David Brooks, columnizing from the twighlight zone, informs us that the only people to blame for the Mark Foley scandal are Mark Foley and (yes!) Eve Ensler (really!) — Denny Hastert gets off the hook entirely: “In discussing the Foley case, the political class, with its unerring instinct for the aspect of any story that will be the least important to average Americans, has shifted attention from Foley’s act to Denny Hastert’s oversight of it. It has fled morality to talk about management.”
To my way of thinking, this is about 180 degrees off the truth. Frankly, I think the wrongness of Foley’s conduct has been widely overstated. What we have actual evidence for strikes me as wrongdoing, yes, but also fairly minor wrongdoing. That said, it certainly raises red flags that something graver might have gone down. It’s worth looking into. And this is where Hastert comes in. He and the rest of his leadership team got to glimpse some red flags a long time ago. And instead of looking into it, instead of trying to see what the extent of the problem was, instead of bringing the situation into public view so the public could decide how much this all matters, instead of doing anythig they brushed it all under the rug.
Ironically, Brooks describes himself as a defender of an older view of morality in which “we are defined not by our individual choices but by our social roles.” But, of course, this is the point. Haster is Speaker of the House of Representatives and is supposed to act like a responsible custodian of the House, not like a two bit goon ready to cover-up God-knows-what in pursuit of a contiued majority.