foley

I really must be getting old because my memory seems to be getting worse. I can't believe I didn't remember the Gerry Studds scandal, especially since the congressmen and bookmarks joke that I told the other day I first heard in the wake of that scandal (I was in high school at the time and taking part in our state's Student Congress as a senator). I knew that there was a scandal way back when involving a legislator and a page, but had forgotten all of the details until last night when I saw a mention of it that jogged my memory. But it's important to recall those details because it shows that both parties are being equally hypocritical in this situation.

Studds was a congressman from Massachusetts. In 1983, he was caught having an affair with a 17 year old male page. He was censured by the House, during which he turned his back on them to show that he didn't think he had done anything wrong, but he was not expelled. Not only did he stay in Congress, he was reelected 6 more times and finally retired in 1996. At least Foley realized what he did was wrong and left office; Studds maintained that he had done nothing wrong and stayed in office.

And please don't tell me that it's different because it was consensual (the page with whom Studds had the affair publicly supported Studds and said it was no one's business). The impropriety exists primarily because of the discrepancy in power. Studds was in a position of authority over a high school student and that is wrong regardless of whether that person is mature enough to realize it or not. If the 16 year old in the Foley case had liked the attention, that would not make his actions any less wrong.

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I completely agree. A society that respects individual rights and individual autonomy has no place for intimate relationships of such unequal power dynamics. In a republic that believes that all are created equal, no one should be a thrall to anyone else in these matters -- not even if they claim they are doing so willingly. Ancient Rome may have felt differently, but their republic was never based on any ideal of social equality. Ours is.

If I had to come up with a difference, it would be this: to my knowledge, Studds' activities were not covered up by the Democratic leadership before the scandal broke. Also, Studds was not part of a party dominated by such hypocritical bigotry and self-righteousness as we're seeing from the Republicans today. Oh, and the Democrats didn't try to blame homosexuality for such relationships, like the Wall St. Urinal is now doing.

Jason: how, exactly, do you propose to prevent such "relationships of such unequal power dynamics," expecially when the "inferior" party both consents and expects -- rightly or wrongly -- to benefit?

And do adult relationships between persons of noticeably unequal socio-economic status also meet your disapproval?

The affair had taken place 10 years earlier although Studds was censured by the house in 83. Where is the Dem hypocrisy? Not saying they aren't hypocrites, I just don't see your point in this post...

Did the Democrats cover up the affair? What were their reactions to the scandal?

There's a more complete discussion comparing the two Congressional page sex scandals of 1983 (there was also a Republican Congressman in addition to Studds) and the Foley case here.

I think what's got Democrats up in arms (besides, of course, the clear advantage this gives them in the upcoming elections) is the coverup more than the incident itself. In both cases you refer to in '83, the system worked -- impropriety was smoked out, and the responsible parties punished (even though one of them refused to admit there was anything wrong). The abuse stopped, because the system worked. In this case, the party in power hid the activity on purpose, allowing the abuse to continue with their knowledge.

The bigger issue isn't what Foley did (although it sure is bad), but that those in a position to protect the pages knew about it, and did nothing. It's the same as with the Catholic church priest/altar-boy scandals. It was bad enough that the priests were sexual predators, but the real death-knell was learning that the very group designated with protecting the kids in fact enabled the abuse to continue.

It's the difference between individual moral failure and sanctioned, institutional moral failure. The latter is a far more dangerous thing to us all than the former (bad though the former is).

I have to agree with the other commenters as well -- I don't see how this is a case of "Democrats" (general) being hypocrites. It would be fair to level that charge at Studds if HE came out and condemned Foley, because he'd be damning someone else for something he himself had done. The only way you could level a charge of "hypocrisy" at the entire modern Democratic party and all its members for something that happened 23 years ago would be if the Democratic Party as a whole at the time had agreed with Studds that he'd done nothing wrong, and yet was now wagging the finger at Foley.

But that is not the case -- the Democrats in 1983 who were NOT named Studds condemned him for it. His refusal to accept that condemnation has nothing to do with either his contemporary Democrats or our modern ones. I don't see how hypocrisy enters into it at all.

Sorry, but the argument of hypocrisy does not work here, because there was another Congressman, by the name of Daniel, who also had a consensual affair, this time with a 17-year-old female page (IIRC, about three years before the investigation). He also did not resign, although his rural, conservative district voted him out of office the next election cycle.

There is also a huge difference in the cases in terms of legality. As inappropriate and unethical as both Studds and Crane were, their actions were not illegal, because the teens consented, and were above the age of consent. Foley himself sponsored laws to make soliciting anyone under the age of 18 for sex a crime, regardless of age of consent in the locality, so the legal background is completely different.

I also don't think much of the outrage is over what Foley did, as much as it is the clear implication that the GOP, in a desperate attempt to retain power, swept a potentially embarrassing scandal under the rug, not even alerting the other two members of the House Page Board (one Dem and one GOP) to the potential of an issue. There are also reports that pages were warned as early as 2001 to avoid Foley, so what was known then?

Remember, in DC, it is not the crime that gets you, it is the cover up.

It should be impossible to defend either case, given the disparity of power, as you say, and I've seen a lot of whining by Republican supporters about the supposed double-standard to which the parties are being held.

But when you hold up your party as being the only one capable of defending "family values" then when your leadership proves incapable of doing so and, indeed, opts to save its own skin instead, then you should not be surprised by the intensity of the reaction.

And it's telling how quiet the religious right has been in the days since the scandal broke. There was a lovely line from Yellow Canary on Daily Kos from a couple of days ago (via Talk2Action):

"Hypocrickets... They go silent whenever the light of truth shines."

That is right up there with "truthiness" and deserves to enter our current lexicon.

Okay, this brings up all kinds of moral issues regarding sex and power.

Ed's saying (obviously in his opinion):

16 year old page + much older Senator = Wrong

Now, what about:

16 year old + 20-something Senator?
16 year old + much older man?
Etc

I've heard Ed talk a lot, quite rightly, about freedom for people to choose their own lives. It's argueable that at 16 this young man is old enough to make his own decisions. If it were his choice to have sex with another 16 year old, or even an older man, this would not be an issue.

