So far there are two versions of right-wing spin to make the Mark Foley scandal and the cover-up go away. First there’s the complex postmodern pseudo-politically correct spin from the Wall Street Journal, Newt Gingrich and the Family Research Council: "Senior Republicans might well have decided they had no grounds to doubt Mr. Foley merely because he was gay and a little too friendly in emails. Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert’s head are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices...Are these Democratic critics of Mr. Hastert saying that they now have more sympathy for the Boy Scouts’ decision to ban gay scoutmasters?"
As the FRC said, Hastert and his colleagues "probably did not want to appear homophobic" by taking on Foley. A friend commented last night that, "We know the avoidance of homophobia is the guiding principal for the house leadership."
One of the stories that the right likes to tell about itself is that they believe in moral absolutes, that there is such a thing as good and bad, while liberals are all relativists, we have no "foundation" for our views of what’s good and bad. This comes in lots of versions, from the bumper sticker to the erudite, Alisdair MacIntyre-wanna-be’s like Princeton professor Robert P. George, but that one sentence sums up the argument.
But when it comes to Foley, this is a case where it is us liberals who have the absolute moral value: Don’t mess with kids sexually. Adults must not mess with kids, people in positions of authority should not mess with kids. It’s not about the legal line or the age of consent in Florida or DC. It’s morality: Fifty-two year olds must not mess with 16 year olds. Remember that rule and all this complexity falls away. Don’t tolerate people who mess with kids, gay or straight. Not complicated. As Robert George would say, it’s "foundational." If you know that basic rule, and don’t hesitate to take action if people break it, or raise alarms if you suspect them of breaking it (as in, asking for a picture) then guess what?: Life gets a little simpler. Gays can be Scoutmasters because, like any other Scoutmaster, they know that you don’t mess with the kids. Straight men can be high school teachers of girls because they maintain that boundary, they treat it as a moral absolute. And so on.
So what do you call the belief that gay people somehow by their nature cannot respect that rule, that they in fact can’t appreciate moral absolutes? Yep, that’s it.
While that spin on the cover-up is disturbing, the other spin is actually funny. It’s all George Soros’s fault. This is the story behind the "dirty trick" theory being peddled by Katherine Harris, Gingrich again, Hugh Hewitt, and apparently now being peddled on Fox News. Whenever the right runs into trouble, it seems their first move is to play a game of "Six Degrees of George Soros": What’s the fewest number of moves we can make to blame this on George. You can imagine them testing out various theories: How about this one: Soros’s operatives in Eastern Europe starting in the 1980s bred a super-race of sexually irresistible young men, taught them perfect English, had them placed as congressional pages and programmed them to tempt Mark Foley. Hmm, nice try, but a little more Blofeld than Soros.
No, the new line, from Gingrich to Katherine Harris, and the weirder corners of the right-blogosphere, is that it’s all George Soros’s fault because a "Soros-funded organization" had the e-mails and waited until just this critical moment in the election cycle to release them. Meanwhile, kids were put at risk. Someone named Clarice Feldman who writes at The American Thinker (modesty in blog naming has never been the right’s strong suit) seems to have figured this one out. Drat. If it weren’t for Clarice, Scooby and the rest of those meddlesome kids, George would have gotten away with it, too! Unfortunately there’s one loose end to the theory -- the organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (which does get a small grant from Soros’s foundation, although the right referred to CREW as "Soros-funded" even when it wasn’t), immediately turned the e-mails over to the FBI, and released them only after ABC News made the story public.
So get back to the drawing board guys: Connect Mark Foley to George Soros in six moves or less!