Saturday, September 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via MSNBC: Poll shows Virginia Senate race is dead heat

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Roll Call: Reynolds Informed Hastert of Allegations Against Foley

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) issued a statement Saturday in which he said that he had informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of allegations of improper contacts between then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and at least one former male page, contradicting earlier statements from Hastert.

GOP sources said Reynolds told Hastert earlier in 2024, shortly after the February GOP leadership elections. Hastert’s response to Reynolds’ warning remains unclear.

Hastert’s staff insisted Friday night that he was not told of the Foley allegations and are scrambling to respond to Reynolds’ statement.

Further, Boehner’s statements about what he told Hastert and when are at odds with each other. See here and here.

Further, Reynold’s statement raises another issue (emphasis mine):

Rodney Alexander brought to my attention the existence of e-mails between Mark Foley and a former page of Mr. [Rodney Alexander's [R-La.]. 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.

If the only issue was the one semi-weird e-mail, why would the parents even be involved?

There appears to be another shoe yet to drop as it pertains to House Leadership.

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By Steven L. Taylor

From the same CNN some of the inglorious history of Congressman-page scandal:

Rep. Gerry Studds, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Rep. Dan Crane, an Illinois Republican — were censured following their admission they had consensual sexual relationships with 17-year-old pages.

Neither lawmaker resigned, but Crane was defeated for re-election in 1984. Studds survived the scandal and continued to serve in the House until retiring in 1996.

Studds’ affair was of a homosexual nature, while Crane’s was hetrosexual (I note that only for factual clarity and no other reason).

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By Steven L. Taylor

The question is now going to be “who knew what and when did they know it?” in terms of House leadership and Foley’s behavior.

The key issue is whether we are talking about leadership knowing about an e-mail that could be explained away or if they knew about pornographic IMs (or had other information). If all leadership knew about was the one e-mail, then calls for resignations and such are premature. If they knew about the IMs, then I will join the call.

Via WaPo (Rep. Foley Quits In Page Scandal) we find:

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate “contact” between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.

It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged online exchanges between Foley and the boy.

Roll Call notes:

At least four Republican House Members, one senior GOP aide and a former top officer of the House were aware of the allegations about Foley that prompted the initial reporting regarding his e-mail contacts with a 16-year-old House page. They include: Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), as well as a senior aide to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl.

Boehner strongly denied media reports late Friday night that he had informed Hastert of the allegations, saying “That is not true.”

Reynolds refused to comment.

Shimkus, who chairs the page board, and Trandahl, who administered the program, met with Foley in 2024 after learning of Foley’s e-mail exchange with the former page by Alexander. Shimkus released a detailed statement Friday night.

House sources said that Foley denied any improper sexual activity when confronted by Shimkus and Trandahl. Their information only included some August 2024 e-mails that contained no references to sex or other improper behavior, and not the other messages that have been reported by ABC News.

According to a senior House GOP leadership aide, Hastert’s office was informed of the interview shortly after it occurred, but Hastert himself was not told.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), who serves on the page board, was never told of the interview with Foley.

The fact that no Democrats were informed makes one wonder–although I am not sure what constitutes normal actions in these types of situations.

If the statement by John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Chair of the Page Board is an accurate reflection of what leadership knew, then the leadership angle may prove to be nothing. From Shimkus’ statement:

“As chairman of the bipartisan House Page Board in late 2024, I was notified by the then Clerk of the House, who manages the Page Program, that he had been told by Congressman Rodney Alexander about an email exchange between Congressman Foley and a former House Page. I took immediate action to investigate the matter.

“In that email exchange, Congressman Foley asked about the former Page’s well-being after Hurricane Katrina and requested a photograph. When asked about the email exchange, Congressman Foley said he expressed concern about the Page’s well-being and wanted a photo to see that the former Page was alright.<[> “Congressman Foley told the Clerk and me that he was simply acting as a mentor to this former House Page and that nothing inappropriate had occurred. Nevertheless, we ordered Congressman Foley to cease all contact with this former House Page to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. We also advised him to be especially mindful of his conduct with respect to current and former House Pages, and he assured us he would do so. I received no subsequent complaints about his behavior nor was I ever made aware of any additional emails.

“It has become clear to me today, based on information I only now have learned, that Congressman Foley was not honest about his conduct.

It is clear that they knew his behavior was questionable. Via CNN (Colleague: We told Foley to stop contacting teen):

The lawmaker who oversees the page program, Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, said that he had learned about of Foley’s e-mails in late 2024 and “took immediate action to investigate the matter.”

He was notified by Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Republican from Louisiana, in whose office the page had worked. Alexander forwarded the e-mails to the clerk of the House.

