Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mark Foley

RE: Like 2006 All Over Again

Rep. Eric Massa denies the allegation of sexual harassment and says he’s leaving due to health concerns. Politico reports that the issue is an allegation that “the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer. ” The ethics committee is said to have already interviewed another Massa staffer who brought the issue forward.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement:

The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa’s staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer’s staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer’s staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.

Some insist it’s just preposterous to bring Mark Foley into this (“But let’s get one thing straight: Massa is not Mark Foley. … Foley was forced to resign in ’06 after he admitted making inappropriate sexual advances to underage House pages”). Well, yes, it could always be worse. But it was Hoyer who knew what everyone was thinking and tried his best to make this a bipartisan matter: “I don’t think it helps anybody in the institution, any one of us on either side of the aisle. It certainly didn’t help Mr. Foley. … When there were allegations about Mr. Foley or others, I think the institution suffers.” Actually, the Republicans suffered mightily, in no small part because they didn’t quite have their act together about who knew what and what they did about it. Perhaps the Democrats have less vulnerability there.

But let’s be clear: every moment Democrats spend making the argument that their ethics sex scandal isn’t as damaging as the Republicans’ because their guy’s male victim wasn’t a minor is probably a bad one. Sure, it doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Rangel or health care or the other reasons Congress’s approval rating is in the teens. But in 2006 Foley’s scandal didn’t have anything to do with the Iraq war or voters’ upset over fiscal sloth (which seems innocuous compared with today’s runaway spending train). Then, as now, it was just one more reason for disgusted voters to say “Enough!” And lots of them will.

Rep. Eric Massa denies the allegation of sexual harassment and says he’s leaving due to health concerns. Politico reports that the issue is an allegation that “the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer. ” The ethics committee is said to have already interviewed another Massa staffer who brought the issue forward.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement:

The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa’s staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer’s staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer’s staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.

Some insist it’s just preposterous to bring Mark Foley into this (“But let’s get one thing straight: Massa is not Mark Foley. … Foley was forced to resign in ’06 after he admitted making inappropriate sexual advances to underage House pages”). Well, yes, it could always be worse. But it was Hoyer who knew what everyone was thinking and tried his best to make this a bipartisan matter: “I don’t think it helps anybody in the institution, any one of us on either side of the aisle. It certainly didn’t help Mr. Foley. … When there were allegations about Mr. Foley or others, I think the institution suffers.” Actually, the Republicans suffered mightily, in no small part because they didn’t quite have their act together about who knew what and what they did about it. Perhaps the Democrats have less vulnerability there.

But let’s be clear: every moment Democrats spend making the argument that their ethics sex scandal isn’t as damaging as the Republicans’ because their guy’s male victim wasn’t a minor is probably a bad one. Sure, it doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Rangel or health care or the other reasons Congress’s approval rating is in the teens. But in 2006 Foley’s scandal didn’t have anything to do with the Iraq war or voters’ upset over fiscal sloth (which seems innocuous compared with today’s runaway spending train). Then, as now, it was just one more reason for disgusted voters to say “Enough!” And lots of them will.

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Like 2006 All Over Again

If the Democrats didn’t have an increasingly unpopular president, an anti-Washington electorate, a limping economy, and enough ethics problems, along comes this:

Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) will not seek reelection after only one term in office. According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House Ethics Committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer. Massa, whose departure endangers Democrats’ hold on a competitive seat, told POLITICO Wednesday afternoon that no one has brought allegations of misconduct to him.

Yes, it does remind one of the 2006 Mark Foley scandal, although no word on the age of the staffer. One wonders if the media will be obsessed with uncovering what Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership knew about this one, and when they knew it. In any case, it’s more kindling on the fire and more reason for disgusted voters to throw incumbents out, most of whom, of course, are Democrats. On a day in which Democrats would no doubt be delighted to talk about the president’s determination to disregard the voters’ wishes on health-care reform … er … push through his signature legislation, they will instead be in for another bad news cycle.

If the Democrats didn’t have an increasingly unpopular president, an anti-Washington electorate, a limping economy, and enough ethics problems, along comes this:

Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) will not seek reelection after only one term in office. According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House Ethics Committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer. Massa, whose departure endangers Democrats’ hold on a competitive seat, told POLITICO Wednesday afternoon that no one has brought allegations of misconduct to him.

Yes, it does remind one of the 2006 Mark Foley scandal, although no word on the age of the staffer. One wonders if the media will be obsessed with uncovering what Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership knew about this one, and when they knew it. In any case, it’s more kindling on the fire and more reason for disgusted voters to throw incumbents out, most of whom, of course, are Democrats. On a day in which Democrats would no doubt be delighted to talk about the president’s determination to disregard the voters’ wishes on health-care reform … er … push through his signature legislation, they will instead be in for another bad news cycle.

