With the passing of former Congressman Gerry Studds (D-MA), I was disappointed to see that the Foley mess was given yet a fresh set of “legs” and brought up yet again. After all, Studds’ own sexualescapades with pages were often brought back up as a point of comparison for Foley’s Folly.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that it was a pretty weak comparison. Both were certainly reprehensible, but they had far more in common with other scandals than with each other.
For example, let’s look at what Gerry Studds did:
- Had sexual relations with someone nominally his subordinate
- Went to great lengths to conceal the relations
- Denied the relationship right up until confronted with proof
- When unable to deny it any longer, fully acknowledged it had happened
- Was fiercely defended by his fellow party members
- Ended up even more popular than ever, even lionized for his courage
- Almost certainly broke the law, either during the relationship or in trying to conceal it
- Retired “honorably,” and was still highly regarded years after leaving office
- Was a highly regarded Democrat
Toss in a black beret and a cigar, and you have the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal in a nutshell.
Now, as regards to the Foley mess:
- Most-publicized offense was very clumsy sexual come-ons, not actual sexual congress
- Did not violate any existing laws, or at least skirted them
- Rapidly became a laughingstock and punchline to jokes
- Resigned in disgrace after being abandoned by his party
- Became a pariah
- Instead of either embracing the offense or admitting it as a personal failing, fell back on excuses such as alcoholism to “explain” the misconduct
- Backed many laws that helped greatly those he allegedly victimized
That sounded awful familiar, so I started racking my brains, and then it hit me:
Mark Foley is the new Bob Packwood.
(And just to complete the comparison, both Foley and Clinton ran afoul of laws they themselves had championed — Foley was tireless in fighting the online sexual exploitation of children, Clinton had signed the law that made the accused’s past sexual conduct legally admissible in lawsuits alleging sexual harassment.)
(Can’t believe I forgot to add this)
If you’re going to survive a sex scandal, two elements will greatly assist you:
1) Be a Democrat.
2) Actually have sex.