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So, anything interesting going on in Congress lately?

Published October 3, 2006

No doubt you are following closely the news from Congress. It is lurid. It is disturbing. It is scary. It should outrage every Floridian.

Of course, I'm talking about the bills being rammed through Congress that practically suspend the U.S. Constitution and give the president the powers of a king.

What did you think I was talking about? Have I missed something else in the news? Terrorism, global warming, national debt, North Korea?

Oh, wait. There is one thing.

On Friday, a Republican member of Congress from South Florida, Mark Foley, resigned after the publication of explicit e-mails he had sent to teenaged, male House pages.

Now, let's take a vote, by show of hands.

How many people agree what Foley did was disgusting, potentially a serious crime and an abuse of his position? How many think this had better be investigated thoroughly, to make darned sure nothing worse happened?

Keep 'em up while I count ... okay, I'm done. Just about everybody thinks so. Me included.

And yet, in the modern media culture, this is not enough.

We must take the extra step. This consists of blaming two main culprits for everything wrong in our society:

(1) The first is the opposite political party of whichever one you're in. In this case, my Democratic friends, with a collective case of amnesia over anything bad ever happening in their own party, are harrumphing that the Republicans are Weak On Pedophilia.

(2) The second culprit is the mainstream news media, and in this case, the St. Petersburg Times specifically.

Yes, little old us! We are part of the story. It turns out our editors and reporters knew, back in 2005, about a different set of Foley e-mails to a former page. We didn't write about it.

According to the various theories now being advanced on TV and the Internet, we didn't report it because:

* We were trying to protect our Republican buddies. (Yes, that's one of the theories.)

* We were covering it up only until the election, so we could hurt the Republicans.

* As usual, we were just advancing the Homosexual Agenda.

* We were too stupid, lazy or whatever to do anything about a sicko in Congress.

Let's be crystal clear. The e-mails that my colleagues knew about were not the explicit ones that forced Foley to quit. These e-mails were only vaguely creepy. They chatted up the kid and asked him for his photograph.

So if there had been an article back then it would have said: "Ex-Page Got Vaguely Creepy E-mails from Congressman; He Calls It 'A Misunderstanding'; No Other Evidence As Yet."

Fairly thin.

(For what it's worth, the Miami Herald had the same e-mails and arrived at the same decision.)

Neither the ex-page nor his family wanted to pursue the matter publicly. After we looked into it a little further and still had nothing, we decided there were plenty of other worthwhile uses of time.

I think it is fair to criticize that decision - as long as the criticism is based on the e-mails known in 2005, and not the disgusting ones that were reported by ABC News last week. Hindsight is always perfect.

Despite all this, it was odd to see U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Sunday cite the Times' decision in his own justification for the way the House handled Foley.

In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Hastert quoted this newspaper's decision in defending the House's own actions. Hastert even included a link to the Times' Web site. He cited the Times in his rationale again on Monday.

In other words, the U.S. House is running itself according to the judgment of a newspaper in Florida. I am delighted to hear it.

So, if you're still letting us call the shots from down here, Mr. Speaker:

Don't gut my Constitution. Quit racking up debt and ruining our future. Fix the corrupt favors that you gave drug companies in Medicare Part D. Do something about real income in this country. Worry for real about global warming and reliance on foreign oil.

And, thanks for reading.

[Last modified October 3, 2006, 01:09:57]

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