There seems to be this extremely perculiar 2-year window in American law:

Under 16 = Wrong
16 = Okay, unless concerns "power issue"
18 = Always okay

Do people think that the average young person is capable of deciding it's okay to have sex at 16 but still take the extra two years before then can decide who to have it with? Once the are told it's okay - should the law limit them *at all* to their choice of partners? Aren't "liberals" (like most of us here) forever urging people to "keep out of the bedroom"?

Okay, rant over... :-)

Anyway - see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_consent_in_North_America#Washington

By David Durant (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

GOOD SHOW, ED! Equivilency!

Gerry Studds did something in 1973, no Democrat will ever have anything to say about Foley.

And, frankly, Studds was a man, as you are, Ed.

You hypocrite.

Where do you get off, you man, you?

I'm not saying the situations are equal in every way. No, no one covered up the Studds situation; on the other hand, no one is defending Foley the way many defended (and are still defending) Studds. But the fact that he was not expelled from Congress (Foley would certainly have been expelled had he not resigned) is also a difference worth mentioning. The point is that if you are going to condemn Foley, you also have to condemn Studds for what he did. They don't have to be hypocritical in precisely the same way in order to both be hypocritical. Studds should have been thrown out of Congress and out of the Democratic party for what he did, just as Foley is being so jettisoned today by the Republicans (though that's still entirely too late; the House leadership who ignored the information they had and did not investigate further still deserves all the heat they're getting). Saying that they're both hypocritical does not absolve either one of their wrongdoings. It doesn't make what has gone on with Foley any less repulsive. It just acknowledges that both parties play inconsistent games during such scandals - if the perp belongs to their own party, they find excuses and rationalizations, if he belongs to another party then there are howls of outrage. The outrage should be equal in both instances, regardless of which party we prefer.

The Foley case shocked me not soley because of the age difference. What I find extremely disturbing is the difference in power. Foley was a United States Representative. This man was a member of the United States Congress, the most enduring, respected democratic institution this world has ever known. Most 16 year old would be awed at just meeting this person. The depravity shown by Rep. Foley may not have been illegal (and maybe it shouldn't be) but the abuse of the respect and power afforded Rep. Foley is unconscionable.

By David C. Brayton (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Foley would certainly have been expelled had he not resigned

Just like they got rid of Dan Crane?

David-

Exactly the issue. And it's wrong for Foley, and it was wrong for Studds, all for the same reason.

Frankly, Ed, the notion they surely would have gotten rid of Foley is a fantasy.

Is that what Kirk Fordham was doing negotiating with ABC? Tom Reynolds wanted him out?

Is that why Speaker Hastert jumped right on that investigation last year?

Is that why they kept this from the Democrat responsible for page program oversight?

Is that why Majority Leader Boehner changed his story, yet again, today?

What happened to Gerry Studds and Dan Crane appears, next to this, a model.

Lettuce-

Times have changed. If Foley had not resigned the other day, do you really think he would not have been expelled given all the media coverage and outrage on this? I'm not saying they would have expelled him just because it was the right thing to do, but solely out of political expediency. They would have no choice. We didn't have 24 hour news channels in 1983 other than just CNN. Or the internet.

I think that a lot of the reaction is due to the fact that the Republicans have shown themselves to be jerks and have spent years systematically dismantling our system of government. It's kind of like "wow, they screwed up, let's get 'em!".

Hypocrisy or not, this is as much a pent up reaction to all of the stupid stuff the republicans have done over years, as it is a reaction to one person's (or several people's) screwup.

Ed Said:

David-Exactly the issue. And it's wrong for Foley, and it was wrong for Studds, all for the same reason.

Yes, and the fact that Congressional Democrats 23 years ago didn't condemn Studds shows that Democrats today are hypocrites for condemning Foley. Oh, wait, that's right -- Congressional Democrats 23 years ago DID condemn Foley.

Neither the Republican nor Democratic Parties 23 years ago threw either Crane or Studds (respectively) out of the party for their actions. Both parties condemned both men, in exactly the same way both are condemning Foley. Crane was not re-elected while Studds was, but that's on the voters of Studds' district, not "Democrats" or even "Congressional Democrats" as a whole.

Sometimes you take the "A pox on both their houses" thing too far, Ed, and I would respectfully submit that this is one of those times. Your basic argument here is nonsensical. No one is disupting that what Foley, Studds, and Crane all did was wrong, even though (apparently) only what Foley did was actually illegal (under the Walsh act). The hypocrisy claim just makes no sense and adds nothing of value to the discussion.

P.S. How unfortunate was it that he had the name "Studds"? That's like something out of an "Onion" story.

You guys seem to be reacting as though saying that the Democrats are being hypocritical somehow means that the Republicans aren't. It's not an either/or. Both can be hypocritical, and they can even be hypocritical in different ways. And no, this doesn't mean that all Democrats are hypocrities, any more than my accusations of Republican hypocrisy means all Republicans are hypocrites. Read this without the partisan rose-colored glasses.

Er...

I think you missed my point Ed. I was asking why you think it's wrong at all.

In short - why is it okay for a 16 year old to have sex with a 30 year old ordinary person but not one in a "position of power" and yet okay for an 18 year old to do either?

By David Durant (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Jeff-

I don't think the Democrats today are demanding that Republicans condemn Foley, as every Republican I've seen has condemned him. Had he not resigned, do you really think they would not be calling for his expulsion? If they wouldn't be, they would be wrong not to - he should be expelled, and Studds should have been expelled too. They are condemning the cover up, and rightly so, and the cover up is a huge reason why the Republicans are being hypocritical. But the Democrats' hands are hardly clean here (not all Democrats, of course, but as an institution). When they had something virtually identical happen with Studds, they did not expel him, they just gave him a slap on the wrist (as did the Republicans with Crane). But then they also let him continue as a party member, as a leader in the party, as a candidate for the party, and the Democrats in his district reelected him over and over again even after he showed no remorse at all. If you don't think that's worthy of condemnation too, then I see little basis for condemning Foley (as opposed to the cover up).

David Durant wrote:

In short - why is it okay for a 16 year old to have sex with a 30 year old ordinary person but not one in a "position of power" and yet okay for an 18 year old to do either?

