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The Moral Aspects of Foley’s Failings

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 9:59 pm - October 4, 2006.
Filed under: Gay America,Gay Politics

Given how great a job Bruce has been doing in his posts on the Foley kerfuffle, I had thought I would leave this story to him. Yet, when I heard today that the ex-Congressman had entered “rehab for alcohol abuse and mental illness,” I almost blew a gasket.

Look, if he has a problem–and obviously he does–he should seek treatment. And to be sure, as he brings up the “trauma he sustained as a young adolescent” from the sexual abuse he suffered, at least his lawyer claims that “He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct.

But, now that he entered rehab, it seems to follow the pattern of the typical tabloid scandal. Celebrity has problem which gets him into trouble. Celebrity acknowledges problem, brings up past abuse. Celebrity goes into rehab.

We all have our faults, something of which I am well aware, after going through a period of pretty intense introspection during the Jewish High Holy Days. And like many Jews, I acknowledged my wrongdoing, regretted my failings, atoned for my sins and resolved to act better in the future. And the question for the year is whether I hold to my resolve. That is entirely up to me.

Countless people of faiths (and even those with no faith) engage in similar processes. Yet, it seems that celebrities (including politicians caught in scandal) have a different manner of response to their failings.

If Mr. Foley needs rehab, then by all means, he should find a program appropriate to his problem. But, he also, as any individual who has strayed, should not neglect the moral aspects of his wrongdoing. He must make it clear that he did wrong, that he regrets his past actions — and that he will do everything in his power to change his behavior.

Now that he has identified as a gay man, it would be nice if he could come forward as a moral exemplar for our community. We need gay people, particularly men, unwilling to shirk from their moral responsibilities as human beings. And to do so publicly — to challenge the notions of the anti-gay social conservatives who believe that merely by acknowledging our orientation, we have lost the ability to make moral decisions.

That means not only acting in a responsible manner, but also being forthright about our wrongdoings. Unfortunately, in making much of Mr. Foley’s past trauma and his decision to go into rehab, his lawyer downplays the moral aspects of his client’s actions.

And that is truly unfortunate. We gay people are just as capable of acting morally, of acting responsibly, as our straight peers. It’s too bad that all too many gay men in the public eye have not acted so responsibly. And that those many who do are not so forthcoming about their own moral choices.

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest).

UPDATE: Looks like Captain Ed scooped me on this issue, blogging yesterday (October 3) in a similar vein, saying that Foley, needing “another weepie-show affliction . . .
Foley had his attorney float the molestation defense today. And note that it wasn’t just molestation, but molestation by clergy. Very trendy indeed.
” Just read the whole thing!

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29 Comments

  1. First off, Mike Rogers is a reptillian %$#&!

    Secondly, it now appears that one of Foley’s accusers was actually 18 at the time of the transgressions. While I am still aware of the unseamly nature of this interaction, I would hope that all parties could acknowledge that an 18 year old is fully capable of deciding who and what he wanted to exchange salacious IMs with. This is smelling worse and worse with each passing hour and even those on the left should admit that this age admission is a BIG change.

    Comment by Scott — October 4, 2006 @ 10:29 pm - October 4, 2006

  2. “It’s too bad that all too many gay men in the public eye have not acted so responsibly. And that those many who do are not so forthcoming about their own moral choices.”

    Actually Dan, I’m not sure we’re any worse than straight men when it comes to that. Look at Bill Clinton! Look at all the Hollywood celebrities running back and forth to rehab. Look at Rush Limbaugh with his failed marriages and drug problems.

    I’m actually surprised that gay men don’t wind up more screwed up than we see. After all, gay people who recognize their sexual orientation in childhood are in a unique position as a reviled minority who almost always have NO close gay role models to look to for help. That may be changing but it would certainly have been the case for Mark Foley who must have had very lonely times in his closet.

    Comment by Ian — October 4, 2006 @ 10:46 pm - October 4, 2006

  3. #1 “one of Foley’s accusers was actually 18 at the time of the transgressions”

    Well, I heard that it was some of the IM’s were after he was 18 and some were before. Really, until you can say ALL of Foley’s accusers were over 18, your point is pretty much irrelevant. The abrupt folding of Foley himself suggests it was not merely a case of chasing barely legal ex-pages. But keep grasping at straws if it makes you feel any better.

    Comment by Ian — October 4, 2006 @ 10:53 pm - October 4, 2006

  4. Ian, your second point shows a raw hatred that your first point does not reveal. I don’t need to feel any better about anything; I don’t shoot for that age group. However, I do relate to your first post about feeling completely estranged no matter what choices I make.

    Comment by Scott — October 4, 2006 @ 11:02 pm - October 4, 2006

  5. Well, I would agree with you, Dan, but, having read Bruce’s endorsement of Dr. Robert Godwin, who informs us that gay men are inherently attracted to adolescents, I think we can only conclude that we are beyond help.

    The real issue here has nothing to do with being gay, anyway. It has nothing to do with the evaluation of sexual identity of any sort. It has to do with the Republican Party’s leadership’s avoiding its ethical responsibility by refusing to investigate charges of sexual harrassment. You are basically doing exactly what you claim to abjure. You are avoiding the deeper ethical issue by focusing on the carnival of sexuality.

    Foley has already confessed. Hastert and friends have not.

    Comment by JonathanG — October 4, 2006 @ 11:06 pm - October 4, 2006

  6. And Jonathan, what about the ethical responsibility of those who knew about the story for months, but delayed making it public so that they could maximized damage to the GOP?

