Some pundits believe the scandal will be nothing more than a gleam in the eye of conservatives when the election takes place a month from now, but that's just wishful thinking. The media is slow pitching the revelations from Foley's predatory behavior towards nubile male Congressional pages, and the public is eating up the salacious details like they're bites of homemade cherry pie. Interspersed between the unfolding sagas are stories of the ever increasing failure of American efforts in Iraq, the Bush Administration's hand-wringing over North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons, and the inability to explain away the realities of their desultory policies anymore. The sentiment of the electorate isn't wholly "throw the bums out". It's more an appreciation that after twelve years basically running Congress and five years the executive, Republicans haven't improved the lots of ordinary people one iota. That the public now perceives the GOP as tolerant of the abhorrent sexual peccadillos of one of its more holier-than-thou representatives drives home the message that the hubristic Republicans are out of touch with mainstream values.
That Republicans have fallen so far so fast is not unprecedented. President Richard Nixon's Watergate folly in the 1970's and Senator Joe McCarthy's demagogic investigation into supposed 'reds' among the US Army in the 1950's both proved fatal blows to the party. Add the 'Hooverville's' created by the lack of attention the GOP paid to the depression of the thirties, and of course a little scandal known as Teapot Dome provided by President Warren G. Harding in the twenties, and you can see that Republicans for the better part of the last century were regularly hoisted on their own petards. It's ironic that Congressman Foley's penchant for anal sex came out just after the McCain-Graham-Warner bill allowing Bush to determine the extent of torture used on enemy combatants. In a way, it makes Republicans insistence about torture seem like the fulfillment of sexual fantasy rather than a means to gather information from terrorists. All those CIA agents rendering combatants at secret prisons better beware-any technique that stimulates an auto-erotic response might attract Dick Cheney to your location.
The question for me is how effectively Democrats will be at governance. In the House, Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha is spoiling for a fight with his more center-right counterpart, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from California. Both want the Speaker seat and Iraq is probably the issue that decides a winner. Pelosi will be nailed for her 'stay the course' position, something that even Republican Senator John Warner, who is generally as hawkish as they come, is now backing away from. However, Pelosi is a savvy leader, knows where a lot of bodies are buried on the left side of the Congressional aisle, and is a good fundraiser for the party. Murtha may find his hands full challenging Pelosi. More importantly, the Democrats will be left with several Hobsonian choices, Iraq most notable among them. It's easy to say "bring our troops home now" without understanding the consequences of such an action. Sadly, the time to pull the troops out was a couple of years ago, before the civil war between Sunni's and Shiite's came to full blossom. While re-deployment will certainly save American lives, Iraq's political and physical infrastructure is going to collapse, and unless Democrats can do some fancy footwork and quickly entice Arab allies to negotiate a peace between the two sects and provide much needed financial aid, the country is doomed to years of anarchy.
Whatever course Republicans take trying to salvage a win in the midterms, Congress will have a bluish hue come January 2007, and the party of hubris is going to have to learn to work and play well with others. Whatever the outcome, we should heed the advice of Margo Channing, the character made famous by Bette Davis in the 1950 film All About Eve: "Fasten your seatbelts" she said, "it's going to be a bumpy ride."