"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."


Glenn Reynolds:

Barack Obama:
"Impossible to transcend."

Albert A. Gore, Jr.:
"An incontinent brute."

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
"God damn the Gentleman Farmer."

Friends of GF's Sons:
"Is that really your dad?"

Kickball Girl:
"Keeping 'em alive until 7:45."

Hired Hand:
"I think . . . we forgot the pheasant."

I'm an
Alcoholic Yeti
in the
TTLB Ecosystem

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So What?

Meanwhile, law professor Orin Kerr suggests that it is far from clear that Congressman Foley has violated any laws, echoing the point that we've been trying to make.

In comments to one of our Foley posts, "Arlington" has exhaustively catalogued the Congressman's moral transgressions. That's all very well, and we could hardly agree more.

But those conclusions represent the application to these facts of a moral structure not shared by all. Indeed, a moral structure explicitly rejected by virtually every Democratic member of Congress. Moreover, an even broader range of folks would reject the notion that Christian theology -- let alone one version of Christian theology -- should be the basis for our criminal laws. That's a perfectly respectable political position, with much to recommend it.

That being said, however, we find ourselves having circled around only to arrive at our original jumping off point: What exactly does Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, or Harry Reid, claim Foley did that was wrong? They need to tell us what that might have been, and then they need to explain why they think that thing was wrong.

Let's conduct a little thought experiment:

Imagine that imaginary Congressman Goodman is approached by a 16-year-old female page. The Congressman has never laid eyes on the young woman before. He has in fact never had any contact with any Congressional page, male or female. She has come to the Congressman because he was described as a person who might be expected to be sympathetic to her position. As she tearfully relates, she is pregnant with the child of her hometown boyfriend, also age 16. What oh what, she pleads, is she to do?

Congressman Goodman, a staunch supporter of abortion on demand, counsels that her life will be ruined should she bear this child. He recommends a friendly neighborhood abortion clinic, takes her there himself, and pays for her abortion as an act of kindness and charity.

This is a scandal. Congressman Goodman is a murderer. He had no business counseling this young woman in the first place, and less procuring the destruction of her child. He should resign from Congress in disgrace. He should be criminally prosecuted, and jailed for a term measured in decades. Here is a man who gratuitously volunteered to kill.

But that's just my opinion. It's not the law. And, according to any number of prominent American politicians, clergy, academics, and the like, nothing with even a hint of moral concern has transpired. At the very least, many would insist that -- whatever the moral aspects of these events -- they're not my business, and not the business of the law, criminal or otherwise.

Fair enough.

And so we come once again to our original question: What exactly is it that Congressman Foley has done that is wrong -- let alone illegal?

Will Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid announce that, in their view, it is immoral for 16-year-olds to have sex (inasmuch as it's not illegal)? Will they trumpet the immorality of homosexuality? Will they work for state legislation raising the age of consent to 18? to 21?

We didn't think so.

[UPDATE]: Aside from some vague reference to “preying on ordinary young Americans” being “vile,” our friends at the New York Times seem similarly tongue-tied when it comes to identifying what’s wrong with anything Foley did. Heck, some of us have reached the point where 30-year-old women are “young Americans.” The Times is pretty clear on the point that something is wrong, and they’re sure it has something to do with Denny Hastert. See “Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.” If we can't rely on the New York Times for moral clarity, we've come to a pretty pass.

Comments on "So What?"


Anonymous 'chesty' said ... (12:48 PM) : 

well, i'm no lawyer, but wikipedia tells me:

"Federal Law: {Chapter 117, 18 U.S.C. 2422(b)} forbids the use of the United States Postal Service or other interstate or foreign means of communication, such as telephone calls or use of the internet, to persuade or entice a minor (defined as under 18 throughout chapter) to be involved in a criminal sexual act."

again, i'm no lawyer, but that would seem pretty clear-cut to me.


Blogger Wilhelm said ... (2:06 PM) : 

"Minor", yes, but this still does not address the GF's question. This statute refers to a "criminal sexual act". What is the criminal sexual act? I don't dispute that Foley's conduct was despicable. But the question on the floor is: "what crime". This statute indeed makes persuasion or enticement using interstate communications a crime, but only if persuasion or enticement relates to involvement in a criminal sexual act. As near as I can tell, the GF's question still stands.


