Two Narratives: the Politics of the Foley Scandal

Regardless of whether or not some sort of plot existed to hold onto evidence of potentially criminal internet misconduct by former Rep.  Mark Foley, and spring it on the public as an October Surprise, the fallout of the case is going to be powerful.

But the outcome depends on which of two alternative narratives becomes the dominant one reaching and affecting voters. Given the firepower of the still dominant, if fading, antique media, the narrative favored by the Democrats has a good chance of remaining the main story.

But acceptance of the Democrats' narrative depends on the media remaining true to their characterization by Rush Limbaugh as the 'Drive By Media' — unleashing salvos of facts, half—truths, and lies, and then speeding away before anyone does more than form a hazy impression.

The stakes involve no less than control of Congress.

The Democrats' Narrative

Democrats are obviously hoping to discourage morally conservative GOP base voters from turning out. A small fractional decrease in turnout by evangelical and other moral issues voters could well swing the House and even the Senate to Democrat control.

The target of this narrative is the House leadership for its 'failure' to 'protect' the pages from a presumed sexual predator. As Clarice Feldman has explained, this 'blame the leadership' narrative rests on the public conflating the early emails, which were merely inappropriate ('overly friendly') with salacious IM texts, which the leadership only learned of from the press.

Of course, it is risible that a party which harbored Gerry Studds, and still boasts Barney Frank as a senior and respected Member of Congress would point a finger at Republicans, who demanded and got Foley's resignation from the House as soon as conclusive evidence surfaced of genuine misconduct (albeit misconduct milder than that of Studds, who engaged in sex with a male page who was a minor, or Frank, whose apartment was used as HQ of a male escort service run by his boyfriend).

But the hypocritical posturing of the Democrats could still work for them. The targeted GOP voters don't care if Democrats have engaged in worse conduct and lived to cast votes in Congress. They expect nothing at all from Democrats, but demand much more from their own leadership. There are few issues as potent as protecting teens from sexual predators, hetero— or homosexual. The issue hits even lower than the gut.

The intent is to demoralize moral conservatives, and get them to stay home in early November. So what kind of counter—narrative would immunize the base?

The GOP Narrative

In order to keep the Drive—Bys from driving on, a compelling question must grab public attention. Such a question exists: the Strange Case of the Black Ops Blog.

Of course, a subpoena from the FBI or other official investigation could probably uncover the identity of the person who set up the website last July. But that is not in sight at the moment.

How about the interesting question of whether or not a warning was issued to pages in 2001 or 2002, as ABC posted to its website:

Republican staff member warned congressional pages five years ago to watch out for Congressman Mark Foley, according to a former page.

Matthew Loraditch, a page in the 2001—2002 class, told ABC News he and other pages were warned about Foley by a supervisor in the House Clerk's office.

Loraditch, the president of the Page Alumni Association, said the pages were told "don't get too wrapped up in him being too nice to you and all that kind of stuff."

Yet this morning's New York Times carries a different account:

Matthew Loraditch, who worked as a page with Ms. Gallo and Mr. McDonald in 2001 and 2002, said a supervisor had once casually mentioned that Mr. Foley 'was odd' and that he later saw sexually explicit text messages that Mr. Foley had sent to two former pages after they left the program.

But Mr. Loraditch said he was never warned by program supervisors to stay away from him. 'He was friendly,' said Mr. Loraditch, who maintains a Web site for alumni and attends Towson University in Maryland. 'He would talk to us more than some other members would.'

The Times article takes a far softer tone than what was heard elsewhere in the liberal media. The headline reads "Former Pages Describe Foley as Caring Ally" and contains sympathetic information.

He took pains to befriend the 16— and 17—year—old aides, several former pages said in interviews on Sunday. He chatted with them on the House floor, they said, sent handwritten notes and urged them to keep in touch when they left Washington for their hometowns.

In 2002, he even stood up on the floor of the House, his eyes welling with tears, and commended the young men and women for their year of service. In his speech, Mr. Foley mentioned several of the high school students by name, describing a handwritten note to celebrate one young man's graduation and a lunch with another at Morton's steak house.

Could it be that the Democrats' "witch hunt" demand of Republicans has spooked some of their own base? Could the medicine administered to Foley also be applied to certain Democrats in Congress? Or is the gay community expressing discomfort with the tenor of the charges? I don't know, but I wonder why the Times got the warm and fuzzies?  The reversal in tone on the part of the virtual House Organ of the DNC is mighty curious. Curioser and curioser, as it were.

As in the case of the fake Texas Air National Guard Memorandum, the story is complicated. As then, a prominent broadcaster is attached to the story. Dan Rather's career ended in the wake of his involvement in publicizing the fake memo. Brian Ross, of ABC is the person who took the story from an obscure blog to national attention.

The current story lacks the visual evidence of easily—compared versions of the TANG memo. But it has in its place a mystery blogger.

Which narrative will dominate? The answer will tell us a great deal about the relative power of the new media (talk radio, internet sites, and cable news) and old media, and will help determine where legislative control of the federal government rests for the next two years.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of American Thinker.

