A Tale of Two Foleys
Mark Foley is not the first Foley to create problems in the House of Representatives at a time when a shift in party power seemed to be looming.
Tom Foley (D-WA) was the House Speaker in 1994, and was amid a series of very relevant controversies which Republicans used very effectively to communicate that there existed a system in Congress where abuse of power was the norm and where the needs of the American people came second to the individual member's desire for privilege.
Specifically, Foley fought term limits. And when the State of Washington passed a law limiting terms, Foley sued to overturn it in what became an very useful development for Republicans and a PR disaster for him and a symbol of all that the Republicans were saying was wrong: "Tom Foley v. The People of the State of Washington".
Coupling that with the check-bouncing scandal, the disaster of the House Bank, a Congress that seemed filled with out of touch self-servants, dissatisfaction with the Clinton Administration, a Republican minority that publicly offered a very appealing plan to Americans, and any number of local factors, Both Foley and the Democrats were tossed.
Twelve years later, we see something not all that different. A President who allowed himself, through years of ineffective PR management to fall prey to what would have been feckless attacks against a much better organized communications team, rendering him a liability to his party, a Republican Congress no less disciplined than its Democrat predecessor of a dozen years before which has gladly allowed spending and government to continue to grow, a Congress that appears too cozy with lobbyists, including one who was paying off some of its members, a House Speaker with a hands-off management style, and now, another Foley who has touched on a very relevant issue of the day: pedophilia.
By itself, Foley's acts are his own, with the consequences being likewise. But along with the constellation of other difficulties the Republicans are dealing with this election cycle, this is one more unneeded complication. And rather than hitting the party, the Dems have gone after Speaker hastert, who is unquestionably the most high-profile weak link in this matter.
Part of the problem is that nobody but Hastert knows what the real story is. And the Hugh Hewitt take on the matter seems the most appropriate (focusing on the Dem's double standard in these matters, and the fact that this is several years old, with the IMs only surfacing on the eve of an election--the media's concern for the youths involved would be more believable if this had come out right away). But if Hastert's staff bungled the handling of this, it still creates problems for him, as the principal is liable for the failures of the subordinate.
And it's a big deal if it looks like Hastert ignored the acts of a pederast congressman, or at the very least gave an ineffective response. But regardless of what really happened, the Dems need to be careful here, because their behavior differes from that of their successors 12 years ago.
The Republicans of 1994 were much more effective than those today in their message, delivery, and sincerety. But the Democrats really haven't gained much in the way of credibility since then, and have very obviously been a very angry party out of power who seem to have a tin ear when it comes to the major issues of the day, and who have actually fought efforts to secure the nation from terrorism. And while it is a remarkably effective tactic to play Hastert as being careless in his duties, it is quite the opposite to go the usual hysterial route that they have been going, alleging intentional misbehavior, conspiracies and the like. It's the tactic of Nancy Pelosi, which is just as effective as having a "Twin Peaks" San Francisco Congresswoman at the top of the party's leadership.
And it's just like every other missed opportunity they have had over the past six years. They upped the populist rhetoric, accused Republicans of being conspirators of evil, and downplayed the threat of enemies in order to worship at the altar of political correctness, and generally gave Americans reasons to look to other candidates. They offer nothing other than "We're the least worst party." Not a winning strategy, but it may win them enough to secure a bare majority, and enough time to remind Americans why the Democrats of the 21st Century are a party best ignored on election day.
And perhaps the removal of a few Republicans might be a good thing. Because the 1994 revolution wasn't about party, but rather a movement. That movement died in 1998. And it may take a very cold two years to correct some unfortunate attitudes.
One Foley was part of the end of the Democrats. This Foley might be part of the end of the Republicans for a while. But we need not worry. A Congress of Republicans who now behave like the Democrats they ousted is likely one not worth keeping anyway.