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October 13, 2008

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Agree completely. We need to show our principles are really principles and not partisanship.

Foley: Chased underage kids. Protected by the GOP leadership.

Mahony: Consenting adult. Probe called for by leader of his own party.

I'd say we're doing okay on the learning-from-their-mistakes front. Not perfect, sure . . . but a marked improvement nevertheless.

In light of this news, if you need a good laugh, this should do it:

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin mistook some of her own fans for hecklers Monday as a rally that drew thousands.

A massive crowd of at least 20,000 spread across the parking lot of Richmond International Raceway, and scores of people on the outer periphery more than 100 yards from the stage could not hear.

“Louder! Louder!” they began chanting, and the cry spread across the crowd to Palin’s left. Some pointed skyward, urging that the volume be increased.

Palin stopped her remarks briefly and looked toward the commotion.

“I hope those protesters have the courage and honor to give veterans thanks for their right to protest,” she said.

It's got everything: The soon-to-be-legendary Palin fecklessness, the automatic accusations of troop hating . . . it's like Wingnut In A Box. (Does it really take "courage and honor" to thank veterans?)

Mahoney is a piece of work. In June, he said

"I don't owe the party anything," said Mahoney, whose election helped the Democrats take control of Congress. "If anybody owes anybody anything, its [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi who owes a debt to me."


link

He's also on Matt Stoller's list of 'Bush Dog Dems that need to be turned out.

Sorry, he was added to Stoller's list a bit later.

Contrast Pelosi's actions in this case to the Republican leadership's actions in the Foley case. Pelosi calls for an ehtics probe. The GOP covered it up, convinced him to run again when he was thinking of quitting, made him the go-to guy for legislation about sexual predators.

Big difference.

In the 80s there were a couple other sex scandals involving Democrats, and they were handled the way Pelosi is handling this: ethics probes and in those cases, taking actions against the reps that was even more harsh than was suggested.

I'm with you hilzoy, though it's not even the fact that the affair was with a staffer that bothers me--I think it's possible for two people in that situation to have a non-abusive relationship. It's that audio combined with the hush money that convinced me the Democrats need to cut him loose.

FL-16 is just north of me, and given how close that last race was--Mahoney won in part because the Republicans couldn't get Foley's name off the ballot; if they'd been able to replace him, Mahoney might not have pulled it of--it's really unlikely that he survives this. But if he does, what then? That's a dicier question. Does he get the "Dollar" Bill Jefferson treatment? I'd hope so.

I'd be more open to the idea of letting the ethics infrastructure handle it if I saw more progress regarding William Jefferson. If Mahoney indeed had an improper relationship with an underling, and it seems that's not in dispute, that's wrong even if it were to be completely a case of consenting adults, because of the potential for abuse in the situation. Sure, it's better than Mark Foley, but so what? And the hush money is really disturbing - if he was open to blackmail for massive amounts of cash, why not for official favors? I assume he can't be replaced on the ballot, and the partisan in me wants him to hold the seat and resign afterwards - but realistically speaking, if he wins reelection why would he resign? And if he serves the next full term, what sanctions can be imposed? And what effects will the visible toleration of Mahoney have on other Democrats' prospects? The Dems already are being forced to run laden with Bill Jefferson, and now Chuck Rangel, and seem unwilling to deal with the first and probably unable to deal with the second. It seems to me that in Mahoney we have the perfect sacrificial symbol: no senority, no caucus backing like Jefferson has, not yet reelected like Jefferson. I say, yank all DCCC and DNC support, disinvite him from all appearances, and generally declare him a nonperson. Doing so with some gusto could even help other Dems.

Pelosi should do the investigation so that the issues are all on the record. If, as appears likely, he abused his office or otherwise acted in violation of the law or House ethics rules, throw him out.

Sayonara.

As far as the partisan aspect of it, the Democrats will do themselves 100% more good by getting rid of him if he's a bum than by defending him.

As a final point, I'll add that it's really crappy to make your wife (or husband, or partner) stand up with you in public while you talk about how you've been screwing around on the side. What a creep.

Thanks -

How is his position "necessary" to the Democrats? I don't see it. Cut him loose.

I totally disagree, the party should not get him to resign. There's nothing illegal about having an affair, and it does not on its own mean that he is a poorer leader than anyone else. Of course it's a sign of character weakness, and the electorate will decide if that's cause for termination. This is life: people are flawed, and people make mistakes.

Not only that, it is a weak position to not forgive and stand by your friends. People (rightly) do not want weak leaders. Thus, overreacting to situations like this only hurts the Democratic party overall.

The correct response is to get out in front of this. Chasten him, but point out that everyone makes mistakes and that it's ultimately up to the democratic process to decide the outcome.

"Not only that, it is a weak position to not forgive and stand by your friends."

