The Washington Post has provided two excellent analyses of the Mark Foley scandal in its Sunday edition, from the perspective of information gleaned during the past week.
1. If you're confused by the holes in the story that have sent professional pols into overdrive, don't worry. You're not alone. The Post provides a clear, succinct summary of what is and isn't known about how Republicans in Congress dealt with Foley. For anyone who doesn't have time to follow every twist and turn in the plot line, this is the article for you. It opens:
Despite countless hours of TV coverage and reams of newspaper reporting on the House's handling of the Mark Foley page scandal, numerous fundamental questions remain unanswered as the FBI and the House ethics committee begin their first full week of inquiries.
Gaps and inconsistencies in the public accounts include such basic matters as when House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his top aides first learned of concerns about Foley's relationships with male pages, and what they did about it. Also unclear is which GOP officials decided that only two members of the six-person House Page Board should confront the Florida lawmaker.
The author, Charles Babington, proceeds to identify some basic questions in the case and explain what is or isn't known at this point. Nothing could be simpler.
2. The second article examines possible political consequences of the scandal. Beyond almost certainly losing Foley's seat in Florida, Republicans may also lose Tom Reynolds' New York seat, for example. The authors quote analysts who expect full-tilt coverage to continue through the coming week. The Republican strategy will be to wait until the furor subsides, while accusing Democrats of exploiting the scandal. They write:
Party operatives are distributing talking points to talk radio and conservative blogs detailing the Democratic ties of groups such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and American Family Voices -- two interest groups working to promote the scandal around the country. Republicans have also been working to remind conservatives of Democratic reaction to past sex scandals including those of President Bill Clinton and then-Rep. Gerry Studds (Mass.), who admitted to sexual contact with a page and went on to serve a decade longer in the House.
So we'll also be treated to the time-tested "liberal conspiracy" and "it's all Clinton's fault" defenses from Fox News and other Republican shills for at least another week. It's nothing we haven't been through before. The most important thing is to enjoy the spectacle. Republican scandals are more fun than a barrel of, well, macacas.