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Foley's Folly, Ethics and Morality vs. Legality

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Message Dr. Wilmer Leon
According to ABC News, and other sources, approximately five months ago, Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-NY) told House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL.) of concerns that former chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) may himself be attempting to exploit children.

In fact, ABC News reported, "Despite repeated warning signs going back at least five years, almost nothing was done in Congress to stop Foley's suspect behavior with pages." According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in 2001, pages were warned to be careful with Foley and in 2005, one page complained to his congressman about "sick" e-mails from Foley, a complaint that was passed on to the Speaker's staff." Now, the FBI is investigating if Foley's e-mails and text messages to underage House pages have violated any laws. Did Foley, using the screen name Maf54, actually seek to meet with the pages in order to solicit sex?

Many are asking what did House Speaker Hastert and other members of the Republican power structure know and when did they know it. Some people are calling for Hastert's resignation; others are saying that the outcome of a full investigation should determine the fate of those involved.

This takes us to the great dilemma, ethics and morality vs. legality. Merriam-Webster defines ethics as, "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation." Moral is defined as, "of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior." Law is defined as, "a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority."

So here is what we have, Mark Foley, a fifty-two year old congressman, is at best, sending salacious and inappropriate e-mails and text messages to a 16 year-old former Congressional page. At worst, Mr. Foley illegally used the Internet to send pornographic e-mails and text mails, possibly for the purpose of soliciting sex from male minors. According to ABC News, "...the congressman, ...made repeated references to sexual organs and acts."

Information on Foley's suspected transgressions was passed to Speaker Dennis Hastert, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) and others. Without personally conducting further investigations they allowed Foley to retain his position as chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and retain his seat in congress. Their actions may have satisfied the legal requirements of Congress; they may have used proper channels and protocol, but were their actions (or lack thereof) ethically and morally acceptable?

Once Speaker Hastert (R-IL), Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-NY) and others became aware of this information, they were ethically and morally obligated to do everything in their power as members of Congress, as men, and as parents to protect the children placed in their care. They have failed on all three counts. They chose to protect the interests and image of their party instead of protecting our most valued asset, our children. Just because their actions may be deemed legal, it does not mean they were right. After all, wasn't this the party that boasted of representing the "Morale Majority" and the "Christian Coalition"?

According to the Associated Press, Representative Reynolds said, "Rodney Alexander brought to my attention the existence of e-mails between Mark Foley and a former page of Mr. Alexander's...Despite the fact that I had not seen the e-mails in question, and Mr. Alexander told me that the parents didn't want the matter pursued, I told the speaker of the conversation Mr. Alexander had with me." The fact that the parents did not want the matter pursued is somewhat understandable but irrelevant. As with most sex offenders, Mr. Foley's focus was not limited to a single minor. There is statutory law at play here and other children possibly at risk. By statute, it is illegal for an adult to solicit sex from a minor. There is no room for equivocation here.

Speaker Hastert is now trying to hold himself to lower standard of conduct as Speaker of the House than he was held to as a high school wrestling coach. Any teacher who is confronted with this type of information about another teacher and a student is compelled to take action. Hastert should have asked Congressman Alexander for copies of the e-mails (which I have seen), after reading them it would have been clear to him that there was a very grave problem with Mark Foley. Speaker Hastert should have then called Foley into his office and given him three days to get his affairs in order before demanding his resignation. He then should have turned the information over to all of the proper authorities. Clear moral judgment and ethical action are how you protect the image of the party.

All of these individuals swore an oath to protect this country and its citizens from threats both foreign and domestic. Fifty-two year old congressmen who at best send salacious and inappropriate and at worst pornographic, illegal e-mails and text messages to pages under the age of eighteen are domestic threats. Contrary to Speaker Hastert's claims, this has nothing to do with Democrats taking political advantage of Republicans but everything to do with adults taking sexual advantage of children. House Speaker Hastert should resign. Congressmen Alexander and Reynolds should resign as well, not for violating our laws, but for failing us ethically, morally and violating the public trust.
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Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program "On With Leon"on XM Satellite Radio Channel 169, Producer/Host of the television program "Inside The Issues With Wilmer Leon" and a Teaching Associate in (more...)
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