Because I don't believe a 16 year old has the maturity to make that choice, particularly when it involves someone in a position of authority over them. If you disagree, fine. In that case, don't condemn either Foley or Studds. But that's a totally separate question from the substance of this post.

Ed, apparently the GOP leadership knew about Foley for at least a year and, apart from asking him not to rn for the Senate, did nothing.

They didn't expell him, they hid what they knew from the other party.

Slap him on the wrist?

They didn't even keep him away from the pages.

I'm not seeing the Democratic hypocrisy here. (And, as you say, times have changed. If the Studds deal came up today I think you'd see something different than you saw over and incident that was ten years old in 1983 and is thirty-three years old today.)

Finally, the Democrats in Studds district didn't re-elect him. The voters did.

Tacitus said -
And it's telling how quiet the religious right has been in the days since the scandal broke.

Actually, the king moron at the World Nut Daily has been far from silent. Damned if I ever figured I would agree with Joe Farah. . .

David Durant said -
In short - why is it okay for a 16 year old to have sex with a 30 year old ordinary person but not one in a "position of power" and yet okay for an 18 year old to do either?

Personaly I don't think either is okay. A child of 16, if they are exploring their sexuality at all, should be doing so with other kids in their age range, who are doing the same. Most states consent laws allow those who have reached their majority to have sex with minors, only if they are within 4-6 years of the age of the minor. Thus, while a 20 year old might have sex with their 16-17 year old partner, it would, and should, be illegal for someone who is thirty to have sex with that same teen. Eighteen is plenty young enough for those who wish to molest kids. I dare say few eighteen year olds are mature enough to make those choices but we have to draw a line somewhere, that seems a reasonable age to do so.

Add to this the awe that a child who wants to be a congressmen someday would feel towards anyone in that position currently, and it is far worse than most cases of child rape.

Lettuce-

Pointing out what the Republicans have done wrong in this situation does not absolve the Democrats (any more than pointing out the Studds situation absolves the Republicans). You have to get out of this either/or style of thinking. Both can be wrong at the exact same time. Of course the Republicans are wrong for having covered it up; I've already written posts about that and I stand by them. But that has nothing to do with my argument about the Democrats. As for this:

Finally, the Democrats in Studds district didn't re-elect him. The voters did.

And those voters were Democrats. Do you think the Republicans voted for him, for crying out loud? The Democratic party should have thrown Studds out on his ass, as the Republicans are now (belatedly, of course, and only out of necessity) doing with Foley.

While I agree with the consent laws I think this is purely a modern construct based on our extended childhood. Which I also think is a positive thing for the most part.

Eighteen is plenty young enough for those who wish to molest kids. I dare say few eighteen year olds are mature enough to make those choices

In the past these kids would be married and with children along with a full time job.

And those voters were Democrats

They were voters. They were residents of Gerry Studds district. 56% of them voted for Gerry Studds in 1984.

Were they "Democrats"? I don't know how it works in Massachusetts, I don't think 56% of the voters in the 5th CD in Wisconsin (where I live) are anything. They certainly aren't all members of the GOP, and yet our Congressman gets re-elected over and over with totals ranging from 61% to 86%; surely some of those people aren't "Republicans."

The voters of Studds district, some of whom were Democrats, kept reelecting him.

Gerry Studds was was censured twenty-three years ago, as was Dan Crane.

It happens my GOP Congressman was in the House at the time, (although at the time my current residence would have been located in the ajoining majority Democratic district where Henry Reuss would have been Congressman, later replaced by Jim Moody, later replaced by Tom Barrett, later redistricted out of existence.)

I think you get the point.

"The Democrats" were literally different people twenty-three years ago.

As were "the Republicans."

Thirty-three years ago, when Studds did what he did, even Jim Sensenbrenner wasn't in Congress and he's been around longer than dirt.

Is there a statute of limitations on what political parties do wrong? Do the Republicans always have to answer for Nixon and the Democrats Clinton? What percentage of 1983 Democratic leaders are still party leaders today?

And as I said, I'm talking about the parties as institutions, not as individuals (though there are many individuals still around from both parties in the Congress).

What is the justification for booting somebody out of Congress who has done something immoral but not illegal (no thanks to Foley's own legislative efforts)? Should we also boot out anyone who is discovered to have cheated on his wife?

I despise the man, personally-- not as much for hitting on a 16 year old as for being a gigantic hypocrite in a position of power. But that seems par for the course with many politicians, with regard to sex and drug issues. As much as I disagree with and disapprove of his actions, it seems like crossing a dangerous line to say that they individually warrant a forceful dismissal.

Maybe if there were a law that said that any Congressperson caught doing what they advocated imprisoning others for doing....Oh yes, I'd be in favor of that!

Gretchen said -
What is the justification for booting somebody out of Congress who has done something immoral but not illegal (no thanks to Foley's own legislative efforts)?

Unless I am sorely mistaken, he made exactly what he did, illegal.

Will, oddly enough...

When Gerry Studds did what he did, Nixon was President.

But the institutional stain remains, according to Ed.

By the way, the GOP didn't expel Dan Crane, either. He lost his re-election bid, he appears to have been defeated by Paul Simon, so it's not clear he would have been ejected from the House had the makeup of the district not changed radically.

I just don't see the "hypocrisy" here on the part of Democrats, and I don't see hypocrisy on the part of Republicans that's any way related to Dan Crane.

In 1903 the Speaker of the House, David Henderson, resigned during a "sex scandal", although they passed this off at the time as being releated to war injuries.

Make your own jokes.

I don't hold the institutional Republican Party responsible for that in 2006.

No, I would not kick someone out of Congress for every moral indiscretion. But this is a blatant abuse of power and authority and it involves a minor. I think that's far more serious than someone cheating on their wife. There is real victimization going on here and that makes him unfit for any office in my book.

There is real victimization going on here

Really? How do we know that? He didn't even sleep with the guy. He made some dirty comments via instant messaging and e-mails, in which the guy participated, but then also told some other people about it. Is that gross? Sure, but not nearly as bad as...say...voting for the PATRIOT Act, to ban gay marriage, to outlaw pornography. I just find it difficult to get outraged about individual private indiscretions of politicians when they make decisions every day that cause far more damage to numerous U.S. citizens.

