Republican denials are looking desperate
By DOUGLAS TURNER
WASHINGTON - Not to be missed in the self-righteous heaving and churning over stimulating e-mails are the flickers of high (or low) comedy offered by the House leadership.
Most farcical is the shock, shock over the discovery of what former Congressman Mark Foley, R-Fla., had been doing since 1998.
Understand, dear reader, that Foley was a protected Republican property because he embodied core values down here.
Foley was a flood-stage river of Palm Beach County money to House Republican campaign coffers - all by himself, a contributor of a third of a million dollars to the House's campaign in just three years.
To get this money, Foley and his GOP colleagues trafficked at hundreds of fund-raising parties here - back-slapping, elbow-pinching events, lubricated with lots of liquor and staged in sports sky-boxes, law firm board rooms and lobbyists' quarters - some of which, like any good party, went on well into the night.
These gold-plated affairs are the real life of Washington. Columnist Bob Novak wrote last week that members of Congress live a secret life. Yes, in too many cases secret from their constituents, but never secret from their colleagues and staff.
And yet over a dozen years, nobody had any idea of what Foley was capable of - least of all, presumably, Kirk Fordham, his chief of staff, who left Foley's office in 2004 after 10 years.
By his own remarks, Fordham, who had worked for Foley since 1995, claimed he never complained about his boss to superiors until 2003.
A chief of staff knows everything that goes on in a congressional office. He or she sees any mail of importance; knows of all the travels and appointments of the member; and handles all the money, even paying relatives' gasoline bills.
The chief of staff buys the Blackberries, cell phones and all the other electronic gear, and can access any of that traffic.
And yet Fordham never knew any of this from 1995 until he squealed on Foley to aides of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., eight years later?
About a year ago, Fordham became the congressional chief of staff for Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, head of the GOP House campaign effort. Last week, as everybody knows, Fordham resigned and is now talking to the FBI in private and to the public through his lawyer.
For a reporter, it is necessary to keep a straight face at all times, especially now. It helps to maintain - to borrow a wonderful phrase of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge's - "a willing suspension of disbelief."
It means a reporter can be indignant over revelations of sexual misconduct and official lying, but never unbelieving in the first instance.
So one must accept at face value the promises of the chairman of the long-dormant House Ethics Committee, Doc Hastings, R-Wash., that he will pursue evidence of a possible coverup without fear or favor.
Put out of mind that Hastings was named chairman by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to replace a chairman who was tough on DeLay. And forget that Hastert, who is the man most on the spot on this, named the other Republicans on the committee.
And that Hastings volunteered at Thursday's news conference that his boss, Hastert, "is doing a good job."
When the House Page Board announced 10 days ago it has been investigating the Foley affair, one had to forget that the first and only meeting it had ever held on the matter was on that afternoon.
Most of all, don't ask too much of the DeLay Republicans who still rule the House. They're here to go to parties and raise money, get elected and vote the way they're told - by the lobbyists.