Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Foley Affair--- Are Americans still so uncomfortable with sex?

The Foley affair now raging in the US makes me rather uneasy. Make no mistake; Foley is a self loathing hypocrite; I am also, of course, delighted that the Republicans are taking a hit, but the issue threatens to be exploited by the right in their anti gay campaign, as noted by the NY Times editorial of 5 Oct. Pat Buchanan, for example, used the Foley affair as an occasion to remark absurdly that there is a proclivity toward child abuse among homosexuals. Furthermore, the manner in which the whole discourse around the Foley affair is couched makes me suspect that not as much has been accomplished by the so called sexual revolution that supposedly started about 40 years ago.

The real issue here is not Foley’s sexual orientation, but rather that a man who made political hay out of an anti- pedophilia campaign has, in fact, documented pedophile tendencies himself. (Calling 16 year olds children, especially since 16 year olds are allowed to marry in many states --- and many have already engaged in sex with their contemporaries--- is absurd, but that is how Foley himself defined the issue in his anti pedophilia campaign.) Foley's "crime," as it were, is essentially hypocritical political exploitation of a sensationalistic topic.

He is morally reprehensible, but it is, in fact, unclear that Foley committed any crime for which he could be charged: The e mail messages were suggestive, but neither obscene nor graphic. Moreover, although Foley is being portrayed as a child molester, there, as yet, been no indication that he ever so much as touched any of the pages. There was no physical, much less sexual contact.

The argument of unfair exercise of power is also doubtful, since none of the pages concerned worked directly for Foley, and he, as far as I know, in no way attempted to coerce them. Moreover, the work environment hardly entailed a boss/ employee relationship in which sexual harassment could take place.

The congressional pages are not dependent for their livelihood upon their income from that work, nor is service as a congressional page an essential part of a career trajectory. Therefore, it is not at all clear that a page would have suffered damaging consequences if he had simply asked Foley to stop messaging him or even if he had taken more serious action against him. It seems, moreover, that pages have, in fact, complained about the messages, and while no action was taken against Foley, no action seems to have been taken against the complaining pages, either. To be presecutible, harassment and abuse of power have to have consequences. There don't seem to have been any here.

I hardly want to be in the position of defending Mr. Foley. As I said, he is a self- loathing hypocrite. But he is more pathetic than detestable; he was obviously self destructive enough to put his future in the hands of adolescents, without any reason to trust that they would keep his confidence. He may even have been sufficiently arrogant to believe that these teenagers would have been so taken with his charm and position that they would not take any action against him. Mr. Foley, however, in the world of politics, has no monopoly on the sin of arrogance.

His actions, then, while hypocritical, inappropriate, morally reprehensible, and outright stupid, hardly seem to be criminal. Nevertheless, he is being portrayed by both parties and even in the more responsible press as a full- fledged child molester whose homosexuality is stressed at every turn. As the Times editorial mentioned above brought out, there are many more important scandals involved with this congress and administration that have received considerably less notice. Nevertheless, Americans seem to be transfixed by the Foley affair, as they were by the Monica Lewinsky affair during the Clinton administration. And here, there wasn't even any documentable sexual activity involved!

That the Democrats are making as much political hay out of this affair as possible is understandable, but that the Republicans are eager to enflame the situation even more, constantly stressing Foley’s sexual orientation, seems to be a very ominous sign. Moreover, even the gay community seems eager to rush in to condemn Foley as a vicious sexual predator, not just as a legislative and political hypocrite. Should we really be buying into this?


Blogger RIC said...

Another rabbit out of the cylinder hat, I believe...
So we gays are all now pervertsd persons. Pat Buchanan said «Homosexuals rproduce sexually by molesting children.»
As I read in a comment somewhere, «the minute thereafter he could just drop dead: I'd be dancing on his grave.» This may be hatred, but I have to agree. I'm so sick and tired and fed up of all this absolute non-sense. It seems as if no one is properly thinking anymore.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

It's politics as usual!!!! I think the piece missing in your excellent writing - is timing! The elections are less than a month away. This is a perfect diversion for both parties. The gay card is suitable for swaying disgruntled republican voters back onto the republican bandwagon! And as far as there being no evidence of anything - I'd hold off on that statement, as I believe there's more than meets the eye ;)

10:38 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Yes, I have to agree with Joshua, it is all about timing. It has been going on for 10 years now, and some brainiac (Karl Rove? Betcha.) thought now would be the perfect time to divert all the pundits away from the debacle in Iraq, the resurgence of lots of Democratic candidates, and the free-fall of their Republican challengers and incumbents. We all need to keep our eyes and ears open for more October surprizes. I'm sure there will be a few more.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Gray said...

Agreeing with the above comments, I might also point out that some Republican politicos are now asking, "What Democrats knew of the situation and when did they know it?"

This is, on *both* sides, political B.S. at its finest! Foley's follies would have come to light at one time or another - why one month from the elections?

Methinks I smell a rat!

2:33 AM  
Blogger Mr.Brian/Mr.Fletcher said...

And of course yet another diversion to lead American minds off of gasoline prices suddenly dropping a peak $0.70 just before elections, because Americans are talking...."Prices will go up after elections". RE the war: "More troops will be sent in after the elections." But to focus on the sexual conservativism of America and prey on their wildest fears by deliberately misleading them into thinking the the gay democrats are coming to eat or convert their children is the ultimate Republican election smear campaign tool. One of our local Democrats was "outed" because one of his staff leaked some rather suggestive body painting photos from his computer to a local news station. Yep, politics as usual. And it makes me sick.

9:54 AM  

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