Cache it now: Web site of the day. 12:57 P.M.
Foley and the Best Boys: Clarice Feldman, a conservative, tries to find Democratic misbehavior in the outing of Rep. Foley and fails, as far as I can see. So what if a Soros-backed "watchdog" group coordinated the publicizing of the initial, not-that-damaging-but-suggestive email between Rep. Foley and a page? That's allowed. You're even allowed to wait until it's too late for the GOPs to take Foley off the ballot. The gambit only worked because Foley was guilty. ...
From Feldman's timeline, it also looks as if the St. Petersburg Times is innocent of the suggestion, made by RealClearPolitics, that it sat on the story until closer to the election. (See follow-up here.) The first emails that the SPT had ("send me a pic of you") were simply less damning, by several orders of magnitude, than the later instant messages* that came out just last week ("get a ruler and measure it for me"). The paper seems to have made a plausible judgment not to publish, though maybe it shouldn't win any investigative awards.
It's slightly less unfair to blame the House Republican leadership--sure, the evidence in the first emails wasn't much. But did they really have no idea what Foley was up to? Don't these rumors get around the Hill pretty quickly?** It's not like Foley was co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Chil .... oh wait. Someone could maybe have called Foley in and given him the third degree--e.g. about what other emails might be out there. Hastert's aides could have asked Foley to permit a search of his computer. Maybe there were alternative methods of interrogation, or other ways to check out his story. Where's Patricia Dunn when you need her?
But that's a judgment call, and the GOP leadership screw-up is a lot clearer in retrospect.
The only clearly guilty party, as far as I can see--aside from Foley--is the New York Times, which hyped the anti-Hastert angle by conflating the earlier, suggestive emails and the later damning ones. Here's the Carl Hulse/Raymond Hernandez Times lede:
Top House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children's issues, Republican lawmakers said Saturday.
All hands on deck at the NYT.There's an election coming up!...
**--Newsweek has some evidence that the pages, at least, were gossiping about Foley. ... Update: According to ABC's The Blotter, a former page, Matthew Loradtich, says pages were "warned about Foley" in 2001. But it's not clear just what they were warned about-- the NYT reports that "Mr. Loraditch said he was never warned by program supervisors to stay away from him," but he was told Foley was "odd." ... More:JustOneMinute follows up and concludes ABC's story was an exaggeration. Loraditch now says (on Facebook!) "While I may have inadvertently used the word, 'warned,' in communication, I can assure you it was not intended."
*--Text corrected. The second set of messages consisted of IMs, not e-mails. 12:27 P.M. link
Saturday, September 30, 2006