My colleague JM stopped by my office this morning to ask me to take a quick look at his exam. While I scanned it (I caught one small typo for him), he saw what was on my desktop computer screen. I had Google News in one window and my blog in another.
“Is that the guy from Florida?”
“Foley? No, that's a different politician. I was reading all about it this weekend, though.”
“My daughter was in the capital page program.”
I had forgotten. JM went on.
“She had dinner with the congressman.”
This did not compute.
“With Foley? Really?”
“Yeah. He invited two pages to have dinner with him and they invited my daughter and another girl to go with them.”
“These pages were boys?”
“Yeah, but they were too smart to go by themselves, so they took the girls to their dinner with Foley.”
Now it made sense.
“Did your daughter have a good time?”
“Oh, definitely! The congressman was all charm at dinner. However, she also ran into him when she was by herself and it was like she was invisible.”
JM is a conservative Republican and I'm a liberal Democrat. We get along just fine, though, mostly avoiding politics as a topic and concentrating on our common focus on math teaching. We're both demanding teachers and we both affect a slightly laid-back manner. His normal blustery manner was a little edgier than usual. JM continued:
“All the pages knew about Foley. If it was common knowledge among all those teenagers, it had to be known among the congressmen.”
JM was not buying the GOP cover story.
“Well, I agree with you,” I said. “Dennis Hastert will not be speaker after November, either because Pelosi takes over or because the GOP caucus has to choose someone else. The Foley scandal is going to cost some other members their seats, too, probably including Shimkus and Alexander.”
“I met Shimkus at the banquet for pages at the end of their internships. He seemed like a really nice guy, but it was his business as the guy in charge to know what was going on with the pages. This happened on his watch.”
“The GOP House leadership is going to be wiped out by this,” I said. “As a partisan Democrat, I welcome anything that will kick those guys out, but I have to say they deserve it.”
“They most certainly do,” said JM, Republican Party stalwart. “They had a chance to clean this up a long time ago.”
Defenders of the GOP majority have been whining that the mass media are not being careful enough in their reports, failing to make a clear distinction between the “over friendly” e-mails and the sexually explicit Instant Messages. It's understandable, they say, that Hastert and his minions failed to act in the Foley case because they had seen only the less incriminating e-mails and not the blatant IMs. Therefore, goes the argument, Hastert should be given credit for admonishing Foley after the e-mails came to his attention last year. The GOP should be given a pass for not suspecting that the smoke was a clue about a poorly concealed fire. I mentioned this to JM.
“Oh, they knew,” he said, “but they didn't want to know.”
I mentioned the latest news item on the Foley story.
“Did you hear the morning news? Foley has checked into a rehab clinic. Apparently it was alcohol that made him sexually harass those boys.”
JM's response was unusually earthy:
It's going to be a bad year for House Republicans. But they deserve it.
Update: I'm not the only one who thinks Hastert is doomed. Someone with better insider connections than mine shares my view emphatically. This is from a former staffer for House Republicans:
Hastert is finished. The only question is whether it is now or later. Regardless of the election outcome, Hastert won't be Speaker next year. If the Democrats take the House, then, obviously, Pelosi will be Speaker. If the Republicans somehow hang on, there are enough House Republicans who will withhold their support so he won't have enough votes to remain as Speaker...The writing is on the wall—and in the headlines.