The media and the blogosphere are brimming with comments on the sad story of Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who resigned from
Congress after ABC News made public some of the suggestive — and well beyond suggestive — e-mails and text messages he had exchanged with young male congressional pages.
Did the leadership fail to act when it had evidence that something at best creepy and, with the worst e-mails, possibly illegal, was happening?
Should Foley have been stripped of his chairmanship of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children when leaders were informed of disturbing e-mails months ago or longer? Should House Speaker Dennis Hastert resign?
Will this scandal torpedo the Republicans in the mid-term elections?
Was the news story timed to have a political impact?
The questions are endless and apparently endlessly fascinating.
An aspect too little appreciated is this scandal’s relationship to the arrogance of power, the abuse of power, and the insulation that power can provide to those tempted to test various limits.
Members of Congress are coddled and protected. They get special license plates that protect them from speeding tickets, staffs to attend to their personal and political needs and in many cases a “cone of silence” surrounding some of their questionable activities. It’s not surprising that some come to act as if they think they are invulnerable to criticism and don’t have to abide by the rules of civility, or law, that most of us observe.
We have certainly had sex scandals, and gay sex scandals, in Congress before. Former and current Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Gerry Studds and Barney Frank didn’t have to resign. Just this year Reps. Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham and William Jefferson have been caught in bribery schemes whose blatancy is best explained by the delusion that their power made them invulnerable.
So why not reduce their power by reducing the overall power of government? Good idea, but don’t expect others in Congress to embrace it.