July 27, 2006 - George W. Bush - with his hand on a page (of a bill he's signing) looks in the direction of Rep. Mark Foley (grey suit, blue tie, bulge in his pocket - his Blackberry)
Come up with your own caption for this photo!
ENTER THE PHOTO-CAPTION CONTEST HERE!
The White House is moving at full steam to distance the President from Mark Foley. The last thing it needs now is there to be a soundbite from the President praising Mark Foley - or a photograph with George Bush and Mark Foley at the White House within a few feet of each other.
Especially if either occurred in the last few months - at a time when the entire Republican House leadership was aware that they probably had a child sex predator in their midst - certainly someone whose actions warranted an investigation.
And especially if the Presidential praise is for Mark Foley's leadership on the hot topic of protecting children from pedophiles and predators who use the internet to hit on underage kids.
Gosh darn! Too late...
That's what the photo above shows.
Exactly 9½ weeks ago (you can't make up a loaded number like that!) - on Thursday July 27th 2006. At the White House.
George W. Bush invited the Congress members that HE and his White House team regarded as the leaders on the topic of protecting kids from sexual predators to attend the signing of a bill on the topic. (The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.)
Of course the White House doesn't just invite any old House Representatives to White House ceremonies without consulting the GOP House leadership on who is appropriate to invite. Otherwise every Republican House member would want to attend and get that useful campaign photo with the President.
So prior to the event taking place - the suitability of Mark Foley attending the event was discussed by the White House and the GOP leadership - which at that point had known about Foley's penchant for emailing young boys for several months.
And the GOP leadership verdict? Invite Mark Foley!
And what did Bush say?
Well after he had praised and said how much he appreciated the leadership (who had turned a blind eye to Foley's sexually suggestive emails to an underage teenage boy) - he praised House members in attendance (including Foley) as being a "S.W.A.T. team for kids"
(I can't make this stuff up!)
And THEN - with Mark Foley nodding his solemn approval - Bush said the following:
"You know, having someone harm your child is one of the worst nightmares a parent could face."
"Protecting our children is our solemn responsibility. It's what we must do. When a child's life or innocence is taken it is a terrible loss -- it's an act of unforgivable cruelty. Our society has a duty to protect our children from exploitation and danger."
"By enacting this law we're sending a clear message across the country: those who prey on our children will be caught, prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law."
"The bill I sign today will make it harder for sex predators to reach our children on the Internet. Some sex predators use this technology to make contact with potential victims."
But a little too late for some youngsters Mr. President.... A little too late.
If "protecting our children is our solemn responsibility" then what does it say that the GOP leadership put the protection of a GOP House seat ahead of protecting children?
For shame Mr. President. For shame...
I will expect your explicit condemnation of every member of the GOP House leadership who knew about the Mark Foley emails and didn't act to protect children.
It's time to for YOU to act like a S.W.A.T team now. Starting with the GOP House leadership.
And the reaction from the White House so far?
Smooth-talker Dan Bartlett offered the following:
"We learned when the American people learned. The president, the entire administration was just as surprised as everybody else. "
Err... except of course for the GOP House leadership.
But maybe the White House WILL act. After all Bartlett promised:
"We're going to get to the bottom of this"
Well that's something that Mark Foley will appreciate...