Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Hasn't Anyone Done A Reality Show About Congress Yet? Or Did I Miss It?


I had a wonderful dinner last night with a former Republican congressman. He's still a Republican-- a relatively enlightened one--but he's no longer a congressman, although he could be again someday. What a delightful and erudite guy... and so chock full of stories that I hope I can remember and relate to everyone as time passes. Like this one...

It's late summer, 1998. Clinton is presidente and Newt is Speaker. Clinton has signed a not very substantive bill prohibiting discriminating against federal workers because of their sexual orientation. (Remember Joe McCarthy is long dead and no one has tried this since... but Clinton had to give the gays something after he inflicted DOMA and DADT on the country.) But the religious right went berserk, as they tend to. And back then one of the crazier of their pet members was a Colorado sociopath named Joel Hefley. He proposed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill that was meant to roll back Clinton's meager pro-equality policy. My dinner partner went charging into Gingrich's office, past startled and unhappy flunkies, and demanded Gingrich stop what he was doing to talk with him about Hefley. They argued but eventually Gingrich agreed to force Hefley to withdraw the offensive amendment. And then our hero, said, "No, don't... we'll beat him on the floor tomorrow." And they did. 63 Republicans joined 188 Democrats to defeat the hateful and bigoted amendment. It went down 252-176. Of course 15 homophobic and reactionary Democrats, mostly Blue Dogs, voted with the GOP. Several of the Blue Dogs subsequently became Republicans, as Blue Dogs eventually do, and most of the rest were subsequently defeated or retired; the only ones who are still in Congress today who voted for the amendment are Ralph Hall (now a Republican), Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC) and Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN). Many Republican bigots who voted for Hefley's amendment are still in Congress today-- and still voting against equality for he LGBT community. Among those who are vulnerable to defeat in November are Charlie Bass (R-NH), Buck McKeon (R-CA), Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Ed Royce (R-CA). If you want to help their opponents this year, you'll find Ann Kuster, Lee Rogers, Aryanna Strader and Jay Chen here on this page. And by the way, most of the GOP closet queens in the House at the time voted NO, except Lindsay Graham (R-SC). So who's the hero of which I speak? Get ready... Mark Foley. Long time DWT readers might find that somewhat ironic. But, on the other hand, we had lots to talk about.

Unlike right-wing extremists Rick Santorum, Roy Blunt and Jim DeMint who endorsed him this morning, Rep. Foley is no fan of Todd Akin-- who once offered to "cure" him-- and something happened to Akin yesterday that is also an important piece of the Mark Foley puzzle, a piece I have written about before but a piece no one has ever been in the slightest bit interested in. It's about the important date a toxic candidate can no longer withdraw from an election, or at least a date on which the candidate's name will be on the ballot no matter what happens. Dead candidates have been on the ballot because of that and, as long as we're discussing a Missouri Senate seat, a candidate for that, Gov. Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash on October 16, 2000 and was elected to the U.S. Senate three weeks later, beating unhinged right-wing fanatic and incumbent John Ashcroft. Anyway, yesterday at 5pm, the deadline passed for Todd Akin-- Claire McCaskill's handpicked candidate-- to get off the ballot. He's widely viewed as unelectable, generally because he's deranged and insane and specifically because of that whole "legitimate rape" thing. Even if Karl Rove has him murdered-- as he threatened to do and as he probably did to Paul Wellstone-- Akin would still be on the ballot in November. Claire McCaskill has been such a pitifully mediocre senator that it would have been inconceivable she could have been reelected unless someone as bad as Akin were her opponent.

Now, back to Foley. Back in 2006 Blue America was backing a hardworking grassroots school teacher against Foley, who was one of the better-financed Republicans, a guy who was well-known and well-liked in his district. Our school teacher, Dave Lutrin, had little money and less chance to beat Foley, although with Foley there was always the chance that something would happen to out him as a closeted homosexual. It shocked me when Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer went nuclear on Lutrin and forced him out of the race. I'd seen them do similar things to progressives candidates, but never in a district where it didn't matter. I mean, why play so dirty when Foley was going to win anyway? But dirty it was-- they dried up all Lutrin's support and cash and literally forced him out of the race. And why? Rahm had found his favorite kind of candidate, a sleazy, corrupt conservative Republican who was willing to change his registration-- the way Patrick Murphy recently did to run in the same district by the way-- but only if Rahm and Hoyer could guarantee there would be no primary. Tim Mahoney was that Republican and he switched parties and started bragging to everyone that he would win because a huge scandal was going to break that would destroy Foley. He knew. He knew because Rahm told him. The problem is that knew for over a year but instead of moving to protect the congressional pages, Rahm moved to use the information for partisan gain-- and the hell with the pages. If they were in danger, he didn't give a damn. That's Rahm, always the sociopath and narcissist. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, needless to say, was in on this caper as well. Everyone sat tight on the info and they broke the story the day after it was too late for Foley-- who immediately resigned his seat (September 29, 2006) under threat of expulsion from Denny Hastert-- to get his name off the ballot. What a coincidence, huh?

Mahoney ran, as a Democrat, against Foley's name (with some other poor schnook explaining that if voters voted for the "child molester" he-- the schnook-- would get the seat. It actually almost worked! Mahoney won with 49% while "Foley" got 48%, 3% going to an independent. In Congress Mahoney promptly joined the Blue Dog caucus, set about compiling a corporately-funded campaign chest, a quasi-Republican voting record-- and a sex scandal to rival Foley's. He lost his re-election bid and a pathetic Republican zombie, Tom Rooney, replaced him after one pathetic term. Rahm Emanuel's greatest hit!

Monday I got to ask Foley if he knew. Did he ever! 

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At 2:27 PM, Anonymous PBCliberal said...

So there's this group of teenagers, each of them over 16, who are supposed to be among the best and the brightest up and coming politicians our country has to offer.

Mark Foley's interest in them is a secret so open that they joke about it.

Yet somehow every side in this issue tries to act as if these are little lambs whose protection should have trumped every other issue.

In fact, they're just pawns for every side, including here where the swipe against Rahm is that he should have been looking out for them instead of holding the Foley info back as an October surprise.

Come on. If we're going to view this whole debacle as the crass power play it was, then let's lose all the conceits, starting with the "poor little pages" rap.

These may be teenagers, but they're smart enough to look out for themselves even if they didn't have the staff giving them the heads up that Foley was the fox and they were the hens of the henhouse.


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