Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nebraska Republicans Stand By Congressional Leaders Despite Sex Scandal Cover-Up

by Kyle Michaelis
The New Nebraska Network may be the last political website on Earth to mention the Mark Foley sex scandal that has dominated headlines and reinforced America's worst fears about the Republican Congress' corruption and incompetence. Although I've been known to do so on occasion, I don't like jumping to conclusions and I'm distrustful of the "pile-on" mentality in a situation like this that works its own subtle perversion of the truth.

Still, despite the fact that Foley seems to have had no direct ties with Nebraska's Congressional delegation and despite the fact that there is still much unknown as to who knew what when in the Republican House leadership's "See No Evil, Hear No Evil"-response, it is shocking to realize how little our own Congressmen believe in accountability.

In a Lincoln journal-Star article last week, it was reported:
Nebraska Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry said Thursday they do not believe Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert should resign in the wake of this week’s House page scandal.

Both Republican congressmen called for a swift and thorough investigation of former Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate conduct toward pages and the handling of the issue by House leadership....

“Based on what is currently known, I don’t believe it’s fair to ask the Speaker to resign,” said Fortenberry, R-1st District....

Terry, the 2nd District congressman, said on-going investigations by the House and law enforcement agencies need to “get all the information out there” for the public to see....

Based on what Hastert has told Republican House members in an e-mail communication about what he knew, Terry said, “I don’t think he should step down”....

Fortenberry said he’s “disgusted that Democrats are using automated phone calls,” apparently targeted at a conservative Republican audience in 45 House districts, including his own, to try to gain political advantage from Foley’s behavior.

“This isn’t a partisan issue,” he said. “This is about protecting children.”

Telephone messages in Fortenberry’s district, identified as paid for by the Nebraska Democratic Party, urged listeners to “call Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (and) demand he stop the cover-up.”

Fortenberry’s Democratic challenger, Maxine Moul, said the congressman should “stand up to his party’s leadership when they do something wrong.”

If, as Fortenberry contends, "this is about protecting children," it's hard to imagine how he can stand behind Speaker Hastert and the current leadership, who were - without a doubt - aware of Foley's misdeeds yet let them go without investigation or censure because of their own partisanship and desire for power. This was made a partisan issue the second Foley's abuses were swept under the rug. That was a political choice - pure and simple - leaving countless other young men vulnerable to continued abuse and exploitation.

Hastert knew what was going on for months - perhaps years. He did nothing. That's what we know, and it alone is enough to make Fortenberry and Terry's defense totally inexcusable. These are the actions and the statements of men whose first priority is not the people's interest but their party's attempt to hold on to power.

More disturbing than Fortenberry and Terry's show of support for those who perpetuated this shameless cover-up is Third District candidate Adrian Smith's welcoming Republican majority whip Roy Blunt to Nebraska to campaign on his behalf. Blunt is the third-highest ranking Republican in the House leadership, and though he has not yet been directly implicated in the Foley cover-up he might be even more responsible for Foley's behavior seeing as Foley served directly under him as Deputy Whip.

Yet, within days of the story breaking, there Blunt was in North Platte last week, trying to fend off the challenge being put-up by Scott Kleeb rather than getting to the bottom of this ugly mess that occurred under his watch in Washington D.C.

The North Platte Telegraph reported:
Republican candidate for Congress Adrian Smith appeared with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt in North Platte on Thursday, a move that drew criticism from a campaign staff member for Smith's opponent, Scott Kleeb, who claimed Blunt shares responsibility in the Mark Foley controversy.....

With 33 days until the election, Blunt said the Mark Foley scandal has temporarily distracted voters from the campaign.

Foley, a Republican, resigned from Congress last Friday after it was reported that he sent inappropriate e-mails and instant messages to young House pages.

The Kleeb for Congress campaign office called for Smith to cancel his North Platte schedule, saying that Smith appearing with a congressman just days after Blunt was "implicated in the House scandal" was a "brazen disregard for public sentiment," according to Kleeb campaign manager Ryan Hughes.

"Smith hasn't been elected and he's already part of the institutional problems with House leadership," Hughes said.

When asked about the Foley scandal, Blunt said the events have "temporarily distracted" the public from the campaign.

Blunt said Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is "moving forward"....

Blunt was the "leading majority leader at the moment when the Republican leadership learned of Mark Foley's sexual harassment of House pages and chose to do nothing about it," Hughes said. "Adrian Smith should cancel these campaign events immediately."

Smith has "invited the entire House leadership to Nebraska," Hughes said.
"This is the same House leadership that today is completely focused on political damage control, campaigning and raising money when they should be focused on explaining to the American people how they could allow something like this to happen."

A "temporary distraction?" A TEMPORARY DISTRACTION!!!!! Can you believe that's what House Republicans consider the Foley scandal? My God, they are completely without conscience and have lost any sense of duty to the public whatsoever.

Honestly, it's not worth calling for Hastert's resignation because - clearly - it would be nothing more than an empty gesture showing no lesson learned and no feelings of remorse.

Fortenberry, Terry, and now Smith have gone well beyond the title they've earned as "the Timid Trio" on this one. I don't throw around such label lightly, but having swown allegiance so entirely to party and power before people and principles, perhaps "the Treasonous Trio" would be a better fit.

Of course, Nebraska voters do have alternatives this year. They can do better for themselves and for their country by making it loud and clear on November 7th that corruption and cover-ups are more than "temporary distractions" - that the people not only deserve accountability from their leaders but actually demand it.


Anonymous nepolwatcher said...

Hey Kyle -
I guess "Character and courage" doesn't apply to sitting members of congress or the GOP leadership.

Anonymous Jon Rehm said...

Gee I remember the Repubs battering us with Monicagate. What goes around comes around.


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