What do Mark Foley and Donald Rumsfeld have in common?
They both proved to be completely unfit for their offices, but were kept in power by Republican leaders who cared more about power than the public interest. After demonstrated failures, leaving Rumsfeld in charge of Iraq is like leaving Mark Foley in charge of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. That is why the Foley scandal continues to reverberate in races across the country: It is not an isolated incident. This scandal fits with the Congressional Republicans' larger pattern of corruption, cover-ups, hypocrisy and refusal to hold any of their own accountable for failure.
Recent reports indicate Republican leaders like Dennis Hastert and Tom Reynolds knew about Foley's inappropriate actions. They did nothing because they were more concerned about protecting a congressional seat than protecting the children working in Congress. When they were exposed, Republican leaders misled the public, attacked the media, defended Foley's "overfriendly" emails and even tried to rally sympathy for Foley's alcohol problems. (Reality check - the issue here is child abuse, not substance abuse.)
The Republicans response to the scandal is not only immoral, but politically tone-deaf, and it is reinforcing voters' concerns about the Republican failures in Iraq, which is the real issue in this election.
Just look at recent accounts of top Republicans responding to the failures of Foley and Rumsfeld. Conservative Robert Novak bluntly explains the Republicans' immoral political calculations in protecting Foley:
After it was learned that Rep. Mark Foley had dispatched an inappropriate e-mail message to a 16-year-old male former page, the House Republican leadership was still urging him to seek re-election from his Florida district.
Compare that to Bob Woodward's account of the White House debates about replacing Rumsfeld. Woodward details Rumsfeld's well-known failures - dismissal of military advice, disbanding the Iraqi military, insufficient postwar planning, resistance to any accountability - and exposes why the White House kept him in power despite a call for his replacement by Chief of Staff Andrew Card:
Cheney said Rumsfeld's departure, no matter how it might be spun, would be seen only as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war. It would give the war critics great heart and momentum, he confided to an aide, and soon they would be after him and then the president.
Think about that. Instead of doing what was best for our troops in the field, Cheney was more worried about his own political standing (according to Woodward).
It is no wonder so many hawks have turned on Rumsfeld and the GOP; even if you are still among the minority of Americans who support the Iraq war, the Republicans' immoral, political approach to policy is the wrong way to govern. Those concerns even led Ken Adelman, "a longtime Rumsfeld friend and vehement early supporter of the war," to be "entirely disillusioned" with Rumsfeld's leadership, according to Woodward. He concludes that in Rumsfeld's Iraq, "[t]here was no accountability." Just like with Foley, Republican leaders don't believe in accountability, so it is up to the voters to make them accountable in November.
I also raised the Rumsfeld-Foley comparison in this short debate with Bush's former campaign spokesman Terry Holt on Fox News: