It's fitting that former Republican Congressman Mark Foley's sex scandal will do in the 40 days before the election what years of reporting on Bush administration incompetence and corruption couldn't -- end one-party rule in America.
Once upon a time, social conservatives used the sordid details of Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky to argue that, in contrast, Republican sexual proclivities were as mainstream as shopping at Wal-Mart.
Though more deeply closeted than Jim Nabors on the "Gomer Pyle, USMC" set, Mr. Foley, a practicing homosexual, took advantage of the hypocritical moment to denounce Mr. Clinton as a decadent libertine for his consensual affair with a grown woman.
Independent Counsel Ken Starr's prurient narrative of oral fixations in the Oval Office created enough of an illusion of moral probity on the part of the GOP to put the Democrats on the defensive for years.
Republican rule wasn't based on moral authority earned by good judgment and civic discipline. Judging by the legislation that comes out of D.C., there's always more talk of virtue than evidence of its practice.
Still, it was a winning strategy while it lasted. For years, Republican candidates won elections by promising to keep taxes low, their pants on and their zippers locked in the "up" position.
Demonizing "liberal Democrats" also became part of the appalling Kabuki dance of self-righteousness that dominates American politics in the Bush era. For tactical reasons, even so-called Democratic "moderates" joined in the bashing of their party's most loyal constituents.
Still, it was only a matter of time before the mandate of heaven would be brutally withdrawn from triumphalist Republicans. No party can expect to govern forever on a steady diet of triviality and cynicism.
Republicans used to do well on a ridiculous poll that asked who would do a better job baby-sitting the kids -- Republicans or Democrats. Thanks to Mark Foley, Americans aren't comfortable with Republicans baby-sitting their kids anymore.
As amusing as the Foley affair is as political schadenfreude, it's still a lowbrow sex scandal. At best it merely highlights the ineptitude of the Republican leadership as it tries to cover up its complacency and arrogance -- things we already know about.
Meanwhile, the GOP leadership is guilty of far worse sins than coddling a potential child predator.
In a properly functioning republic, the media and our political institutions would have dealt with Mr. Foley swiftly and with a minimum of hysteria. He's not as big a deal as the 24 American soldiers killed in an immoral war in Iraq since Saturday.
There's something about burgeoning sex scandals that cause even veteran journalists to lose perspective for a few days. The resources put into investigating Mr. Foley at the exclusion of the more pressing business of war and death in Iraq is shameful.
Given how news organizations from the Miami Herald to Fox News sat on tips about Foley's penchant for children for months, a certain amount of making up for past cowardice is to be expected, but wall-to-wall coverage is exploitative on its face.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert deserves all the criticism he's received for tolerating Foley's immoral shenanigans, but he and his cohorts truly deserve to lose their jobs for refusing to exercise even minimal congressional oversight of the war. What good are they if they refuse to carry out their constitutionally mandated business?
We'd be a far healthier democracy if Mr. Hastert was under fire for allowing Iraq to sink into a gurgling pool of its own blood. All we're doing is engaging in voyeurism for the sake of staying "informed."
What's the biggest danger to the values and long-term interests of the United States -- a do-nothing Congress that dithers during a half-a-trillion dollar war that has already claimed thousands of American and Iraqi lives or an obscure Florida congressman with masturbatory fantasies about teenaged boys?
This week, despite earlier denials, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that she was briefed on July 10, 2001, by former CIA Director George Tenet about al-Qaida's determination to kill thousands of Americans.
How do we account for Ms. Rice's selective memory? Isn't there something just a little bit scandalous about it? Where's the scrutiny?
Excuse me for reserving moral outrage over something truly worth risking a stroke over.
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