“We ordered Congressman Foley to cease all contact with this former House page to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” Shimkus said in a statement Friday.

“It has become clear to me today, based on information I only now have learned, that Congressman Foley was not honest about his conduct.”


Shimkus recalled that when he initially questioned Foley about the e-mails, the congressman assured him that he was “simply acting as a mentor” and that “nothing inappropriate had occurred.”

Foley said he was e-mailing to find out if the teenager was OK after Hurricane Katrina and “wanted a photo to see that the former page was all right,” Shimkus said.

Foley was ordered to have no further contact with the former page and advised “to be especially mindful of his conduct,” Shimkus said.

“And he assured us he would do so,” Shimkus’ statement added. “I received no subsequent complaints about his behavior nor was I ever made aware of any additional e-mails.”

If all they knew about was the e-mail, I can understand the lack of action, as in the absence of any other information it could be explained away. Still, I have to wonder if, indeed, that was all that was known or suspected.

The whole thing is an utter mess, to be sure.

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Friday, September 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Robert Downey Jr. — I am “Iron Man”

“The Marvel characters are not just about how high they jump or how fast they fly, they’re about their character flaws,” Feige said. “They’re about their inner demons. They’re about the struggles that they go through between being a man and being a hero.”

Downey, who has battled his fair share of inner demons, worked hard to get the role, getting in shape and even growing a goatee like the one Stark sports in the comic books.

An interesting argument.

I suppose I should withhold judgement, given that Michael Keaton was actually pretty good in the first Batman flick, and the choice originally struck me as, well, insane.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Foley resigns from Congress over e-mails.

ABC’s The Blotter has more:

Saying he was “deeply sorry,” Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned from Congress today, hours after ABC News questioned him about sexually explicit internet messages with current and former congressional pages under the age of 18.

As of this morning’s WaPo, the Congressman’s office was claiming that there was nothing to the story:

“The e-mails in question were a response to a handwritten thank-you letter from a former page,” said Jason Kello, Foley’s spokesman. “There have not been any allegations made by anyone except by Tim Mahoney and the Democrats who are attempting to misrepresent a series of innocent communications to prop up a failing political campaign.”

So much for that version of events…

It does make you wonder what people are thinking when they send e-mail like that.

Also: it would seem that as a result of this we should pencil in a new seat for the Dems, yes?

Update: (Irony alert) If one looks at Congressman Foley’s House web page, one finds that two of the most recent headlines extol the Congressman’s work on tracking sexual predators and curtailing child pornography. Somehow, this makes this even more disturbing.

Update II: The AP version of the story notes:

Foley, chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children, said he would resign after ABC News reported he sent messages to current and former congressional pages with references to sexual organs and acts.

And in regards to the race for his seat:

Foley’s name will remain on the ballot, which has already been certified, said Susan Smith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State. But Republicans have seven days to notify election officials of a replacement nominee who would take Foley’s spot if he wins, she said.

Update III: ABC’s The Blotter has some of the transcripts of the IMs that are the heart of the matter and describes the significance of them as follows:

Federal authorities say such messages could result in Foley’s prosecution, under some of the same laws he helped to enact.

“Adds up to soliciting underage children for sex,” said Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and now an ABC News consultant. “And what it amounts to is serious both state and federal violations that could potentially get you a number of years.”

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYT: Book Says Bush Ignored Urgent Warning on Iraq

Mr. Woodward’s first two books about the Bush administration, “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack,” portrayed a president firmly in command and a loyal, well-run team responding to a surprise attack and the retaliation that followed. As its title indicates, “State of Denial” follows a very different storyline, of an administration that seemed to have only a foggy notion that early military success in Iraq had given way to resentment of the occupiers.

The fact that Woodward’s first two books were considered basically positive vis-a-vis the administration will give this one more credibility. Further, the fact that Woodward was for the first two books given a great deal of acess to the principals probably means that he was for this one as well. This, too, will enhance the book’s credibility.

I will note that the thesis that the book appears to proffer, that the administration didn’t plan well for the aftermath of the war and that it did not take the difficulty seriously, echoes what Larry Diamond wrote in Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq .

The criticisms of Rumsfeld also mirror some of what Diamond had to say.

The book is already generating a number of headlines. To wit:

More, no doubt, to follow.

And sadly, I have not been offered a review copy…

Update: James Joyner points out: Woodward Scooped on Own Book.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo (House Approves Warrantless Wiretap Law) we get some quotes from House leadership that features the worst kind of “reasoning” in the current debate about how to deal with detainees and how to foster national security.

First we have Speaker Haster:

After the House voted 253-168 to set rules on tough interrogations and military tribunal proceedings, Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was even more critical than Boehner.

“Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 159 of her Democrat colleagues voted today in favor of more rights for terrorists,” Hastert said in a statement. “So the same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans and their freedom worldwide would be coddled, if we followed the Democrat plan. “

There is a twofold problem here. They are both quite common in this discussion. The first is the fundamental assumption that every single person that we capture is automatically a terrorist (i.e., that suspicion equals guilt). This is not necessarily the case. It is wholly possible that some we have captured were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that we made some other mistake. A corollary of the first problem is to assume that everyone we capture is equivalent to Khalid Sheik Muhammad and his ilk. They aren’t. However, many speak as if every single person in our custody is the equivalent of a major lieutenant of Osama bin Laden and that they hold treasure troves of information and they are each to be seen as proxies for the 9/11 hijackers.

A second major flaw here is the notion that having rules and procedures that acknowledges that we are dealing with human being here is “coddling” anyone. Indeed, the ability to recognize that your enemy is a) a human being, and b) perhaps not as guilty as you suspect that he is, isn’t coddling, it is due process and it a morally superior position that we should aspire to have, not disparage.

And, as I noted in my post last night about suspending habeas corpus, the bottom line is that we are talking not about dramatic actions that governments undertake during a specific crisis when the hot war rages, but rather the codification of actions that will be undertaken when passions have cooled and the immediacy of the crisis has faded and when cooler heads ought to prevail.

Look, within our own criminal justice system we frequently afford rights to the worst of the worst (and people we are 99% are guilty). We do so because it is the right thing to do and because such mechanisms protect the innocent. There are criminals who deserve to be shot on sight, no doubt. However, we don’t do that because it violates our basic values as a democracy.

I am not arguing that we should treat captured combatants the same as we treat criminal defendants. However, there are parallels here in terms of how we should behave.

Consider: if the enemy is shot and killed during battle, that is acceptable. However, if once you have the enemy in your control and you bind him and shoot him in the back of the head, we find that highly unacceptable. Why? Either way he is dead by the same bullet. However, we clearly consider those circumstances to be different.

As such, once you have people in your custody, the manner of treatment matters.

I would note, as I have before, that if we, as a major element of our foreign policy, are going to promote democratic goverance as something that other states should adopt, then we have to be a model of that form of government. If we are going to say that as soon as we feel threatened that we are willing to toss values out the window, then the message being sent is power and security trumps democratic values. How is that going to incentivize non-democracies in insecure parts of the world to adopt democratic norms and values? Isn’t the real lesson that we are teaching is that what really is matters is order and power ?

Another example of Leadership and dramatic rhetoric:

“The Democrats’ irrational opposition to strong national security policies that help keep our nation secure should be of great concern to the American people,” Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement after the bill passed 232-191.

A true sign of serious argumentation: tagging those who disagree with you as being “irrational.”

But, then again, it’s election season and majority status is on the line, so why not trivialize the debate?

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Thursday, September 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

I wonder how many times in the coming days that people will defend the provision in the detainee bill that denies terror suspects the rights of habeas corpus by saying that Lincoln did it in during the Civil War.

Two things spring to mind. First, just because something was done in the past by a successful war President doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing. Second, and more importantly, it is one thing for a given President to engage in a particular activity during the crisis moments of a hot war, and it is wholly another to codify such things into law.

Via the NYT: Senate Passes Detainee Bill Sought by President Bush

It strips detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court and broadly defines what kind of treatment of detainees is prosecutable as a war crime.


Senator Carl M. Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, argued that the habeas corpus provision “is as legally abusive of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution as the actions at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and secret prisons were physically abusive of detainees.”

And even some Republicans who said voted for the bill said they expected the Supreme Court to strike down the legislation because of the habeas corpus provision, ultimately sending the legislation right back to Congress.

“We should have done it right, because we’re going to have to do it again,” said Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon, who had voted to strike the habeas corpus provision, yet supported the bill.

One guess that the whole thing isn’t over, even once the President signs the bill.

Of course, as Scott Lemieux, points out, Congress has the Constitutinal authority to suspend habeas rights in times of war and invasion (see Article I, Section 9). Whether this is a good thing, however, is another question.

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By Steven L. Taylor

This quote from a WaPo piece (’06 Cuts In Iraq Troops Unlikely) is a couple of days old, but I just came across it:

Asked point-blank whether the United States is winning in Iraq, Abizaid replied: “Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we’re winning the war.”

Yep, and I hear tell that an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters could produce the complete works of Shakespeare.

What a remarkable thing to say, and not at a positive one, despite the attempt to make it sound positive. (Indeed, when I first saw the statement quoted apart from the WaPo story I thought it was someone’s attempt at a glib recapitulation of something Abizaid had said).

h/t: Peter at Duck of Minerva

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