Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pervertgate III: Republicans Pass The Buck

Okay, I had not intended to post about the Foley scandal at all today, because the media overload is frankly somewhat disturbing. However, there is a developing, under-the-radar aspect of this story that deserves spotlight. When this story first broke on Friday, I was frankly impressed with the way conservatives were handling it... they did not try to downplay the seriousness of Foley's behavior, they didn't blame others for it, and they demanded accountability from the House GOP leadership for their part in all of this. Why, even Michelle Malkin's blog postings were calm and rational! If only such common-sense, non-partisan reaction was the same from the right for the other top issues of the day. This, apparently, could only last a few days before they went back into standard 'blame this on Democrats/liberal boogeymen/the media' survival mode, in which Mr. Foley was the real victim. Sad, but predictable.

Leading the pack, as always, is Matt Drudge (no stranger to the frustrating life of the Republican closet). Drudge lead, almost from the beginning, with 'flashbacks' of old Democratic sex scandals, cueing conservatives everywhere to run with their talking points on what long-retired Rep. Gerry Studds did 23 years ago and what President Clinton did with a consenting adult (Hannity, for his part, lied and said Ms. Lewinsky was only 19 when she had relations with Bubba- she was in fact 22 when they first met, before the affair). On his radio show, Drudge referred to the involved pages as "beasts" who played poor Mr. Foley. His website has also had no shortage of passing-the-buck links, such as those seen in the right column of this screengrab I did this morning:



(Hastert blames Clinton, George Soros, the media, and the usual liberal boogeymen)

(UPDATE: Now Drudge is leading with an 'exclusive' claiming- aka wild accusations that will be forgotten before they are disproved- that Foley was just a poor sucker trapped by a page 'prank' gone awry and then manipulated by Democrats. Tomorrow's scoop: Michael Moore forced Foley at gunpoint to have online spank sessions with teenage boys. Poor innocent Republicans... Finally, commenters at Wonkette rip this latest spin a new one, as does new revelations by ABC News.

UPDATE #2: Surprise! Drudge's report turns out to be a total lie.)

This is but one part of the just-beginning spin campaign from the Republican loyalists (loyal to their party, not to any of the things they claim to stand for). Media Matters has a great compilation of the greatest hits of this campaign: In Foley scandal, conservatives find plenty of excuses and plenty of people to blame (other than the GOP).

I highly recommend watching the lengthy video compilation on that page. Highlights include Sean Hannity saying that this is a media conspiracy*, Michael Savage expressing doubt that these teen(s) even exist, and Rush Limbaugh claiming that the kids were Democrats who used Foley, and then Rush demanding Pelosi's resignation cause she "knows" the phantom liberal who set this conspiracy up, and he says he has no proof of this, but he knows a liberal did this, and all liberals know each other, and Pelosi is a liberal, so therefore she knows who did it. I'd say they all have reached a new low, but that's almost cliche at this point.

[*Note to Sean- the source was a Republican. Please try again.]

An effort to portray Foley as a Democrat is also underway, by Fox News and others.

There is also a subtle, and disturbing, effort on the part of many (particularly the religious right) to use this to condemn gays, as if Rep. Foley's sexual orientation explains or justifies his unethical behavior. The gay = pedophile card is being played here. Such conservative staples as the Wall Street Journal and the National Review website echoed these sentiments. Instead of causing great concern about congressional ethics and accountability, this scandal may end up hardening the homophobia of many on the right, based on this kind of rhetoric.

Reports of a 'gay conspiracy' are also popping up.

Finally, the most disturbing new part of this campaign has been the outing of one of the young pages by a small, but influential, group of conservative bloggers (you can see the unflappable Mr. Drudge hyping this outing at the top of the screengrab posted above). Now this is that new low I was looking for. When even Michelle Malkin- no stranger to hysteria and smear campaigns- is disapproving, you know you crossed a line.

Blogger 'tristero' sums up the strategy behind this move: "The rightwing really senses imminent defeat and they will do literally anything they think they can get away with to prevent it. Hence, the release of the name of the page under the pretext that he was actually not a minor when the emails/ims were sent. In fact, that's a deliberate lie, spread to sow confusion of the he-said-she-said variety. Not only do lies of this sort dislocate the truth to the liar's advantage, they slow down legitimate investigations as the lies have to be researched and debunked. We've seen this strategy many times before from the right."

As Tom Tomorrow notes, scratching his head as to the usefulness of this spin campaign, "Purely from a strategic standpoint, if ever there was a time to just toss in the towel and admit your guys fucked up, this is certainly it."

And Andrew Sullivan notes that, "Three other pages [now] describe Foley's online predation. The GOP is going to have to find another angle to deflect this. They've tried blaming the MSM; they've tried blaming Clinton; they've tried to turn all the victims into pranksters. It's been a worthy display. But in the end they may have to take ... responsibility. Remember that? It used to be a conservative value." I don't remember that at all.

Finally, amid revelations that Speaker Hastert may have been notified of Foley's behavior as early as three years ago, Hastert held a news conference just this afternoon to announce that he will stay on as Speaker, as the Republican leadership continues to point the fingers in every direction but their own. Recent polling indicates that this could very well backfire on them. And so Pervertgate marches on, at least until the next October surprise.

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