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The Smoking Shorts...

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Message Jayne Stahl
The Democrats may have found the way to win back the Senate from those whose campaign for "family values" has just hit a major speed bump. As you know, Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley resigned from Congress yesterday after the discovery of some e-mails he wrote to a former teenage male page. One much publicized Foley missive to the 16 year old former congressional page asks: "You in your boxers, too? Well, strip down and get naked." This isn't the first instance of congressional impropriety. In 1983, two members of the House were censured for their dalliances with teenage pages. (AP) But, as the president likes to remind us, that was before 9/11, and with FCC, as well as governmental emphasis on "indecency fines," this could well be the biggest boon for a Democratic takeover of Congress we've ever seen, that is, if the Dems take a lesson from Bill Clinton, and start speaking up.

There is more than a little irony in the fact that the suggestive e-mail was sent from the 52 year old congressman who represents Palm Beach County, also presides over the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, and has been actively engaged in efforts to eradicate Internet child pornography. Further, it was Rep. Foley who asserted that "We track library books better than we do sexual predators," a statement which, no doubt, has come back to haunt him today.

This is not about the congressman's sexuality, or his attempts to seduce young boys; this is about his duplicity, and the hypocrisy of the party he represents. Efforts to sensationalize whatever small glimmer of lust one can uncover (no pun intended) in the electronic conveyances are tangential. Our main concern must be not merely an attempt to compromise the innocence, and virtue of an underaged congressional page, but the ongoing politics of deception practiced by those who tell us that they want to "edit" out certain salacious words from a T.V. sitcom while, at the same time, bolstering reelection campaigns of those who send "horny" instant messages to our teenagers. Just as President Clinton is said to have been impeached not because of an inappropriate sex act in the Oval Office, Rep. Mark Foley must step down not because he wrote a few quasi-erotic missives to a former 16 year old page, but because he egregiously misrepresented, and lied to his electorate about his core values.

That said, in an age when many are quick to use the word "devil," few are willing to play the role of devil's advocate, so allow me. Hanging poor Foley's boxers out to dry, in public, is Puritanism in its finest hour, and while I'm no fan of instant messaging, especially when it involves sexual harassment of any kind, I don't think instant crucifixion is the way to go either. To my knowledge, Mr. Foley has not put one finger on the boy; his advances were solely in cyberspace. Have we devolved so far into born again moralism that we can no longer distinguish between acts, and intentions? If so, then are we to impugn former president Jimmy Carter who confessed to have lusted in his heart? Is it one thing to lust in one's heart, and another to flirt with a teenager on the Internet? Of course. But, is there a difference between writing a seductive e-mail, or even making a phone call, and sexual assault? I think there is.

Yes, yes, Rep. Foley's resignation from Congress is more than appropriate, and his resignation from the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus must follow, but if the radical right-wing thinks that by eliminating one chickenhawk they will "ex-foliate," and rid their party of the moral hypocrisy, and duplicity that came with Dan Quayle, Newt Gingrich, and the November revolution of 1994, they'd better think again.

What's more, those Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, who call for an investigation into when the Republican leadership in the House first found out about Foley's transgressions are merely emulating their Republican counterparts by trying to lose themselves in committees, paperwork, and bureaucracy all the while ignoring the very real, and ripe, possibility that, for first time in more than a decade, the Democratic Party may well have found their smoking gun in a pair of boxer shorts, no less. Now the only question is whether or not they have high enough octane, and savvy, to rise to the occasion, and not engage in discourse over who knew what when, but turn Mr. Foley's boxers into the Swift Boat that defeats these Republican neo-con men in the upcoming midterm election, as well as in 2008.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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