Republican strategists and spin doctors have to be logging some very late nights trying to figure out how to rally mid-term election voters in the wake of the Mark Foley/Dennis Hastert disaster. Republicans have been basically waging a two-plank campaign that emphasized staying the course in Iraq and espoused Christian principles in the way they govern the country and create and interpret new laws. Now, though, with the Foley scandal (and Speaker Hastert’s apparent indifference/weak management during the Florida congressman’s sexual spree), the G.O.P. is reeling.
Foley’s "Do as I say, not as I do" conduct (i.e. on the one hand, he proposed legislation to strengthen laws against sexual predators using the Internet to attract underage kids while on the other hand he engaged in improper, sexually explicit instant messaging with Congressional pages) is a huge hurdle to overcome. And, Hastert’s hands-off management style has Republicans and Democrats alike calling for the latter’s resignation.
So, what’s a political party to do when one of its core foundations is undermined and made to look doubtful at best and hypocritical at worst? Cut and run, to be sure. The best policy is to do what some Republicans are doing now: castigate Foley, distance themselves from Hastert and focus on issues other than religion and ethical behavior in their mid-term politicking.
I‘ve always been wary of people who wear their religion on their sleeves. Some are genuinely passionate in their faith. But, then there are the Jim and Tammy Fay Bakers and countless others who turn out to be total frauds. Sadly, Congressman Foley is cut of the same cloth (an unethical cloth to be sure).
It will be fascinating to watch the Republican image machine cope with the Foley fallout over the next 30 days. Karl Rove & Co. is unquestioned masters at the game, but with the Foley albatross hanging around their necks, it sure looks like time for a Hail Mary pass.