I'm just wondering if anyone notices how similar this is to part of the plot for The Birdcage, the remake of La Cage Aux Folles:

Senator Kevin Keeley: Louise, I'm the Vice President of the Coalition for Moral Order! My co-founder has just died in the bed of an underage black whore!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115685/

The actual hypocricy here is that the Republicans claim to be the party of morals and values.

Their actual moral is "win at all costs,"
their actual value is "money and power at all costs."

Democrats didn't hide the scandal back in the 80s, and ironically enough took a beating on the moral issue (still are today) even though their stance as a party was the moral one. The Republicans covered up Foley's sick-monkey tendencies, and they'll still be campaigning this year, in '08, etc., as the party of morals and values. Damn, broke another irony-o-meter.

Just curious Ed, who supported Studds and the 17 year old? In many states, 16, 17, wouldn't matter, they're both minors and its statutory rape.

By dogmeatIB (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

dogmeat wrote:

Just curious Ed, who supported Studds and the 17 year old?

At the very least, those who kept voting him back into office for 13 years. And the party that didn't boot him out as they should have (and yes, I would be saying the same thing of the Republicans if Foley hadn't resigned on his own). I'm not saying every Democrat. I'm sure there were plenty of Democrats who were appalled by the whole thing and wanted him out, just as I'm sure there are plenty of Republicans who are genuinely appalled by Foley and would have taken action if they had known. But institutionally, I think it's pretty much as bad as what is going on now. Which means they're both wrong, not that one excuses the other.

I think the question would be, regarding Studds, did he stay with the young man after he turned 18, etc. Did the two create a long standing relationship despite this huge public flap, etc. If that is the case, then one could justify the people who reelected Studds, if not the first time, subsequent times.

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with that interpretation, just playing Devil's advocate. But I do have to point out, your statement, while intentional or not, implied that the entire Democratic party supported Studds, etc.

By dogmeatIB (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

At the very least, those who kept voting him back into office for 13 years. And the party that didn't boot him out as they should have

The Republican Party didn't "boot out" Crane, either. He ran for reelection, just like Studds did. He just lost. Your efforts to paint "The institution of the Democratic Party" as hypocritical because of what the voters in one district did are pointless. The absolute most you can say is that anyone who actually voted for Studds after 1983 AND who says that Floyd should resign is a hypocrite.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties kept their man on the ticket post-1983. You can laud the Republican voters of Crane's district for voting him out and condemn the Democratic voters of Studds' district for keeping him in, but you can't say anything whatsoever about one "institution of the Party" that you can't also say about the other because they both behaved in the exact same way.

Ed, if you're not judging individuals for these actions (or, rather, reactions), but instead judging institutions, then why are we making a sweeping generalization about a rather large institution based on only two incidences separated by over 30 years?

Shouldn't the justification to call an instituion in this instance hypocritical come from more than two instances? It seems naive to expect either of the two major political parties to keep a collective memory over just a decade, let alone three. Individuals should be held accountable for hypocrisy, sure, but when it comes to institutions, I think you need more than the reactions to two scandals in order to evaluate whether or not the entire democratic party, apparently including the voters, are hypocrits.

And just what did you expect the democratic leaders to do to Studds back in '83? You've said, essentially, that they should've ran him out of the party, but they did censure him, and to do more than that sounds like the witch-hunt to destroy Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. Since it's not up to the Democrats to police (I mean in the literal sense) their members, and it's up to the voters of Studd's district to elect him, it would seem to me that persecuting this guy (though he may deserve it) would've been beyond the desire of those he represents and a colossal waste of time.

I don't, as you've suggested others have, view this as an either/or thing. I don't see either the Republicans as hypocritical or the Democrats as hypocritical. Both could be or none could be. However, I will make the argument that here there is a much weaker, and possibly unreasonable, link between the Democrats' actions and hypocrisy, versus the Republicans' actions and hypocrisy--after all, you're digging three decades of politics for hypocrisy on the part of Democrats, whereas those crying hypocrisy on the Republicans' part need only look a couple of years, or essentially, in the present, from this cover-up.

I do think, as a previous poster said, this sounds more like political (institutional, perhaps?) pessimism rather than a sound kick to the groin of democratic politics.

I'm sorry, Ed, but bringing up a 23-year-old scandal, based on an affair 10 years older even than that, and then claiming that makes the Democrats hypocritical "as an institution," is beyond a stretch. There were few, if any, Dems currently in the House who were even politicians 23 years ago, never mind in any position to effect a different end to the Stubbs/Crane scandal. Both men were appropriately condemned, and the House followed its own procedures in turning over both cases to the Ethics panel, which easily could have expelled them.

But you forget that times were certainly different then, as it was just the end of the free-wheeling 60s and 70s. The House, and the citizens of Studds district, took the action that they felt was appropriate in the instance. (incidentally I would guess the district has far more than 56% registered Democrats, being its in Massachusetts, where I was born and raised - typical voting patterns are very heavily Democratic, and in some places there weren't even enough Republicans to field opposition candidates - I bet that is an even bigger reason that Studds was re-elected, the GOP's failure to field a decent opponent).

If you want to accuse the Democrats of hypocrisy, then go the route of the fellows at "Independent" Gay Forum and condemn them for not attacking Clinton as strongly in 1998 - because there the two cases are much more similar. Certainly Clinton should have been condemned (and I did so among my friends and relatives) because of the power imbalance and simple tawdriness of diddling an intern at the White House. In fact, had the Democrats been more forceful in both condemning Clinton and the witch hunt that revealed the scandal, we probably wouldn't have King George II to deal with now.

I for one assert that I at least don't need to face hypocrisy charges over a scandal that happened when I was three months old. I'm actually not quite sure the congressional Democrats need to either-- the average term of a house rep is nine and a half years, the average term of a senator is twelve. Exactly how many Democrats in the house today were actually in there in 1983?

In the meantime, while I can't really comment on the Studds/Crane scandal directly because I never heard of it until two days ago and still know practically nothing about it, I can tell about something I *was* around for, which is what happened in 1994-- which is that the Democrats were kicked out of both houses of congress, including the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. And one of the significant reasons why was a perception that the congressional Democrats were corrupt, and lingering anger over 40 years worth of house scandals that had occurred with in some cases seemingly no consequences to anybody. It seems pretty likely to me that, though I for one had never heard of the event at the time, one of the influencing factors here for some voters was the existence of a rep who ten years before had admitted having sex with an underage page and never lost his seat.