Clearly you've read little about him if you have the delusion that he's a friend to the Democratic Party, or any kind of actual Democrat.

Warren & Incertus, I don't know why you think the "hush money" makes it worse. The story says "settlement." Society is highly in favor of people settling disputes quietly. It puts the rest of us through less grief and lets victims keep some privacy.

It also lets the tortfeasor keep some privacy, but a tortfeasor can be simply a person who made a big, dumb mistake, once. If the victim is happy with her deal, and there's no reason to think she was coerced, I'm not so sure it's everyone else's business. The risk of financial loss, marital strife, criminal charges, and job loss remain real deterrents despite private settlements.

Would you feel the same way if the story were:

An executive at a large company, say John Deere or Motorola, gets drunk at the office Christmas Party, reverts to his frat-boy days, and starts a fistfight with a staff member whom he never liked. The next day, the staff member turns up with a lawyer and serves a complaint for assault on the exec and the company, but gives them a week to settle privately before he files. The chastened executive, realizing that he could not only lose a lot of money and his reputation, but could even go to jail, signs a settlement agreement with the staff member: he pays a certain amount of money without admitting that anything improper happened, and the underling leaves the company quietly, releases all claims related to the incident, and refrains from badmouthing the prospective defendants. The exec enters an anger management program and AA, and his former subordinate finds a good job elsewhere. They get on with their lives.

The act was bad -- but there is nothing intrinsically wrong with settling your differences. Quite the reverse.

As for the act itself in the real-life case, I respectfully note that we have no idea what happened. I tend to agree with Incertus: despite the power imbalance, we are too quick to cry "abuse" in situations like this. To my mind, there has to be some harm done to call it "abuse." I simply cannot agree that sex at the office is always harmful. Did Bill Clinton abuse Monica Lewinsky? The law says yes, but does that make much sense? She was the instigator of consensual adult sex in a job she didn't need (similarly, Ms. Allen was a volunteer). Once it happened, she had the power to break him. She ended up with a better job and some great gossip. She does not seem to have especially regretted the affair as such, only the fact that they got caught. So, why "abuse"? The act surely showed poor judgment and boundaries, but it may be no worse than that.

Not that I wouldn't prefer a representative (or a President) with good judgment and the ability to keep his zipper up. But last I checked, sainthood was not a useful job skill for public office, and many people of both sexes are much stupider about sex than about their professional work.

So far the only thing I find truly disturbing is the fact that he broke an institutional ethics rule. Overbroad or not, those rules are not especially demanding. If he can't or won't keep them, that's worse than bad judgment. Also, I am a strong believer in the rule of law for our elected officials, so he should be penalized. But so far, I'm not outraged.

Trilobite, I'm confused: what do you propose this money is, some sort of lump-sum alimony given to a former partner in dalliance upon the dissolution of your extramarital affair? Making recompense for injury is one thing (though I'd suggest that doing so surreptitiously to avoid public embarassment would be questionable in a public figure), but that example is plainly one where injury was done. Either this Mahoney affair was a beautiful if nontraditional meeting of sympathetic hearts between two consenting adults or it wasn't, and in the former case I don't see how a demand for compensation would be justified. And I haven't seen reports of child support, the other obvious respectable reason. Frankly, once you start contemplating the money, it casts anything but a flattering light on the romantic relationship.

Warren & Incertus, I don't know why you think the "hush money" makes it worse. The story says "settlement." Society is highly in favor of people settling disputes quietly. It puts the rest of us through less grief and lets victims keep some privacy.

IMVHO: that's a great argument for settling disputes out of court, but doesn't really address the fact that what was settled was an accusation of sexual harrassment.

Settling out of court doesn't mean "innocent", it means "less messy and expensive".

If Mahony abused his office, he should go.

Thanks -

with his [humiliated] wife, Terry, by his side

Watching the tight-lipped wife stand next to the red-handed husband is the worst part of these trainwrecks. John Edwards gets props for one thing: not asking Elizabeth to endure that kind of public embarrassment.

I simply cannot agree that sex at the office is always harmful.

Sex at the office is nearly always harmful to an elected official's career and re-election prospects and if I support that official (or the official's party) that's what I care most about, frankly.

Trilobite: I simply cannot agree that sex at the office is always harmful.

Well, we'll have to agree to disagree, then. In the case of elected officials, sex at the office is right out. Any elected official stupid or arrogant enough to ignore this truth does not deserve the support of his party.

DCCC money should be pulled, now. For that, there's no reason to wait for any investigation; you don't have a right to party financial assistance the way you have a right to your seat if elected.

If he's re-elected without national party help, then the leadership should be guided by the results of the ethics investigation. We're going to have a big majority in the 111th Congress; we don't need to cater to sleazy DINOs who already run away from the party.

John Edwards gets props for one thing: not asking Elizabeth to endure that kind of public embarrassment.

