That is what every woman I’ve spoken to has said about the Foley mess.
“What were those guys thinking?”
It’s just that simple.
Why didn’t Hastert and Reynolds and Shimkus understand what every vigilant parent knows, that there is something very fishy about an older guy, any older guy, sending overly friendly e-mails to a 16-year-old, whether the 16-year-old is a boy or a girl.
Sure, the fundamental problem here is that Foley was sending those e-mails and, even worse, those even more explicit and disgusting text messages. But just as big a problem is that the House leadership was so dumb or disinterested that they really believed (at least, so they say) Foley’s alleged excuse that he was just “being friendly.”
Didn’t they ever wonder why a 52-year-old congressman needed a 16-year-old friend? A congressman whom almost everyone on the Hill thought was gay?
Would they have believed him and then just gone about their business if the one receiving the e-mails was their own son?
Unlike the discussions about the war, this is a very simple story to understand. Most of us don’t know what to do about Iraq or Iran or North Korea. There can be plenty of debate about how to handle these enormous challenges. But we do know how we should act if we were told about someone sending inappropriate messages to a teenager and we were in a position to do something about it. We would ask many more, and tougher, questions than these Congressmen say they did. And we would act to protect the kid and any other youngster whom that overly friendly guy might be tempted to bother. It has nothing to do with politics or policy, but just common sense. And the fact that the Republican leaders didn’t show enough concern, and some basic common sense, is what is most troubling of all.
It is somewhat ironic that during the past few days I have been attending a Department of Justice advisory committee meeting in Washington on the issue of domestic violence and how best to help children who are victims of abuse. At the meetings, I was impressed that there are so many thoughtful and capable people who are working hard, both in and out of the administration, to deal with these issues and to protect women and kids. A few of the women on the committee were running for office or had run successfully in the past. They knew how anything related to the welfare of children resonates with voters. That’s why it is so confounding that those on the Hill, our shrewdest and most successful politicians, just didn’t get it.
I am sure everyone is dismayed about this, but the ones most upset, I would guess, are married women with children, those independent voters who were the “security moms” in the 2004 election and turned out to be so crucial to George W. Bush’s victory.
Pollster David Winston has always maintained that the hostage crisis at that school in Beslan in September, 2004, where so many mothers and children died, was decisive in making these women realize that security was the most important issue in that campaign. When it came to vote these women trusted the president and a Republican Congress to keep their children safe. I remember that at the time a woman in Ohio, explaining why she and her friends had finally decided to vote Republican, told me that nothing was more important to a mom than protecting her children. Well, these are exactly the same voters who are so upset and outraged by the current Foley scandal and the behavior of the leadership.