Anonymous Arlington said ... (2:10 PM) : 

GF: You observe that "an even broader range of folks would reject the notion that Christian theology -- let alone one version of Christian theology -- should be the basis for our criminal laws". If that is a response to my comments, may I reply that I did not argue that Christian theology should be the basis for our criminal laws. I would urge, rather, that our criminal laws--and our personal moral judgments--must correspond to natural law. Anyone asking "What's wrong with Foley?" (as opposed to "What criminal statutes did he violate?") is asking to hear a moral judgment.

That is all. Now carry on about Nancy Pelosi.


Anonymous john marshall said ... (3:12 PM) : 


You may not be a lawyer, but Orin Kerr is, and the link provided by GF goes to his discussion of the very point that you raise.


Blogger Almost Ignatius J. said ... (3:22 PM) : 

who CARES about whether it was illegal or not? anything that brings down Hastert and his merry band of cronies is OK by me.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:31 PM) : 

An honest man: Fair enough.


Blogger Faithful Sherpa said ... (10:14 PM) : 

To condemn Mr. Foley, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid don't have to propose their own cogent morality or even believe that there is any moral aspect to sex at all.

Mr Foley violated the moral code of HIS OWN party.

It is perfectly reasonable to hold Mr. Foley to his own sexual standards, and one need not agree with those standards to do so. If it is the scandalously liberal position of the Democratic party that people should be largely free to write the rules for their own sex lives, his is the only standard by which they can assess his actions.

Wrong? Set me straight.

As a postscript, I'm well aware that I'm painting a picture in horribly broad strokes. It seems as though generalizing is well within the bounds of this conversation, so I don't feel too bad assuming that Republicans tend to condemn homosexuality on moral grounds, and that elected congressmen represent the beliefs of their chosen party.


Anonymous 'chesty' said ... (10:56 PM) : 

wait, am i to understand that i've been operating under the mistaken belief all this time that it is illegal for 57 year olds to have sex with 16 year olds? seriously? is that true?


Blogger Gentleman Farmer said ... (11:01 PM) : 

An interesting approach, O Faithful Sherpa, but one which I will decline to follow.

Certainly if my doctor believes that I have a fungal infection, but then treats me otherwise, then he is to be condemned, even if I don't have a fungal infection. He behaved dishonestly, and in a circumstance where I was especially relying on him.

But imagine that you're leading yet another party of Americans up the side of Everast, and there arises a dispute as to the correct path to take. You have the most experience. Indeed, you have not the slightest doubt which is the correct path. Moreover, you know that the path proposed by your party will lead them off a cliff.

I think just then is not the right time to tell them, "Well, it's right for you, so go right ahead. Do what you think is best."

Pelosi, Reid, et al. are not reacting because they charge Foley with being a hypocrite. They're acting as if he's done something so awful that anyone who failed immediately to recognize the extreme awfulness must necessarily be a monster, or corrupt. They are behaving in a manner appropriate only if they believe that some objective line has been crossed -- a line obvious to everyone.

But they won't tell us where that line is, or why they think it's drawn just so.


Blogger Gentleman Farmer said ... (11:06 PM) : 

Dear Chesty-

Without irony, and without intent to mislead or gain advantage, I advise you (as your attorney) that it is not illegal in the District of Columbia for a 50-year-old man to have sex with a 16-year-old boy. And that is the law in most jurisdictions.

In some states the age of consent is higher. I am not aware of any that are above 18. Some states have age limits, such as 18, but have sliding scales of age for acts by persons below that age. A 15-year-old, for example, would not commit a crime by having sex with a 16-year-old.

But, to answer your question, it is entirely legal for Mr. Foley to have sex with a 16-year-old in the District of Columbia.


Blogger Almost Ignatius J. said ... (9:02 AM) : 

wait, so foley shouldn't go to jail? you don't agree with:

"Foley should do more than resign from Congress, he should do serious jail time. And if the Republican leadership actually knew what had gone on, there should be some more resignations."


Anonymous 'chesty' said ... (9:37 AM) : 

wow. also without irony, i really did not know that, and am fairly surprised.