I was pretty shocked to learn Studds managed to keep his seat for 13 years after his behavior was uncovered, and I'm not entirely sure what the consistent thing for the democrats to do here would be-- or even if we particularly want the democrats to be "consistent" with the way they were in 1983. But looking at a "republican revolution" that started 12 years ago amidst promises of reform and from there just seems to have only taken us into the territory of Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay and Mark Foley... well, I can tell you what the consistent thing for the voting public to do at this point would be would be.

CPT:

(incidentally I would guess the district has far more than 56% registered Democrats, being its in Massachusetts, where I was born and raised - typical voting patterns are very heavily Democratic, and in some places there weren't even enough Republicans to field opposition candidates

This is largely irrelevent in the sense that Ed (not you) is talking about the institutional Democratic Party as I'm willing to bet less than 5% of those voters are institutional Democrats in any meaningful sense of the word.

Thay are voters. In Massachusetts, in many places, voting essentially means you are a Democrat and a Democrat, at least at the local levels, can be quite conservative.

This is a little strange to people in other parts of the counry, such as Wisconsin where I am, since you don't register a party preference here at all except by voting for one slate of candidates or another on the same ballot at primary time.

You don't even have to ask for a particular party ballot, since it's all on one ballot (no crossover voting, though.)

1. Comparing a 33 year old affair with a current scandal? Great. How about smearing the Democrats for then Democrat Strom Thurmond's unsuccessful attempt, 49 years ago, to derail the Civil Rights Act of 1957 with his 24 hour filibuster.

2. Who cares about "Democratic" hypocrisy? It's Mark Foley's hyposcrisy which is grotesquely slimey. Foley, by all appearances, made his political mark condemning the very acts he engaged in.

Ed,

I'm not quite buying the "hypocrisy" charge. Who is the Democrat who publicly is criticizing Foley for doing something that Studds did, but didn't criticize Studds when he did it?

You have this idea that the Democrats should have removed Studds - do you mean from their party or from Congress altogether? In either case, why? If he's getting re-elected, what business is it for the party hierarchy to tell the voters in his district that they cannot have the representative he wants?

It would be hypocrisy if Democrats had been demanding Foley's expulsion but hadn't been demanding the same of Studds. Is that what's going on? I think Democrats are far more interested in two things: Foley's ongoing hypocrisy in passing anti-Internet predator laws while he is secretly violating the same laws he is pushing, and the apparent fact that the party leaders knew that he was doing all of this, and yet kept him in a position of power. Is there any evidence that the Democrats did the same thing with Studds?

Did Tip O'Neill work with Studds to pass anti-gay legislation, while being aware that Studds was having an affair with a 17-year old page? If that was the case, then sure, you'd have an argument for hypocrisy.

Should Studds have been expelled? I don't know. I don't approve of Studds abusing his position of power, but OTOH, I think it was a quite reasonable solution to leave the matter up to the voters. Ultimately it's up to the boss whether an abuse of workplace power should be a firing offense, and in this case the "boss" is not Tip O'Neill or Newt Gingrich, but the voters in Studds' district.

In any case, I think there's a world of difference between the political platforms of the 1980s Democrats and the Republicans today. Today's GOP is fairly openly trying to court votes by attacking the legitimacy of homosexuality. It is quite a different thing when Denny Hastert signs onto an agenda based on "the Defense of Marriage Act" on one hand, and then tolerates Foley's activities on the other hand. It really exposes the entire anti-homosexual agenda as a sham. It certainly shows that the GOP leaders who knew about this don't really have a moral problem with homosexuality, it's just that they have a _political_ problem with homosexuality.

It is a common misconception that the Democrats "lost" the House of Representatives based upon a shifting tide in America and disgust/anger, etc. with the Democrats. While there may have been some of that, it isn't quite the whole story.

A huge part of the shift was directly related to the sunbelt population shift in the 80's and early 90's. If you look at the census press release from '05, you'll see that mostly western and southern states (recent history = Republican) have enjoyed massive population growth. Because of this growth you see a shift in congressional seats and electoral college votes. Also, as these new seats are added, the traditionally republican state legislatures get to map out the new districts (read: gerrymander). Until/unless the new residents are able to replace Republican majority legislatures with Democratic majority legislatures, the congressional districts will continue to be established in ways that favor a Republican majority. Once in office a rep. has roughly a 95% chance of being reelected.

By dogmeatIB (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Ed, your memory is failing. Studds was NOT caught having an affair with a 17 year old page in 1983. Whatever occurred, occurred in 1973. According to Wikipedia (which is a good description as I remember it):

Studds is remembered chiefly for his role in the 1983 Congressional page sex scandal, when he and Representative Dan Crane were censured by the House of Representatives for separate sexual relationships with a minor - in Studds's case, a 1973 relationship with a 17-year-old male congressional page. The relationship was consensual, but violated age of consent laws and presented ethical concerns relating to working relationships with subordinates.

During the course of the House Ethics Committee's investigation, Studds publicly acknowledged his homosexuality, a disclosure that, according to a Washington Post article, "apparently was not news to many of his constituents." Studds stated in an address to the House, "It is not a simple task for any of us to meet adequately the obligations of either public or private life, let alone both, but these challenges are made substantially more complex when one is, as I am, both an elected public official and gay."

As the House read their censure of him, Studds turned his back and ignored them. Later, at a press conference with the former page standing beside him, the two stated that what had happened between them was nobody's business but their own.

I would infer from the italized portion that, except for Studds and the former page, nobody knows what happened between them, in particular nobody knows whether there was any sexual activities between them.

In point of fact, the Studds controversy arose contemporaneously with a controversy involving Dan Crane, Republican representative from Illinois. Also according to Wikipedia:

After his 1982 re-election, Crane was charged with having a sexual relationship in 1980 with an underage female congressional page and was censured by the House in 1983. Crane plead guilty to the charge and issued profuse, tearful apologies.

