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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Has the Foley Affair Changed My Mind?

A reader writes:
"In the wake of Foley, do you still see the GOP keeping control of Congress in November?"
There's really no way to predict how the Foley tempest will effect the midterm election campaign. And there may be other volatile dynamics yet to enter the political scene; a month is an eternity in today's political climate. But if I'm limited to a binary "yes or no" choice, I would say: yes, Congress is likely to remain in Republican hands, for the same reasons I originally stated. Bill Kristol's latest portrays two very different messages, one from a Democrat who's focusing her TV advertising on Foley; the other from a Republican who's emphasizing security in a dangerous world. "This is a choice that should work out fine for Republicans," Kristol writes. "Which is why Democrats and the media may look back on the frenzy about Foley as a tactical mistake." Moreover, unless a smoking gun emerges to link Hastert as definitively negligent, there's reason to think the Democrats' use of Foley could backfire in a decisive way. How so? Nancy Pelosi this week declared her outrage "as a mom and grandmother" that "these kids" [the pages] "weren't protected." Pelosi has marched in San Francisco gay pride parades in which NAMBLA founder Harry Hay, a dedicated advocate of man/boy love, also marched. Count on the fact the GOP campaign operatives are working overtime to find photos or video footage of Pelosi and Hay together. If visual proof exists, expect it to appear in Republican campaign ads all over the country.
"And if the media and the Democrats want to remain sex-obsessed?" asks Kristol. "It might not be amiss for Republican candidates to remind the electorate which of the two parties has, shall we say, a more 'nuanced' view of sexual scandal. Which party continued to accept Rep. Gerry Studds as a member in good standing for a decade after his sexual liaison with a 17-year-old page? Which party worships at the altar of an even more famous abuser-of-his-position-of-power-for-sexual-favors--Bill Clinton? Not the Republicans."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Shush, the Base is Listening

The mainstream media's manic attempt to plumb the depths of the collective mind of conservative voters, which in fact amounts to a disguised quest to discourage those voters from going to the polls in November, is starting to remind me of those hilarious high-speed chase scenes from the old Benny Hill Show. At the end of each episode the posse pursuing Hill became longer and longer in a feverish sequence set to unforgettably cornball "Yakety Sax" music. The Foley affair stands in perfectly for Hill's trademark innuendo-laced humor — although it's fair to note that the continuing revelations about Foley's depravity leave precious little to the imagination. Which of course is precisely the aim of the disclosures: to unleash a flood of lurid details that will convince the GOP base — especially the so-called values voters — that Hastert and Company have betrayed the cause; better to punish the Republican congress by staying away from the polls than to vote for them one more time and thereby encourage future laxness on core values issues. The key question driving the debate: Will the Foley fiasco further depress the conservative base? Two weeks ago the same question was being asked about Iraq; two months ago it was the failure to secure the border that would keep conservatives from voting; a year ago "runaway congressional spending" was the thematic elbow to the ribs of the base. Starting to sound like a broken record? Well, sure; that's the point of advertising. But sometimes repetitive advertising backfires, and I think that's likely to be the unintended consequence of the left's hardy fforts to herd conservative voters away from the polls on Nov. 7. The liberal media and Democrat operatives are banking on what strikes me as a stunning lack of sophistication on the part of these voters, which no doubt reflects these elites' view that conservatives are basically neanderthals whose primitive cognitive capacities keep them from tasks beyond immediate sensory perception. Don't get me wrong — I'm not saying the conservative base is destined to turn out in droves to keep the GOP in congressional power. I do believe it's possible that many conservative voters might be sufficiently turned off by the GOP as to stay away from the polls, which, combined with a large Democrat voter turnout, could result in Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid. But I doubt it — and here's why. The very voters whose Nov. 7 intentions are at question are listening to and watching the ongoing debate about what they will do. Information Theory 101: When a given population overhears a conversation about what is expected of that population, this creates a new and potentially decisive vector that must be taken into consideration in any attempt to predict future actions. Example: When anthropologist Margaret Mead came to Samoa to study the natives she thought far less sophisticated than she, the natives cooperated by describing their norms, their folkways and practices. Mead wrote it all down, only later to discover that the natives had strung her along with lies that conformed to Mead's assumptions about how Somoans "really are." Analogy: If in fact GOP voters are tracking current political developments in the way the liberal media and Democrat strategists are hoping, these voters by definition must also be tracking the plethora of speculation about what it will take to keep them from voting. I'm guessing that if a lot of these voters are sufficiently sophisticated (read: smart enough) to vote "strategically" on Nov. 7 — as Pelosi, Carville, Soros, and Hugo Chavez all take for granted — well, it strikes me as nat least plausible that many of these voters might motivated by a certain desire to prove wrong the growing left-liberal orthodox view that so confidantly predicts these voters will turn on the GOP. Wouldn't it be funny if the increasingly ham-handed efforts to discourage the conservative base, turn out to have the opposite effect? Maybe the Foley revelations, and the way the revelations are being spun by left-liberals, are a blessing in disguise for the GOP. Pelosi's betting that core conservative voters will stay home because they're tired of getting punked by wayward congressional leaders. I'm suggesting that a lot of those voters will go to the polls and vote to keep the GOP in power because they're tired of getting punked by Pelosi et al. I am further suggesting that such strategically minded core conservative voters can probably find compelling ways to make it very clear to a very grateful GOP-dominated congress that conservatives expect their issues to be taken very seriously in 2007. "Meta-punking." The word doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but you heard it here first.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Andrew Sullivan's Myopia