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Rangel, Pelosi, and the Independent Vote

Liberals are jumpy these days. ObamaCare is teetering on the brink of collapse. The economy is languishing. And the president seems to have lost credibility with the voters and many within his own party. Then along comes the Charlie Rangel fiasco, and more thoughtful Democrats know enough to be panicky. Peter Beinart explains:

To understand why the Rangel scandals are so dangerous for Democrats, you need to understand something about midterm landslides: They’re usually composed of three parts. First, the other party’s activists are highly motivated. Second, your own activists are highly unmotivated. Third, independents want to burn Washington to the ground.

Beinart seems to think passing health-care reform will help keep Obama’s activists motivated, but he concedes that the independents are the real worry, and that’s where Rangel comes in:

Independents are the most fickle, the most cynical, and the least ideological people in the American electorate. When they’re unhappy with the state of the country, they tend to stampede the party in power—less because they disagree on the issues than because they decide that the folks running government must be malevolent and corrupt. In Washington, congressmen violate ethics rules all the time. But when independents get in one of their sour moods, these infractions become matches on dry tinder. In 1994, the scandals concerning [former Speaker Dan] Rostenkowski and the House bank helped sweep the Gingrichites into power. In 2006, according to exit polls, the scandals surrounding mega-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Mark Foley did more to lose the GOP control of Congress than did the Iraq war. Pelosi became speaker, in fact, by running against the GOP’s “culture of corruption” and promising the “most ethical Congress in history.”

As Beinart notes, some Democrats are pleading for Pelosi to toss Rangel overboard, but so far she’s not listening. That stubborn defiance is surely not going to sit well with those ready-to-stampede independents, who’ve had enough of self-dealing, backroom bargains and Beltway arrogance.

But if Beinart is right about the independents’ critical role, then perhaps he should reconsider that advice about passing health care. The activists might be mollified, but passing a bill hated by the electorate and especially independents increasingly concerned with the ongoing fiscal train wreck seems designed to make those independents even madder and more determined to “throw the bums out.”

So if Democrats want to keep the stampede at bay, they might bag Rangel and ObamaCare. But alas, Pelosi for now is determined to do the opposite. So keep an eye out for the thundering herd of independents — they seem poised to trample the Democrats.

Liberals are jumpy these days. ObamaCare is teetering on the brink of collapse. The economy is languishing. And the president seems to have lost credibility with the voters and many within his own party. Then along comes the Charlie Rangel fiasco, and more thoughtful Democrats know enough to be panicky. Peter Beinart explains:

To understand why the Rangel scandals are so dangerous for Democrats, you need to understand something about midterm landslides: They’re usually composed of three parts. First, the other party’s activists are highly motivated. Second, your own activists are highly unmotivated. Third, independents want to burn Washington to the ground.

Beinart seems to think passing health-care reform will help keep Obama’s activists motivated, but he concedes that the independents are the real worry, and that’s where Rangel comes in:

Independents are the most fickle, the most cynical, and the least ideological people in the American electorate. When they’re unhappy with the state of the country, they tend to stampede the party in power—less because they disagree on the issues than because they decide that the folks running government must be malevolent and corrupt. In Washington, congressmen violate ethics rules all the time. But when independents get in one of their sour moods, these infractions become matches on dry tinder. In 1994, the scandals concerning [former Speaker Dan] Rostenkowski and the House bank helped sweep the Gingrichites into power. In 2006, according to exit polls, the scandals surrounding mega-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Mark Foley did more to lose the GOP control of Congress than did the Iraq war. Pelosi became speaker, in fact, by running against the GOP’s “culture of corruption” and promising the “most ethical Congress in history.”

As Beinart notes, some Democrats are pleading for Pelosi to toss Rangel overboard, but so far she’s not listening. That stubborn defiance is surely not going to sit well with those ready-to-stampede independents, who’ve had enough of self-dealing, backroom bargains and Beltway arrogance.

But if Beinart is right about the independents’ critical role, then perhaps he should reconsider that advice about passing health care. The activists might be mollified, but passing a bill hated by the electorate and especially independents increasingly concerned with the ongoing fiscal train wreck seems designed to make those independents even madder and more determined to “throw the bums out.”

So if Democrats want to keep the stampede at bay, they might bag Rangel and ObamaCare. But alas, Pelosi for now is determined to do the opposite. So keep an eye out for the thundering herd of independents — they seem poised to trample the Democrats.

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