Another Lesson From the Age of Transparency
: All right now, repeat after me: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.
From the Clinton administration’s obfuscations about the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal to the Roman Catholic church’s attempts to keep pedophilia under wraps (the latter being especially pertinent now), why is it that large, sophisticated institutions seem incapable of figuring out that when aberrant behavior occurs, it’s always better to come clean than to cover up.
Now it looks as though the Republican Party is about to learn that lesson the hard way.
At first, the instant messaging correspondence
between Rep. Mark Foley and one of his young male pages (including a request for a photo of the boy) seemed creepy rather than explicitly criminal. But as more messages emerged and Foley—the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, naturally—announced his resignation
, it became apparent that something more sinister was going on.
Still, Foley would not have been the first Congressmen to resign over sexual indiscretions. That in itself might have been a fairly short-lived story. But it now seems clear that the Republican leadership knew of Foley’s predilections, allowed him to continue in his position—finding the least appropriate person for any given position is becoming a tradition in this administration—and in general followed the Catholic church playbook for handling this kind of crisis: help the offender, protect the institution, and the victims be damned.
According to this Washington Post article
: “House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was notified early this year of inappropriate e-mails from former representative Mark Foley (R-Fla.) to a 16-year-old page, a top GOP House member said yesterday—contradicting the speaker's assertions that he learned of concerns about Foley only last week.”
The obvious questions are already being asked: “Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, questioned yesterday why Alexander had gone to the House Republicans’ chief political operative, rather than to other party leaders. ‘That’s to protect a member, not to protect a child,’ Emanuel said.”
The article goes on to say that “Republicans fear the scandal, coming in the wake of indictments of three GOP congressmen this year, might add to the public’s unrest at the party’s image and conduct, and some House members yesterday joined in the chorus of dismay and scorn.”
One of the reasons there will always be a demand for good public relations people is that leaders—political and business—seem incapable of learning even the most obvious lessons. And perhaps the most obvious of all is that the truth will out—and in an age of transparency it tends to come out in a hurry.
As a result, the Republican Party finds itself grappling with an ugly—and entirely unnecessary—crisis.