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The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Yet another Foley question

I haven't posted anything about the entire Foley mess, since I've been commenting on both John Scalzi's and Jason Bennion's blog on the subject.

Short summary of my comments thus far: the guy is a scary, disgusting creep. He deserves to lose his job, and he deserves the public ridicule he's getting now, and the continued ridicule he'll get for the rest of his career/life. Similarly, anyone who knew about this and chose to leave children in a dangerous situation for their own professional gain (be they Republican leaders looking to hold on to a House Seat, Democrats looking for an "October surprise"" or members of the media waiting for the story to be "big news"), deserves the same fate.

So assuming just about everyone agrees with the above, I have a question. I'm fairly confident that I won't get a straight answer to my question, and I certainly have no shot of finding it on the usual news/web filters, since the topic is saturated with the scandal itself. But I'll throw it out there anyway:

 As leader of the committee that protects children against online predators, etc., did Mark Foley do a good job? In other words, despite the disgusting revelations, did he pass good laws to protect kids? Did he increase detection and/or prosecution of people who prey on kids? Did he increase the penalties of those were were caught?

Don't get me wrong here: I'm not suggesting for a second that he should keep his job, regardless of how he's performed in it. A guy like this simply cannot be allowed to hold public office, particularly that office, given the obvious conflicts of interest. And even if he has done a good job, surely we can find someone else who's equally competent, and not a child predator as well.

I ask the question more to find out if his personal failings led him to go easy on these people and if, by doing so, he harmed more kids than just the congressional pages we're talking about now.


posted by Brian at 1:05 PM


  • An interesting question... a little quick googling turned up a comment by the National Association to Protect Children:

    Mark Foley--who introduced as much legislation aimed at sexual predators as anyone in Congress--was always part of the problem in Washington, not the solution. Even if he had not turned out to be a predator himself, Foley represented an unfortunate species of politician: one who poll-tests the sexual abuse of children and then feeds a gullible public and news media more symbolism than real action.

    Just one organization's collective opinion, of course, but food for thought.

    I've been thinking myself that this case raises all sorts of ticklish questions -- for instance, Foley's been branded a pedophile by many commenters, but is that a fair assessment? After all, the kids he was harassing were in their late teens, old enough to be potentially sexually active with their own peer group, and the age of consent does vary by state (I think I heard somewhere that the pages in question may have in fact been legal in Washington, D.C., because they were 16.) Pop culture has in recent years objectified teenagers as lust objects to a surprising degree, and, at risk of sounding like a perv myself, there's some damn attractive kids walking around out there. There is, of course, a big difference between a middle-aged guy admiring and/or fantasizing about a teen and one who actually tries to score with someone too young to vote, but there's no evidence so far that he actually had sex with any of them. (Doesn't mean he wouldn't have if one had been willing, of course...) Certainly, Foley was using his position of power to sexually harass young people in a position of relative vulnerability, but is that the same thing as pedophilia?

    I'm not making excuses for the man -- he is unquestionably a creep -- but is he also a child molestor, or is he "merely" a harasser?

    As I said, food for thought...

    By Anonymous jason, at 4:18 PM, October 06, 2006  

  • Thanks, Jason. As I said, it's very difficult to answer my questions, because any Google search necessarily turns up talk of the scandal, not the work Foley did in the past. I checked for other references to Foley from the group you mentioned (from before the scandal), and only found one passing reference - a criticism of national child molester registries, which the group is against & Foley was for. Other than that, the National Association to Protect Children seems to have totally ignored this "unfortunate species of politician." Since I wouldn't expect such a group to say anything nice about him now, I don't think we're any closer to answering the question...

    As for your other questions, several blog commenters are pointing out that the correct term for Foley is ephebophilia, which is an attraction to adolescents, as opposed to pedophilia, which is an attraction to children.

    I've also read several times that attraction to teenagers is not abnormal, nor is it something to be ashamed of - it's acting on those feelings that crosses the line into socially unacceptable and/or illegal. (Apologies for no attribution, I don't remember where I read this, but I think it's just about right.)

    By Blogger Brian, at 4:53 PM, October 06, 2006  

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