Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley Unbelievably Ordinary for DC

Fmr. Rep. Foley did something very wrong. And for that he will be punished, ironically, by the same laws he helped enact during his tenure in the House of Representatives. This much is highly probable. Whatever else can be expected from "Foleygate" remains, for now, shrouded by government intrigue. Certainly calls for the Speaker of the House to resign and an already close election conspire to make prognostication attractive, but unfortunately, no more advisable as a practice. This political situation is simply too extraordinary, weird, and without precedent.

Or is it? Perhaps not, at least from a perspective jaded inside this accursed Beltway. The strange, perverted and downright criminal behavior of congressman is a tastelessly celebrated Washington institution that occurs free of variables such as full red moons, biblical weather patterns and moribund Republican majorities. The figures guilty of hiring prostitutes, groping women or even more serious transgressions are largely familiar: Gary Condit, Bill Clinton, James McGreevey, Barney Frank, Wilbur Mills, Bob Livingston, Grover Cleveland, Thomas Jefferson, Bob Packwood, Drew Nixon, Lester Crawford, most Kennedy men, and hundreds of other here unnamed power brokers. Even in now distant 1983, two congressmen (Gerry Studds and and Dan Crane) were outed for having engaged in sexual relationships with pages. And many more of these men did indeed commit crimes as least as reprehensible as solicitation of a minor. Particular acts were arguably more heinous. Ted Kennedy infamously left a sweetheart at the bottom of a Massachusetts estuary, and Gary Condit's suspicious circumstances beg equally troubling speculation. Rape, murder, harassment, betrayal, and numerous grave sins have stained Capitol soil.

Far from an attempt to rationalize or trivialize Mark Foley's alleged crimes, my grim analysis of sexual wickedness in Washington is meant to convey sad truths about power, corruption and evil. Too many Americans view these depressing instances as either isolate incidents or the wild corollaries of grand corruptions. Often these are not the case, as the root problem is as old as time. Even back to when King David spilled innocent blood out of covetous greed and lust, men of power have let their often dominance genes go wildly unchecked. Powerful people seek to control in all aspects of their lives, and the result is too often the treating of the weak as chattel. Seducing an intern or hitting on a page are just two more twisted examples of a disturbing, primal assertion of power by the strong over the powerless.

Acknowledging fully that my assessment is overwhelming bleak, I still summon little in the way of adequate consolation. Politics will continue, as it has for millenia, to attract a number of unbalanced individuals who will treat ethical and moral consequences as irrelevant issues for "great men." But we are not without recourse in a democratic system. Free elections and independent courts are the primary levers of justice, and other reforms like tougher term limits could help check previously unregulated egos. Most difficultly, and therefore most unlikely, citizens must decide to move their culture in a direction that rejects the roots of criminal government. A country that tolerates The Real World, gangster rap and the rationalizations of William Jefferson Clinton has to expect a certain degree of value-related decline.

Yet in the end, unless the next Congress approves genetic selection at birth (which, if Democratic, is a potentiality), some politicians will remain sadistically warped, and Mark Foley will continue as an unremarkable example of just more of the same.

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