Mark Steyn's harsh, harsh judgment on the Foley matter. His column in the Chicago Sun-Times is scathing. He's hard on everyone involved in it, too. He's equally unimpressed with the response by Congressional Republicans as by the opportunistic and hypocritical Democrats leading the charge.
J. Dennis Hastert actually stood up in public and made that announcement. And, of course, the Democrats immediately denounced the notorious Gay Pedophile Ringleader of the House for the pitiful inadequacy of his page tip-line: Oh, sure, now he wants to set up 1-800-GAY-PAGE and invite anyone with info to use the secure log-in at www.GOPpredators.com, but where was he when the buck stopped here en route to the end-of-legislative-session communal showers? Speaker Hastert called in the FBI, the CIA, the DEA and announced an emergency bill to rename the BATF the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Pages. He declared Mark Foley's pants a federal disaster area. He voted a $4 billion reconstruction earmark to the congressional page program and invited Dubai Page World to run it. And, with every press conference designed to get himself out of the hole he'd dug at the previous press conference, the 50 percent of Americans who pay minimal attention to politics (which, if there's any justice, will be up to 93 percent by now) caught Hastert floundering on the evening news and thought, "So that's the gay pedophile, eh? Disgusting. There oughtta be a law against it."
Well, there is. Many laws, in fact. And it's not clear any of them were broken. It's a good basic rule of thumb that no matter how bad a scandal is, the political class' response will be worse, largely hysterical and lacking any sense of proportion. But, even by those minimal expectations, this last week has been unbecoming for a serious nation. In London, sex scandals come along every other week. You name it, British parliamentarians do it: three-in-a-bed, auto-erotic asphyxiation, gay teen flagellation, getting your toes sucked while wearing the soccer kit of Chelsea Football Club. But at least at Westminster, sex scandals require actual sex. That the governing party of the world's only superpower could be felled by one creepy pervert's masturbatory e-mails and IMs is an event historians will marvel at. Granted that the Roman Empire in its death throes got hung up on gay sex, the American hyperpower seems set to be the first to collapse over gay non-sex.
Harsh words for a foolish, or should we say Foleyish, scandal. A sideshow run by carnival barkers. Steyn, however, also has more faith in the voters than do the ones pimping this sideshow. He does not think it will have the effect that the Democrats expect.
And the answer to that is obvious. This was a honey trap (as they used to say in the Cold War) designed to leverage one peripheral figure's squalid fantasies into political opportunity. It's as predictable as the leaves falling from the trees, except that it only occurs every other autumn. Still, I take my hat off to the media and Democratic Party. Indeed, in the spirit of Bill Clinton, I take my pants off to them. It is a remarkable achievement to have transformed, in little more than a week, the GOP into the Catholic Diocese of Boston with Speaker Hastert as Cardinal Law and the page program as the massed ranks of 7-year-old altar boys. What an awesome force the Dems would be if only the ruthless skill and cunning that went into this operation could be applied to, say, national security.
But I very much doubt, despite the expertise with which the sheep have been rounded up and set baaing, that Showtime at the Foley Bergere will pay off in November. There are many legitimate reasons for electors to toss out the Republican Congress, but the notion that they're a hotbed of gay pedophile enablers is not one of them.
But by wasting all the effort and time on a sideshow, the Democrats are missing a chance to engage on real issues. It may be the worst strategic move they have made all year. A "scandal" such as this is unbecoming of a mature democracy. And ultimately unbecoming of the carnival barkers trying to upset an election with it.