The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sexual abuse in Congress? Not on leaders' agenda on Yahoo! News

Sexual abuse in Congress? Not on leaders' agenda

Mon Oct 2, 6:41 AM ET

You have to wonder what leaders of the House think is important. Whatever it is, sexual exploitation of teenagers by congressmen apparently is not high on the list.

How else can one explain the leadership's failure to even investigate the advances Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record), R-Fla., made to a 16-year-old male House page? Foley resigned Friday after ABC News published sexually explicit e-mail exchanges he had had with the page.

Several House leaders had known about the matter at least since spring but failed to take appropriate action. Even accepting their insistence that they knew only of ambiguously "overfriendly" e-mail, rather than the unmistakable obscenities that have recently come to light, their reaction is disturbing.

The slightest hint of a member of Congress making advances toward an underage page is a serious matter. More so because it has happened before, disgracing two congressmen in the 1980s. It speaks directly to the integrity of the institution and the safety of the teens who work for it. For that reason, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., had every obligation to investigate this matter fully.

Instead he and other Republican leaders maintained what could at best be termed a posture of willful ignorance. Hastert asserts that he only recently was apprised of the matter. Members of his staff and other leaders make no such claim.

Unless a better explanation appears, the one most likely to be accepted is of an effort to sweep an embarrassment under the rug.

Foley was co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. He had positioned himself as one of the biggest defenders of children on Capitol Hill. His party presents itself as the one more in tune with family values. From a purely political standpoint, Republicans had little incentive to pry into his behavior during a tough election year.

But at least once in a while, integrity should trump politics.

When Rep. Rodney Alexander (news, bio, voting record), R-La., the former employer of the page, came forward with his concerns about some e-mail he had seen, his actions should have prompted an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, or even the Capitol Police.

Instead, Hastert's aides merely referred Alexander to the clerk of the House, who notified Rep. John Shimkus (news, bio, voting record), R-Ill., chairman of the House Page Board. The two apparently spoke to Foley, who insisted that the e-mails were harmless.

That's not good enough, Hastert's belated call Sunday for an investigation aside. Unfortunately, placing politics over principle is what we have come to expect from Congress. From soaring budget deficits to outlays for bridges to nowhere, no other incident quite so vividly explains why.

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