Note the difference. Crane had pleaded guilty to a charge of having a sexual relationship with an underage female congressional page, but Studds had not pleaded guilty to anything. The likely reason that the House Ethics Committee involved Studds at all in 1983 was the make-up of the House Ethics Committee: evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. It was highly unlikely that the Ethics Committee would have taken up the Crane case unless the Democrats could come up with a "sacrificial lamb" that could be tarred by the committee, and Studds was it.

I've been noticing a lot of people these days who, after finally getting up the minimal reality testing necessary to understand that the current Republican Party is an absolute disaster, and one which is in the process of self-immolation to boot, find it also necessary to find some perceived flaw in the Democratic Party and beat the dead horse until it's bloody.

Oooh, a political party that stands accused of hypocrasy. How horrible! Wow, you sure are perceptive Ed, for bringing up a 20+ year old scandal over a 30+ year old event. If the Democratic Party gets back into power, I'm sure that you'll never have to say that you supported them, so it won't be your fault if they screw something up.

In short, I'm much more interested in why you find it necessary to post such a lame attempt at being "even handed."

Excellent post by raj, I want to reiterate something:

While Studds was reeleacted and Crane was not, this does not mean the GOP refused to "allow" Crane to run for reelection, (how could they have?)

Indeed, Crane ran for reelection, but both his district (the 19th) and the district of Democrat Paul Simon (the 24th) were dissolved and both ended up in the 22nd District.

Paul Simon had, at this point, been in the House since 1975 and had previously been a Lt. Gov. of Illinois. He wasn't a neophyte running against Dan Crane.

But I do have to point out, your statement, while intentional or not, implied that the entire Democratic party supported Studds, etc.

It's funny, not one of my commenters said anything about my 2 or 3 posts blasting the Republicans about this or ever claimed that I was implying that the entire Republican party supported Studds. Only when I went after the Democratic party did the howls of outrage begin at my allegedly unfair generalizations. I think that's a meaningful observation.

I think I've made my point pretty clear. What Crane did was vile. What Studds did was vile (and no, I don't care whether he formed a long term relationship with the kid afterwards, it's still vile). What Foley did was vile. All three should have been run out of the party they were in on a rail, and anyone who would continue to vote them back into office after doing that needs serious help. Studds got a slap on the wrist and was voted back into office when he should have been completely ostracized from the Democratic party. Crane got a slap on the wrist, but at least the voters in his district were decent enough to vote the bastard out. Foley has resigned in disgrace and will likely face prosecution under a law he helped write. And hopefully Hastert will be forced to resign as well (which he should have done long ago for so many reasons). At least one of those three situations will end with justice being served because the first two certainly didn't.

I think I've made my point pretty clear. ... At least one of those three situations will end with justice being served because the first two certainly didn't.

All of which I agree with 100%, and absolutely none of which has anything to do with the point you initially made in the first post, to wit:

But it's important to recall those details because it shows that both parties are being equally hypocritical in this situation.

I believe that what you MEANT to write is what you just posted, but that's not what you ACTUALLY wrote. The sticking point for most of the commenters on this thread was the word "hypocrisy", which does not appear in your final post on the subject, but is the title of the first. There's no "hypocrisy" here on either side of the aisle, it was a really bad choice of words. Had your last post been the first one, I doubt anyone would've done much beyond nod and say "Ayup." It's this bizarre charge of hypocrisy in comparing the events of 1983 with Foley today that makes no sense with regards to either Republicans or Democrats. It just doesn't fit, at all.

Anyway, this dead horse is beat, thanks for the interesting discussion all. Love the blog, Ed, thanks for that last post, that pretty much cleared it up for me.

Ed kinda likes to be. like, purer than driven snow, y'see, in some of his libertarian pretensions.
We all have our faults, and this is one where his rather minor and forgiveable, only slightly annoying semi-hypocrisy pops its head from under his own tiny rock for us to see.
Charming, in a way...

He would have gone back to the 18th Century to find something to "balance the scales" if it had ben needed, and records or even rumors existed of such.

It's nice to have that ounce of distrust in anyone who spends so much time presenting their opinions, however much one generally agrees with them. I'm sure I might have criticisms of Gandhi's blog as well.

I must add that I'll be far more annoyed if he starts yammering on this theme (unless the Dems actually play unfair).

Still, this isn't some dispassionate analysis he's made, but an annoying and short-sighted strut before we have half the information we need to begin to judge the politics (and hypocrisy) that are involved.

By goddogtired (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Only when I went after the Democratic party did the howls of outrage begin at my allegedly unfair generalizations. I think that's a meaningful observation.

Sure. It means you're wrong. You were right to criticize the Republicans. Equating Democrats of the 1980s with the GOP today? Well, let's so you've got a long way to go to make a coherent argument explaining exactly what your point is. You say "hypocrisy" but you don't say how or why.

The fact that you're off by ten years about when the affair happened tends to undercut your credibility. But you're the one exposing bias? Bravo!

He would have gone back to the 18th Century to find something to "balance the scales" if it had ben needed, and records or even rumors existed of such.

Well, y'know. The founder of the political party known today as the Democrats *was* alleged to have had an affair with one of his slaves.

I must say, I'm rather enjoying all of this dispassionate analysis of my biases.

I do believe that you are a little off here.

At least Foley realized what he did was wrong and left office; Studds maintained that he had done nothing wrong and stayed in office.

Hypocrisy? No. Foley himself decided to resign from office and not run for re-election. That was his choice, although he probably had more than a bit of help in his decision from the Republican party leadership. And Foley did that even though he had not been censured or reprimanded by the House. Since Foley decided not to run for re-election, we have no idea whether his constituents would have re-elected him to office despite the scandal.

Studds, on the other hand, chose to run for re-election despite the censure, nobody put up a primary fight against him (as far as I can recall), and he was re-elected with a healthy margin. Why? Because he served his district very well. I don't know how well Foley served his district. Studds--despite being a WASP--spoke Portuguese (his district included Fall River and New Bedford, which are huge Portuguese-American fishing towns), he served on the relevant maritime and fisheries committee and he "brought home the bacon." Of course his constituents would re-elect him.

There's no hypocrisy.