I like to think that he was smart enough not to ask, but I'm prepared to believe he did ask and got the answer he deserved.

Nell, we can disagree on that one, sure. Please note that the lady in question was a volunteer, so the usual concerns about implicit (or explicit) coercion seem not to apply. But I already agreed with this part: Any elected official stupid or arrogant enough to ignore this truth does not deserve the support of his party.

Russell, Warren, you appear to be leaping to conclusions. Yes, if he abused his trust, he should go. Did he? We don't know. (unless there's new news).

I'd suggest that doing so surreptitiously to avoid public embarassment would be questionable in a public figure

And I think that line of thinking, the commingling of the personal and the professional, is a big problem with politics in our time. Nobody wants the worst moments of their private life splashed all over the news, and few deserve it. A politician takes on a sacred trust to the public, but that trust does not have to include the role of moral exemplar. The fishbowl we make politicians live in is not good for them or the public. If there were corresponding benefits, that would be one thing, but are there?

Most of the scandals du jour have very little to do with the politician's ability or even their business ethics. I don't think poor sexual ethics always goes hand in hand with poor ethics in general (although it often does) -- too many people are especially messed up about sex in particular. Many US Presidents were notorious for their affairs -- JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Grover Cleveland, Clinton, etc. I seem to recall hearing some rumors recently about FDR and his private secretary, too. While none of these men were blameless in the conduct of their office, they were not markedly worse in that regard than Presidents to whom no sexual scandal has (so far) attached, such as the current occupant.

but that example is plainly one where injury was done.

My hypothetical had nothing to do with whether the act itself was wrong. It illustrates the entirely separate point that even when a wrong is done, settlement does not make it worse.

Either this Mahoney affair was a beautiful if nontraditional meeting of sympathetic hearts between two consenting adults or it wasn't,

Yes. Of course, "wasn't" encompasses a very wide range of possibilities from violent rape to drunken dirty weekend.
For example, consider the sexual relationship in "The Graduate," which was unbeautiful, exploitative, and dishonest, but not IMO abusive. The abuse came when the affair ended.

and in the former case I don't see how a demand for compensation would be justified.

Who said it was?
All we know is that the demand was made and satisfied. This discussion amply illustrates why a rational but innocent person would pay up.

Yes, if he abused his trust, he should go. Did he? We don't know.

That's why Pelosi should move ahead with an ethics committee probe.

I'll also say that I, personally, am kind of tired of folks going to Washington and seeing it as their personal opportunity to get laid a lot.

They are there to get work done, not to entertain themselves. Folks get canned for stuff like this in the private sector all the time, it's unclear to me why people in positions of responsibility in the public sphere should be exempt.

I appreciate, respect, and support the idea that people's personal lives should remain personal. Sleeping with staffers, IMO, crosses the line.

Just my two cents.

Thanks -

"I seem to recall hearing some rumors recently about FDR and his private secretary, too."

The affair between FDR and Lucy Mercer has been documented accepted history since 1966. It's no more a "rumor" than the Lincoln assassination.

1966.

So has everyone heard about Bill Timmons, head of McCain's transition team?

It's incredible.

Trilobite, ignoring how the affair started, I've gathered the following: (1) he hired her after it started, which was corrupt regardless of whether it was public funds or campaign donations paying; (2) he fired her when he broke up with her, which is an abuse of power and instance of corruption at least as bad as the hiring; (3) she hated/feared/distrusted him enough to tape-record her firing; and (4) the settlement he promised included $100k of consulting work, which would obviously come from campaign donations or, worse, from public funds - thus thirdly corrupt. I concede that my floridly romantic language in my earlier post may have been over the top, but the basic question was whether he'd engaged in a basically innocent affair or he'd abused her in some actionable way. It looks like she had a reasonable case for the latter, and certainly she seemed to hate the guy.

Gary, if we all got in trouble every time we hired a former lobbyist for Saddam Hussein to plan the shape of our careers for the next four-to-eight years, the finger-pointing would never stop. Who amongst us, glass houses, motes and beams, etcetera, etcetera.

Please note that the lady in question was a volunteer, so the usual concerns about implicit (or explicit) coercion seem not to apply.

That's 'the woman in question', please. It's 2008.

Not to mention that a woman who has an affair with a married man while working in his office (for free or not), then takes six-figure hush money, is no lady.

Concerns about coercion are not the only ethics issues involved here.

You are missing a small, but critical part of the story: He was a Republican induced to change parties by Rahm and His Evil Minions™.

He's lying when he pretends to be a Republican to begin with.

"He's lying when he pretends to be a Republican to begin with."

Clearly you meant to write "Democrat."

Nell, as an antediluvian prevertebrate, I cling to my old forms of speech.

Also to rocks.

:)

Warren, those facts cast a very different light on the matter. Throw da bum out, sez I.

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