Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley last week moonwalked away from his special Neverland of alleged man-boy seduction, leaving us to ponder a thorny question: Precisely how busy must an elected representative be before masturbation takes a back seat to politics?
Thanks to transcripts and ABC News’ intrepid reporting, we need no longer puzzle over this. Quoth Foley to the school-age congressional page boy: I am “never too busy” to “spank it.” Ah, your tax dollars at work.
What a mess. The so-called “family values” party caught with its pants down — in the office, no less. (Karma-hungry Clintonites, suppress your cheers.) A bona fide sexual predator co-chairing the House Committee on Missing and Exploited Children; a full record of his lewd online chatter splashing about the public domain — its release cruelly timed to inflict maximum election-season damage on the GOP.
So it should. The Foley transcripts are like emetic in print. Featuring novel positions for auto-stimulation, an unwelcome return of the term “horndog” and an unexplained cast fetish, the grossly familiar and playful gushing with minors is jarring. Stripped of these talking points, what remains is a sad story of a closeted gay man confined by a strict ideological harness to play out stifled fantasies on the Web.
The public release of the bawdy chats prompted Foley’s swift resignation and a torrent of curious mea culpa. First, Foley stole a page (forgive me) from Mel Gibson’s book. Nabbed in a July drunk-stop, everyone’s favorite lethal weapon disavowed his evident anti-Semitism, blaming it all on the bottle. Foley too has committed himself to rehab, a move which, in addition to presumably weaning him from drink and young boys, has the convenient side effect of sheltering him from the media for a 30 day cooldown.
The rehab visit is a stunt. I know more than one habitual abuser of alcohol, and never to my knowledge has a happy hour binge caused any of them to suddenly drool over the lacrosse team, or send spicy text-messages to blazer-clad high-schoolers.
Foley’s salacious urges have nothing to do with alcohol abuse, and everything to do with the oppressive, closet-slamming culture of the American right. That the man only confessed his homosexuality as the final footnote to a major Washington scandal is telling: To be gay and Republican is an obvious no-no. It’s troubling to think that this otherwise successful fellow evidently submerged his innate sexual leaning for decades just to please a pitiless clan of queer-fearing old-boys.
As any Freud fan will attest, to frustrate sexual desire is a stopgap; suppressed feelings will surface in devious ways. I’d wager that young Foley always had the hots for the lacrosse team. This desire lingered and eventually bubbled forth into the vast lawless void of the online landscape, where until last week, he indulged with impunity and relative innocence that which he had so long sought.
That Foley simultaneously headed the Caucus on Catching People like Himself will be seized upon as grand and vile hypocrisy. In reality, I doubt it was anything more than sincere atonement for his “sinful” appetites — working publicly to combat those urges he was taught to despise in himself.
Ah, amateur psychoanalytic assessment by an unqualified News columnist. You know what they say: That and $4.50 will get you a cafe latte. By all accounts, Foley had no physical sexual contact with the boys; his misbehavior was restricted to lascivious chat. I can’t imagine he would have made such bold advances in person or via phone. Perhaps the real story is the seductive isolation of Internet chat: Spontaneity, false intimacy and enduring, easily-shared transcripts make Instant Messaging a honey-pot for scandal. The lesson: Don’t type anything online you wouldn’t send to your mother. On letterhead.
With the newly-minted predator safely sequestered in rehab, his attorney called a press conference and announced “Mark Foley wants you to know, he is a gay man.” I like to think Foley offered this late confession not to excuse his behavior — after all, the idea gay men inevitably favor illicit online trysts with underage politicos is neither pleasant nor tenable — but to ensure every shred of his dirty laundry was aired en masse. No sense settling in at the clinic only to realize he’s forgotten to shut off the stove, forward calls or out himself on national television.
GOP heavies will never concede their draconian attachment to sexual homogeneity (a family value, you know) perhaps played a part in turning Foley rogue. Their evangelical bedrock will not permit it: These are the folk who shun Spongebob for promoting tolerance of gays and endorse “conversion” of homosexuals.
No, the disgraced congressman will be excommunicated and strung from the highest tree — quickly recast as a sick sexual predator, imposter, treacherous deviant. His lapse will be twisted to further vilify homosexuality and to shore up the same boorish dogma that warped him to begin with.
Let the carnage begin. It is with special wrath that the falsely righteous turn upon their own.
Michael Seringhaus is a sixth-year graduate student in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.