Ed sees he, unusually, put one foot in "it" and the other in his mouth. What a LOT of responses to the criticism of his loyal readers, and getting just a bit snippier each time.

Drop it, Ed. You blew your wad before the cards were dealt out properly.

No apology is necessary, between friends. Everyone screws the pooch, given enough opportunities.

By goddogtired (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Raging Bee --

Sorry not to have replied earlier; I'm on vacation with family right now and have just discovered to my horror that, while away on a sightseeing trip in the North Carolina mountains, 58 comments have intervened. (!) Here are your questions to me:

Jason: how, exactly, do you propose to prevent such "relationships of such unequal power dynamics," expecially when the "inferior" party both consents and expects -- rightly or wrongly -- to benefit?

And do adult relationships between persons of noticeably unequal socio-economic status also meet your disapproval?

And here are my answers:

One way to prevent relationships of such unequal power dynamics is to enact age-of-consent laws. This is a sensible measure that stops vastly more foul play than legitimate, um, intercourse.

Now, sixteen years old is by most definitions pretty much at the bleeding edge of consent -- before this, certainly not. At it, just maybe. Afterward, then I think we have a much greater likelihood of unforced consent.

But another way to stop abuse is for businesses (and Congress) to recognize that relationships between bosses and underlings are highly suspect. That they are subject to firing. That they are almost inherently manipulative. And because both consent and boss/underling issues were at play here, and because of the vast power inequality, the whole thing is sleazy and inexcusable.

This is not a gay rights issue, as some have made it out to be. This is a question of basic liberty for the minor involved, whether he is gay, straight, bisexual, or undecided. He deserves to be left alone for now, so that he can figure this stuff out on his own. At the very least, he shouldn't have his boss, a man three times his age, pushing him into any kind of decision.

As to relationships between adults of different socioeconomic status, no, I'm not worried. These relationships are not problematic because, generally speaking, the superior does not have it in his or her power to have the inferior fired. Which is how it ought to be. Meanwhile, a congressman in most situations might easily have a page dismissed. This would be an awful blot on the youngster's reputation, and something that should never be permitted here for reasons of refusing a sexual advance.

Meanwhile, that a page has in effect had a congressman dismissed -- well, it warms my heart. The system may yet be working, as this particular power relationship was not abused with impunity. Equality under law won out, and I am very happy that it did.

I can think of one rather clear difference between the Foley case and the Studds/Crane case: Foley had been hitting on multiple pages for at least 5 years, and many of them were unhappy about it; some of them have said they felt too intimidated to speak out about it. There's no indication that Studds and Crane were involved in anything but isolated incidents.

Most of what I've heard says that the guy in the Studds case was an aide, not a page, and worked for someone other than Studds.

Yawn. Yeah, the whole damn place has been running downhill ever since randy ol' Tom Jefferson was bonking Sally Hemmings. That whole so-called "Declaration of Independence", why, just a tattered tissue of hypocrisy. Should tear the whole thing up and go back to HRH with hat in hand and begging pardon. Double Yawn.

We are always going to have this sort of shit going on, especially if this country continues to have all its Victorian hangups about sex. Personally I find Foley more culpable because he was his party's go-to guy on child molestation and wrote the law he's presumably guilty of breaking. Sex scandals don't significantly affect my views of either party.

By justawriter (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Ed, you're spot on, and that's coming from a liberal Democrat.

It's shameful that the Democrats allowed Studds to run as their party's representative after his behavior was exposed. There's no excuse for it beyond pure powermongering and gamesmanship for the sake of the party.

Of course, this doesn't mitigate the Foley scandal one bit, contrary to what the few remaining Republican apologists have been peddling for the past few days. (Even Michelle Malkin has blasted the House leadership on this, for crying out loud.)

By Andrew Wyatt (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Ed writes:

Crane got a slap on the wrist, but at least the voters in his district were decent enough to vote the bastard out.

Well, again Ed, the voters in Cranes's district changed from 1982 to 1984 when both his district and Paul Simon's district got redistricted and merged into the same district.

Dan Crane wasn't going to beat Paul Simon in southern Illinois, page screwing or no page screwing. Paul Simon was, by then, already a legendary and much beloved figure in southern Illinois. Crane was not.

You avoid this, but it is significant. Nuance does matter, Ed. Most of the time you seem to get this.

The GOP did not dump Crane, the Democrats did not dump Studds; and neither really could have. For crying out loud, the Democrats have dumped Joe Lieberman and they can't seem to make him leave.

But we will never know what the voters in Crane's district would have done because that district simply ceased to exist.

Studds maintained that he had done nothing wrong and stayed in office.

I've been seeing characterizations the last few days that Crane apologized "tearfully" and that Studds was "defiant." That may not be an accurate characterization of what actually happened.

TIME Magazine, July 25, 1983

Both Congressmen admitted their misconduct. Studds' dalliance occurred a decade ago with a 17-year-old boy, just after the Congressman's election to the House. Last week, in an extraordinary speech on the House floor, he confirmed unapologetically what had long been rumored--that he was a homosexual--and granted that he had made "a very serious error in judgment" in sleeping with the page.

Studds, who is unmarried, said only that he was wrong to have had sex with a congressional subordinate, no matter what the page's age or sex. "It is not a simple task for any of us to meet adequately the obligations of either public or private life," Studds told his rapt colleagues. "But these challenges are made substantially more complex when one is, as am I, both an elected public official and gay."

[snip]

Congressman Daniel Crane, 47, in a brief written apology, said, "I'm sorry that I made a mistake. I'm human, and in no way did I violate my oath of office. I only hope my wife and children will forgive me."

[snip]

Studds, regarded by many House colleagues as a most effective member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, says he will "of course" serve out his term. In fact, many of his constituents seemed surprisingly supportive last week. Said Boston Political Consultant Michael Goldman: "Now that he is out of the closet, he could become even more effective." The prospects are less clear for Crane, the brother of Illinois Representative Philip Crane, who sought the 1980 G.O.P. presidential nomination. "This does not fit the image Dan Crane has tried to portray," says Danville Lawyer Tom Lindley. "This makes it less likely he'll run for re-election." On Saturday, Crane said he would not resign. His press secretary, William Mencarow, suggested the entire matter was no big deal. "If we required the resignation of all Congressmen who slept with young ladies," he said, "we wouldn't have a Congress." He later apologized for the observation.