Anonymous Arlington said ... (9:56 AM) : 


I accept your generality (that the GOP tends to oppose homosexuality on moral grounds). Certainly that is true of the natural constituency of Speaker Hastert (who is a Wheaton grad, BTW).

However, I think GF is right that the charge being leveled is NOT mere hypocrisy (such as "You act like you oppose homosexuality, but when your own teammate attempts it, you sweep it under the rug"), but is instead that the GOP leadership allowed evil and danger to threaten the vulnerable pages.

Either charge (if true) is bad IMHO, and would be a reason for conservatives to punish the GOP.

However, in addition to factual questions about exactly what happened, who in the GOP knew what, and when, we also have questions that pertain to outrageous Demo hypocrisy. At the same level of generality about which you spoke of the GOP, let me say that the Democratic Party has tended to favor the LOWERING of the age of consent to 16. Those of us who oppose such lowering are written off as prudes and nazis. It is intolerable now to hear Pelosi talking about 16- and 17-year-old pages as "children" (which they are, but then why was the age of consent lowered?) and getting the vapors over the idea that they might have been receiving sexual advances.

Make up your mind, Nancy. Are they children or not?

In addition, the current Demo position seems to have some unspoken premises that they couldn't possibly speak, such as:

"The GOP leadership should have known--as everyone knows--that gay men are a risk to young boys."

"Closeted gay men are a danger and should be outed."

"When a gay man shows a friendly interest in young boys, it must be presumed to be about sex."

If Hastert HAD acted decisively on the evidence of the then-known e-mails (the ones that were weird and creepy but not overtly sexual), it is easy to imagine scenarios in which the Demos would have arisen in anger and savaged him for homophobia. But now they're savaging him for entertaining presumptions that things were OK.

If it were permitted to notice that homosexuality is a disorder, then all of this would be much simpler. And sane.


Blogger Gentleman Farmer said ... (10:47 AM) : 

Dear AIJ-

I most certainly think that Mr. Foley should have resigned, and should be sent to jail. I think that upon his release, he should not only register as a sexual pervert, but be required to wear his underwear on the outside as a warning to civilians.

But that's just me. It's not the law, and it's way different from the world according to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Bill Clinton.

Which (as always) brings us back to the great (still) unanswered question: I know why I think Foley is a sick son-of-a-bitch, but every one of my reasons is, or has been, rejected by American "progressives." And so we're back to asking: "What did Foley do wrong?"

Meanwhile, Drudge is reporting that the fellow to whom Foley sent the most salacious IM's was in fact 18, not 16. And everyone knows that homo-sex between 18-year-olds and skanky, withered middle-aged men is not only not illegal, it's a Constitutional right.

In fact, I may be mistaken, but I believe that Dennis Kucinich has introduced legislation that would establish and fund a federal Office of the Public Boy-Whore. Its function (like legal aid) would be to provide young sex partners to middle-aged gay men who don't have the financial means to acquire their own toy-boys, as is their Constitutional right.


Blogger Almost Ignatius J. said ... (11:44 AM) : 

to be fair to the situation at hand, Drudge's headlines are actually misleading. his "FAMOUS IM EXCHANGE" headline only refers to the one Foley had while awaiting that approp. vote.

i believe that the original IM exchanges were conducted with 16 year olds.

like i said, i don't give two shits about if what Foley did was illegal. i agree that it was creepy and i think that it is pretty horrible if Hastert and Reynolds swept it under the rug (especially if Foley donated $100K to the NRCC to keep them quiet, as has been suggested).

but, in the end, i don't care what it takes, i don't care what Pelosi says, these clowns have been in office for way too long for my taste.

we can debate the merits of it all you want, just get these idiots out of there. they are ruining the country.


Anonymous Arlington said ... (1:42 PM) : 

Almost Ig:

If we could have any probable hope that the next group would be less ruinous, then, sure, I'd be in favor of booting the current crew and hoping for better. Unfortunately, the only people ever elected to Congress are people who choose to run for election, so only idiots can be elected.


Blogger Almost Ignatius J. said ... (3:22 PM) : 

better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don't? i'm not so sure i buy that.

at the very least, it would be nice to get ideas that i agree with through congress at some point


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