Regardless of whether or not some sort of plot existed to hold onto evidence of potentially criminal internet misconduct by former Rep.  Mark Foley, and spring it on the public as an October Surprise, the fallout of the case is going to be powerful.

But the outcome depends on which of two alternative narratives becomes the dominant one reaching and affecting voters. Given the firepower of the still dominant, if fading, antique media, the narrative favored by the Democrats has a good chance of remaining the main story.

But acceptance of the Democrats' narrative depends on the media remaining true to their characterization by Rush Limbaugh as the 'Drive By Media' — unleashing salvos of facts, half—truths, and lies, and then speeding away before anyone does more than form a hazy impression.

The stakes involve no less than control of Congress.

The Democrats' Narrative

Democrats are obviously hoping to discourage morally conservative GOP base voters from turning out. A small fractional decrease in turnout by evangelical and other moral issues voters could well swing the House and even the Senate to Democrat control.

The target of this narrative is the House leadership for its 'failure' to 'protect' the pages from a presumed sexual predator. As Clarice Feldman has explained, this 'blame the leadership' narrative rests on the public conflating the early emails, which were merely inappropriate ('overly friendly') with salacious IM texts, which the leadership only learned of from the press.

Of course, it is risible that a party which harbored Gerry Studds, and still boasts Barney Frank as a senior and respected Member of Congress would point a finger at Republicans, who demanded and got Foley's resignation from the House as soon as conclusive evidence surfaced of genuine misconduct (albeit misconduct milder than that of Studds, who engaged in sex with a male page who was a minor, or Frank, whose apartment was used as HQ of a male escort service run by his boyfriend).

But the hypocritical posturing of the Democrats could still work for them. The targeted GOP voters don't care if Democrats have engaged in worse conduct and lived to cast votes in Congress. They expect nothing at all from Democrats, but demand much more from their own leadership. There are few issues as potent as protecting teens from sexual predators, hetero— or homosexual. The issue hits even lower than the gut.

The intent is to demoralize moral conservatives, and get them to stay home in early November. So what kind of counter—narrative would immunize the base?

The GOP Narrative

In order to keep the Drive—Bys from driving on, a compelling question must grab public attention. Such a question exists: the Strange Case of the Black Ops Blog.

Of course, a subpoena from the FBI or other official investigation could probably uncover the identity of the person who set up the website last July. But that is not in sight at the moment.

How about the interesting question of whether or not a warning was issued to pages in 2001 or 2002, as ABC posted to its website:

Republican staff member warned congressional pages five years ago to watch out for Congressman Mark Foley, according to a former page.

Matthew Loraditch, a page in the 2001—2002 class, told ABC News he and other pages were warned about Foley by a supervisor in the House Clerk's office.

Loraditch, the president of the Page Alumni Association, said the pages were told "don't get too wrapped up in him being too nice to you and all that kind of stuff."

Yet this morning's New York Times carries a different account:

Matthew Loraditch, who worked as a page with Ms. Gallo and Mr. McDonald in 2001 and 2002, said a supervisor had once casually mentioned that Mr. Foley 'was odd' and that he later saw sexually explicit text messages that Mr. Foley had sent to two former pages after they left the program.

But Mr. Loraditch said he was never warned by program supervisors to stay away from him. 'He was friendly,' said Mr. Loraditch, who maintains a Web site for alumni and attends Towson University in Maryland. 'He would talk to us more than some other members would.'

The Times article takes a far softer tone than what was heard elsewhere in the liberal media. The headline reads "Former Pages Describe Foley as Caring Ally" and contains sympathetic information.

He took pains to befriend the 16— and 17—year—old aides, several former pages said in interviews on Sunday. He chatted with them on the House floor, they said, sent handwritten notes and urged them to keep in touch when they left Washington for their hometowns.

In 2002, he even stood up on the floor of the House, his eyes welling with tears, and commended the young men and women for their year of service. In his speech, Mr. Foley mentioned several of the high school students by name, describing a handwritten note to celebrate one young man's graduation and a lunch with another at Morton's steak house.

Could it be that the Democrats' "witch hunt" demand of Republicans has spooked some of their own base? Could the medicine administered to Foley also be applied to certain Democrats in Congress? Or is the gay community expressing discomfort with the tenor of the charges? I don't know, but I wonder why the Times got the warm and fuzzies?  The reversal in tone on the part of the virtual House Organ of the DNC is mighty curious. Curioser and curioser, as it were.

As in the case of the fake Texas Air National Guard Memorandum, the story is complicated. As then, a prominent broadcaster is attached to the story. Dan Rather's career ended in the wake of his involvement in publicizing the fake memo. Brian Ross, of ABC is the person who took the story from an obscure blog to national attention.

The current story lacks the visual evidence of easily—compared versions of the TANG memo. But it has in its place a mystery blogger.

Which narrative will dominate? The answer will tell us a great deal about the relative power of the new media (talk radio, internet sites, and cable news) and old media, and will help determine where legislative control of the federal government rests for the next two years.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of American Thinker.