"I must say, I'm rather enjoying all of this dispassionate analysis of my biases." -Ed

And it's at this point that I'm reminded of why I hate blogs. I came to trust Mr. Brayton for a passionate and interesting perspective on religion, politics, science, the intersection of such, etc.

And, for the most part, that's what I got. But as with every blogger, with the nature of blogging, once an ego is bruised, we are all reminded that these people are not journalists (or acting as such through their blog), and can and will put their own reputation ahead of a reasonable argument or a truth.

And who can blame them? When you've got ten people constantly willing to call you out when you mess up, like hovering gnats, who wouldn't get defensive?

There's an ethical code for journalists (I'm not talking about Fox News). There's even looser code for op-ed writers. Certainly, they do not always follow it. But, the big difference between the paper and the blog is that papers print corrections, but bloggers can't afford to (or refuse to).

And, in case Mr. Brayton still feels he's dead-on, for the last time, commentors are not addressing bias, or hugging the democrats, or trying to justify Studds getting re-elected, or whatever else (well, most of them aren't). They are, as Mr. Brayton is rather adept at, pointing out a logical error. Hypocrisy was not a justifiable claim for the Democrats here! I'm not even addressing the Republican side--

You know, with this administration, and this congress, it sucks that even someone like Mr. Brayton would try to pin a bit of the stink of this scandal on the Democrats. I thought that was for Fox News.

Look, if they're hypocrits, prove it. Don't tell me about how those guys back in the 80's should've tarred and feathered the guy, and then metaphor those guys into the Democratic institution, and then cry hypocrisy. That's wrong. If someone from World Nut posted something like that, you'd highlight it and say something about how you can't believe that anyone reading that takes it as truth. How people can still advocate something illogical even in the face of good counter-argument.

Well, can you believe it now? I can.

As I wrap up for the night let me assocaite myself with Dave H's remarks.

I'm a liberal, I'm proud to be a liberal and I call myself a Democrat. But, you know, when Gerry Studds slept with that page I was five years younger than the page.

I remember the controversy, but I remember it the way an interested twelve year old remembers such things. I'll be dipped if, as a memeber of the "institutional Democratic Party" I'm now a hyprocrite for being outraged by the GOP response to Mark Foley.

Ed, I'm really sorry we don't have a comparable Democratic scandal fresher than thirty years for you to point to. Eventually, human nature beign what it is, one will come up. When it does, you can call us hypocrites if we react like the GOP.

But... Really, Ed.

We expected better from you; and that's a sign of repsect for you, not psychoanalysis.

Please stop complaining about the analysis of your biases (although you are certainly free to ignore my advice); after all, you've spent a lot of time examining the "hypocrisy" of an institutional entity based on what appear to be your very sketchy and incomplete rememberances and understandings of events decades in the past.

Not your finest hour.

While I don't want to join with all of the Ed-bashing above, I have to say that on thinking it over, I don't really think the hypocrisy charge sticks. Not only are we mostly not dealing with the same people, but the circumstances are different too. A one-time incident that happened ten years before it was discovered is quite different from what we now seem to face -- namely, a pattern of abuse and manipulation. Both are wrong, but there are questions of degree here, and they ought to count for something.

A few more points and I'm outta this thread...

First, let's be a little careful how we fling about adjectivees like "vile." Whatever Studds, Crane and Foley did with underage pages was consensual, and, IIRC, the "victims" were at least 16, not, say 8 or 10, which makes a big difference. Let's save the word "vile" for acts that do actual harm -- like, say, a gay man like Foley supporting a homophobic party platform to cover his own sorry ass.

Second, I think there's a good reason why Studds got reelected after his scandal broke, while Crane got dumped: Studds showed some semblance of guts in admitting what he had done and refusing to cave in to the moralizing; while Crane looked utterly pathetic by dragging his family in front of a camera and hiding behind them while blubbering his Swaggertesque apology. Also, Studds' party was not the "rigid sexophobe" party, which got him out of the hypocricy bind; and IIRC Studds was not married, which meant he couldn't be charged with "infidelity" either.

Third, it's a bit lame to try to call the Democrats "hypocritical," based on a link between a recent event and something that happened a quarter-century ago, when the Democrats had a completely different leadership. I think we all know there's a far more dangerous hypocricy than that going on here that's more worthy of our attention.

Let us compare:
Studds:
Wrong because of page's being under age, age-differential, power relationship, but also it is a single one-time serious ongoing committed relationship. Entire house, both parties including Dems. condemn it publically once it is known about.

Foley:
11 years of continuously pursuing any and all underage Page's who come within his line of fire, known about by all the pages, most reject him but he keeps on coming on, as his own one party house leadership learns about, they make repeated efforts to cover it up, encourage him to run again, deny info to democrat on page committee, take his money, bribe reporters to cover-up...

Sounds the same to me.

By dr.steveb (not verified) on 04 Oct 2006 #permalink

I really enjoy your blog, Ed, but I'm confused as to the argument you're putting forth here.

I accept at face value that all three incidents (Studds, Crane, Foley) are abuses of power and should be strongly condemned. But... so what?? I don't understand the point of going back 20 years to find a similar Democratic scandal, considering that the composition of the Democratic half of Congress has changed significantly since that time. As for me personally, I was born in 1982, so as you can guess, the Studds controversy is not exactly ingrained in my political memory.

Charges of institutional hypocrisy are easy to level because every organization has some blemishes on its record. But that ignores the fact that organizations are made up of people and that makeup changes. If there were a similar scandal involving a Democratic politician going on at the same time, and Democrats were trying to excuse that person while attacking Foley, that would be genuine hypocrisy. This, in my opinion, doesn't really qualify.

Joseph Califano, the lead investgator in the 1982/83 probe, has an op-ed in today's Washington Post. He says that Tip O'Neill told him to go wherever the evidence led; despite the fact that the two pages making the original charges on CBS soon recanted, the investigation went forward. He writes that Crane resigned, which doesn't square with what's been posted here and elsewhere, so take his recollection with a bit of salt. I don't think that that small inaccuracy blunts the main thrust, though.