Sunday, October 01, 2006

Don't do this

By now you will have heard that Mark Foley has resigned from Congress under a cloud of inappropriate email and instant messaging exchanges he had with former House pages. Here's the latest CNN piece if you are playing catch up.

Smart, fair-minded people are raising issues about motivations and timing. People are debating the nuances of age of consent laws versus online predatory statutes. Some try to minimize the issue pending more information, and in the light of historical precedents. I know, this is the instinct of people deeply involved in politics. I understand why they do it.

And still I say stop. Please, just stop.

I think one of the worst instincts we have as people is to marginalize or dismiss things that are said because of who says them, rather than based on the strength of the evidence and logic of the argument. Both parties do this, all the time. I don't care who released this now, so long as it's true. I do care why certain memos are leaked at certain times, or why books come out when they do. But this is different. I don't care that this came out now; I just care that it did.

That's naive, I know. I don't care. A little more naivety might make us a little more human and a little less jaded. You wonder why most people can't stand politics or politicians? You've found it. Do you think constituents, Republican or Democrat, want to watch the usual suspects jostle for advantage over this? No, they want the truth, now, and absent the usual spin. Both sides should come together to see that they get it.

There is no "winning" here. Don't circle the wagons, leave them exposed. Called for a Justice Department investigation? Good. Now do more. Everyone tell everything they know. Under oath, if people want. Now. Don't wait, don't obfuscate, don't squirm. If there is nothing to hide, then get everything out. Now. If there is something to hide, then the powers that be will deserve everything they are about to get, and dragging it out won't change a thing. Get everything out. Now.

This isn't some shady earmark, a sketchy tax break, or dead-of-the-night regulatory loophole. This is at best citizens of this country entrusting their most precious gift to their leaders, and one of those leaders using the opportunity to prey on children. At its worst (I hope) it involves either a party in power that turned a blind eye, or a party out of power that waited for the "right" time to let the shoe drop. Or both.

With stuff like this, the normal rules don't apply. Dennis, Nancy - sit down tonight, agree on a plan, and issue a joint statement outlining it. This may rob the majority of some of its prerogatives - so what? This may rob the minority of some near term political points - so what? Come together and make us proud of you.

Come out of this looking like statesman, not unindicted co-conspirators or blind, shrill partisans. Shine the light of day on this sordid episode, and disinfect the institution in the process. Do it now.

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