Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Miss Newt Gingrich

Back in 1983, the governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards, gloated that he could not lose unless he was "caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy." In the intervening years, we've seen a change of standards in American politics. Nowadays, the Washington beltway insiders are all aquiver about the resignation of a Florida congressman over years-old creepy IM messages. UPDATE: With an 18-year old.

You will recall that Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinski. Phone sex and fellatio did not constitute sex back in the gay '90s. However, Clinton was not a Republican and a different standard applies. Who needs to be caught in bed with someone when there's a creepy three-year-old IM message logged on a computer somewhere?

Before the gay '90s, being homosexual sufficed to disqualify one from positions of trust. If you wanted to work for NSA and get a Top Secret security clearance, you had to be straight as an arrow. In fact, the Soviets were adept at using sex to recruit agents. Alan Turing killed himself not because he was gay, but because the Soviets used that fact to blackmail him.

Presumably, the today's Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is more enlightened. Apparently, former Rep. Foley's sexual proclivities were not secret within the beltway and it appears that the House Republican leadership saw no problem with putting this person in a position of trust.

My problem with the House Republican leadership has nothing to do with Mr. Foley's scandal, but with a perception that they are STUPID. Let's see, the Democrats have a problem with William Jefferson, D-LA, who happens to store thousands of dollars in cash in his freezer. (Nicely killing the Democrat "culture of corruption" meme.) Then the FBI searches his offices whereupon Mr. Hastert attacks the FBI. (Stupidly resurrecting this meme.)

Now, Speaker Hastert has been caught in an apparent lie. He said at first that he was surprised by this story. Later he said that he knew about the sorta-creepy emails, but not the really-creepy IM messages. The press is jumping on the Republicans about what they knew 6 months ago, or a year ago. But someone on the Democrat side knew about this three years ago and sat on the story until it would do the Republicans most damage. This argues that Mr. Hastert did not know about this scandal.

There is a strategy for handling damaging information: Bill Clinton had a significant emotional event on Fox News. His people were the first to circulate news of the meltdown. Get all the story out there fast, so the story can flame out as quick as possible. If you know something damaging, you've got to figure your enemy knows it, too. You're stupid to think it won't become public, because your enemy will release the information at the time and at the rate that'll maximize its damage.

Therefore, either Mr. Hastert is stupid or he didn't have the damaging information about Rep. Foley. That he misjudged the cut of Mr. Foley's jib is another matter.

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