Andrew Sullivan is a gay man who frequently writes about gay themes. He is a leading proponent of same-sex marriage. Concerning monogamy and fidelity, Sullivan says gay men should not be held to the same standards as straight men. When same-sex marriage is legalized, Sullivan writes in his book Virtually Normal, heterosexuals will have to develop a greater "understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman." He notes: "The truth is, homosexuals are not entirely normal; and to flatten their varied and complicated lives into a single, moralistic model is to miss what is essential and exhilarating about their otherness" (pp. 202-203). Against this backdrop, it doesn't come as a big surprise that Sullivan's coverage of Rep. Mark Foley's indefensible behavior would focus on Foley as a closeted gay man rather than a sexual predator. Indeed, Sullivan can't resist using Foley's transgression as an opportunity to talk about himself in a way that is difficult to distinguish from bragging — chiefly referring to his "courage and honesty" in living openly gay rather than closeted. He adds this curious comment: "I don't think of this as a virtue, really." This is disingenuous nonsense. Precisely by raising the issue of his virtue ("Me? Noble and meritorious? Aw, shucks") Sullivan leaves no doubt ("really") that his being openly gay makes him praiseworthy. Sullivan's exercise in self congratulation brings to mind Oscar Levant's quip to Gershwin: "Tell me, George, if you had it to do all over again, would you still fall in love with yourself?" Two points here. It strikes me as a tad strange that a leading advocate of same-sex marriage would, as a matter of rhetorical strategy, go out of his way to echo gay-marriage adversaries who regularly claim that gay men are by nature promiscuous and thus "essentially" incapable of faithfulness. Second, it's hard to take issue with Sullivan's assertion that living a lie is inevitably corrupting of character. But in terms of what most matters about Rep. Mark Foley's behavior, Sullivan's asssertion is irrelevant. Moreover, the assertion borders on a red herring. Earth calling Andrew: Foley's shameful pursuit of a 16-year-old House page was not wrong because the page happens to be a young male. Foley would deserve condemnation — and would surely receive it — if he had similarly pursued a female page of the same age. Let's try it from the top: Mark Foley used his position of power to exploit a vulnerable young person. And like most sexual predators, Foley was closeted — which is to say "seduces under-age children" does not appear on his resume. Foley got "outed" because his behavior cascaded beyond his capacity to keep it hidden. Here's the strangest part of Sullivan's myopic narcissism. When one of his readers busted him for trying to turn Foley into a victim of the closet ("What I don't understand is that you appear to be defending Foley's pedophilia"), Sullivan lamely fired back: "[T]he problem with this argument with respect to Foley is that the page in question was of a consenting age, which is 16 in the District of Columbia." Sullivan muddied things further by adding: "This doesn't make Foley's internet interactions less gross or inappropriate or unethical." Oh, really? If what Foley did was not illegal because the page was of a consenting age, then exactly what makes Foley's internet communications so "gross or inappropriate or unethical"? After all, Sullivan tells us that Foley is gay. And, Sullivan, who calls himself a "conservative," says gay men aren't required to play by the same rules as straight men. Gay men need "variety." Sullivan appears to be confirming what opponents of same-sex marriage have been saying all along, namely that proponents do not simply want the "equality" they claim to seek. Sullivan is saying he wants to redefine marriage as an institution. Remember a few years ago, when San Francisco city officials were busily conducting same-sex marriages, the liberal media offered up countless glowing examples of gay men in long-term committed monogamous relationships? I can't help wondering whether some of these men might take exception to Sullivan's condescending special pleading for the promiscuity they claimed not to be interested in. If only these "moralistic" chaps understood how much more "exhilarating" their lives would be if they simply cheated on their partners! Oops, how judgmental of me. I meant: Don't they realize how many "varied" possibilities they are missing out on, by not embracing Andrew Sullivan's call to celebrate their very special "otherness" by playing around on the side? Safely, of course. That goes without saying.