Saturday, September 30, 2006

Even Hiaasen couldn't make it up!

Malcolm waits expectantly for each new instalment of Carl Hiaasen, either on line from the Miami Herald or in the bookshops. In another dimension, the on-going collapse from hubris to nemesis of the Floridan Republicans is worthy of a Socrates.

While Malcolm has been able to laugh with Hiaasen as he depicts a hardly-credible and comic-strip version of squalid shenanigans in southern Florida, it now all seems to be coming to an awful, fascinating reality. First we had the ludicrous senatorial ambition of Katherine Harris (for which see previous bloggings from Malcolm), now we have (former) Representative Mark Foley.

Foley has been in the House of Representatives, for the solid-Republican sixteenth district, since 1994. This district bisects Florida coast-to-coast, from the better end of Palm Beach to the Costa Geriatrica of Port Charlotte (where Foley has his office and nearly a third of the households are 65 or older). It is a district which is traditionally (in more ways than one) Republican (voting 55-45 for Bush in 2004). It is also the archetypal example of over-development and resource-depletion.

Now for Foley. The Boston Phoenix has one of those editorials that Malcolm salivates over, if only for the spleen and venom. It is moderately entitled:
Being gay in the GOP
Congressman Mark Foley: A model of political hypocrisy and personal cowardice.
It continues:
It’s one of those open secrets that’s more open than secret. It first came up during his initial run for Congress in 1994. A right-wing opponent in the GOP primary sent out a mailing saying that Foley was gay. Foley answered the accusation — and in this context, it was an accusation — by telling the media: "I like women."
This editorial outlines the on-going attempt to "out" Foley, starting a while back by Bob Norman in the New Times, a Broward-Palm Beech alternative weekly. This was picked up by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. It became national news only in the last day or so, when, eventually, republican bosses acted on "explicit" emails sent by Foley to a sixteen-year-old page in the Capitol. And then Foley did a quick, quiet runner, doubtless never to be seen in polite society again. It seems that, behind the scenes, moves have been afoot (from Karl Rove, indeed) to stymie Foley (who also had ambitions for the Senate seat now being sought by Harris).

Which raises two big problems:
  1. What is it with the reactionary Right that they cannot face the obvious on sexuality?
  2. What happens next in the November elections?
The first of these issues goes to the heart of the double-standards of conventional politics: "It's all right so long as you get away with it. You're doomed when it becomes public. And then we bury you deep". This is essentially a "better than thou" attitude. It is not just American. It is not merely the Right. It is not unBritish, even. Malcolm remembers being at the London Labour Party do for the October 1974 General Election. The assembled throng were addressed by Bob Mellish, and Malcolm found himself standing close to Ron Brown, George Brown's brother and Shoreditch MP. Ron Brown's running de haut en bas commentary on Mellish amounted to "give the plebs what is needed to keep them happy". At the time, Malcolm admits, he was innocent enough to be shocked.

As for the November elections, the Foley affair has some serious implications for the Republicans. The Democrats need 15 seats to regain control of the House. That has seemed quite a long shot (and one which Malcolm has not considered in depth). It is too late to get Foley off the ballot. At the very best, the Republicans will need to run an alternate, a candidate to receive Foley's "proxy" votes. Along with all the other scandals which have lapped at (mainly) Republican doors: this could be one too many. Hooray! says Malcolm.

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