Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley FAQ

Because a lot of people seem confused about a few of the facts of this case.

Q. I've seen some of the emails and they look weird, but not that bad. What's all the fuss about?

A. There were two different sets of communications. There are some weird-sounding but tame emails where the kid isn't into it from 2005 and some really raunchy IMs where another kid was into it* from 2003. Especially at the beginning, news stories were only quoting the emails which had a lot of people wondering what the fuss was about. Anyway, the non-work safe IMs are here and a billion other places. The tamer emails are quoted lots of news stories. Here's the blog where they first appeared.

Q. Were these kids minors? What are the age of consent implications?

A. According to the actual laws quoted on Ageofconsent.com, the age of consent in DC is 16. (DC does have a four-year window, as has been widely reported, but the "Child' means a person who has not yet attained the age of 16 years" bit says to me that the need for the window ends at 15.) As far as I've heard all of these kids were 16. However, the kid he was emailing with was in Louisiana, and there the age of consent is 17 and homosexual sex is illegal. The sodomy law may be irrelevant as the two didn't actually ever get together. Of course, there are laws about coming on to minors on the internet, some of them written by Foley himself as head of the committee on such things. I didn't find the full text of those in a quick search, but it's pretty safe to assume Foley broke them I'd say.

Q. Does this sound like a setup to you? How can a man remain in congress for over a decade and yet be so indiscreet?

A. The whole thing sounded fishy to me in the beginning, I admit. I wondered if there was some sort of sting. Having read up on it, I'm ready to concede that Foley was just stupid. He was likely too impressed with his own power and in the case of the IMs probably assumed the kid's encouragement meant the kid was gay, too, and thus unlikely to rat him out. Foley's checking himself into rehab may be a peice of the puzzle, too. It, of course, excuses nothing if he was drunk when he did some of this stuff, but it does suggest why he might have gone about it so sloppily.

Q. So is there any proof that the IMs are real?

A. I haven't heard of any. That said, it's probably unAmerican to take Foley's quick resignation as proof, but it might be reasonable to do so in this case. IMHO, he would have fought it if only the weird-sounding emails were real.

Q. So House leadership has known for HOW long?

A. Their claim is that they found out about the weird-sounding emails last year and told Foley to cut it out, but that they didn't know about the much freakier IMs from several years ago. This actually sounds pretty believable to me. Yes, there are reports that Republican staffers "warned" pages about Foley, but in the abscence of other evidence, I'm quicker to believe that these warnings were more like "Teenage boys should stay away from the gay guy" than "we have actual evidence Foley has done something wrong."
That said, Foley's ex-opponent in Florida is a billionaire and even in a 54-percent-Bush-voting-district, it's easier to hold onto a seat than win it again. So the coverup strategy is at least possible. But I'd still say from what I've heard the House leadership's side is no less believable.

Q. How did this story break?

A. The teenager who was emailed told his mother, who sent copies of the emails to a couple of different news sources around Florida. Then the teenager backed out and refused to corroborate anything. So the newspapers were stuck with a story with no corroborating sources and emails that were weird, but not explicit. The Miami Herald sent the emails to the FBI. Eventually, an anonymous person opened a blog called "Stop Sex Predators" and posted the emails. You can judge for yourself on the blog, but it looks to me like it was pretty obviously opened soley for the purpose of releasing the emails. Wonkette picked up the story, ABC news reported that Wonkette was reporting it. (You will note that up until now, we're only talking about the slightly creepy emails. As the first stories were only about them, that set up a lot of the confusion I alluded to in the first question.)
Anyway, when ABC news started reporting the emails, somebody sent them the raunchier IM transcript.

Q: Anything else?

A: Wonkette says it best: The question that remains: Who sent the emails to Stop Sex Predators? Someone made sure this all broke as October began — someone way too smart and Machiavellian to be an actual employee of the Democratic Party.

Q: Oh, and could you please provide a picture of Foley with George Allen?

A: Oh, happily, but I'm sepia-toning it first.


*Naturally it's still abusive when the teenager is into it. And Foley clearly starts the sex talk.

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