    And if you read the post, you would realize my point was not about politics, but about morals. It’s too bad you’re so eager to attack Republicans that you can’t engage me in a discussion, particularly on the point of the post to which you attach your comment.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — October 4, 2006 @ 11:26 pm - October 4, 2006

  7. #4: “your second point shows a raw hatred”

    If that shows raw hatred, then what exactly does this show:

    “Mike Rogers is a reptillian %$#&”

    I don’t even see Rogers mentioned in the post so why the outburst? It seemed to me you were relieved that one of the IM exchanges was with someone over 18. I really think that’s grasping at straws with all we know at this point. And regardless of what Foley may or may not have done, the REAL problem is what the GOP House leadership knew and when they knew it. Fordham, who apparently isn’t willing to be the fall-guy, is saying the leadership was informed years ago that there was a problem with Foley and the pages. As Aravosis says, put ’em all under oath.

    Comment by Ian — October 4, 2006 @ 11:30 pm - October 4, 2006

  8. #6: “what about the ethical responsibility of those who knew about the story for months, but delayed making it public so that they could maximized damage to the GOP?”

    C’mon Dan, even FauxNews sat on it. CREW got the emails and turned them over to the FBI. ABC who broke the news insists they got the info from Republicans. Now I for one am quite happy to have a full investigation of everyone involved. In part, I want to know the truth. But, also I’m convinced that that it will show the GOP House leadership to have been more interested in looking the other way than risking an embarrassing loss of a safe seat when confronted with one of their own preying on minors. What Foley did was wrong and immoral but what I believe the GOP leaders did was not only immoral but truly evil.

    Comment by Ian — October 4, 2006 @ 11:39 pm - October 4, 2006

  9. I think the problem is that in general people who make good moral choices aren’t all that newsworthy.

    I think it would be nice to just hear “I was wrong, I screwed up, and I regret it” rather than the whole “I am gay, I am an alcoholic, I was abused” excuse because too many people have experienced one or all of those things, and still manage to live a moral life.

    Comment by just me — October 4, 2006 @ 11:42 pm - October 4, 2006

  10. Well said, just me.

    People who make good moral choices aren’t all that newsworthy. And Ian in #8, I’m just regretting that Jonathan is so obsessed with politics that he used the comments section of this non-political post to attack Republicans.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — October 4, 2006 @ 11:47 pm - October 4, 2006

  11. Gee, maybe Foley’s alcoholism is for real http://tinyurl.com/jyb2u:

    “A senior House Republican has asked the House clerk to look into allegations that then-Rep. Mark Foley was turned away from the congressional page dorm on Capitol Hill after arriving there intoxicated one night.”

    Oh my.

    Comment by Ian — October 5, 2006 @ 12:05 am - October 5, 2006

  12. #10 Well, Dan, I think Scott got the comments off to a bad start with his outburst about Rogers. At least I tried to address your topic with my first comment. I really do believe that our growing up in the closet makes us different from any other minority. Others have family just like them to fall back on when the outside world oppresses; we typically don’t. I don’t think straight people can ever comprehend what that’s like. That severe psychological and emotional problems aren’t more widespread than they are in our community is really a testament to the inner strength a lot of us have.

    Foley and I grew up at a time when, at BEST, homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Today may be easier for gay kids even in the closet as there’s far more positive information available. I left the closet decades ago; Foley never did. Big mistake on his part. It doesn’t excuse what he did but I can be somewhat sympathetic to his problems.

    Comment by Ian — October 5, 2006 @ 12:20 am - October 5, 2006

  13. #7
    the REAL problem is what the GOP House leadership knew and when they knew it.

    Horse shit!
    We KNOW what the House leadership knew and when they knew it. They as well as the FBI and ABC didn’t think much of it. The REAL question is who saves their IMs and emails for years, who received them and why did they hold onto them until just before Congress recesses? Why did the “victims” go to a Soros front? Don’t you think that as pages they could have gone straight to the leadership? If nothing else, they could have given the info to “democrat” leaders if they didn’t trust Republicans.

    Also, why are the libs pretending to give a damn about the kids?

    Further, of course ABC news is going to say Republicans gave it to them. You don’t honestly expect them to turn on their masters, do you?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 5, 2006 @ 3:23 am - October 5, 2006

  14. This whole outting is a “HETERO DEMOCRAT LEFT WING CONSPIRACY” just before the election… they are pros at bashing gay people for political gain.

    If there is really no wrong doing (no laws broken), Foley should complelely come out and blast the homophobe democrats.

    He should stop trying to blame his past clergy and homsexual status for his actions… he is obviously a chicken hawk.

    This falls back to what I was saying in previous posts about the actual act of “SEX” (in this case the perception of sex, so far anyway).

    Comment by Ed of Tampa — October 5, 2006 @ 5:50 am - October 5, 2006

  15. #14
    This falls back to what I was saying in previous posts about the actual act of “SEX” (in this case the perception of sex, so far anyway).

    And if the libs are to be consistent, they won’t actually give a shit and will fight to the death for his right to bugger little boys.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 5, 2006 @ 6:45 am - October 5, 2006

  16. 14 and 15

    You must be kidding.

    This is all Republican. The Democrats can sit back and do nothing. If they’re smart, they’ll just that and the Republican leaders will hang themselves by passing the buck back and forth to each other.

    Enjoy.

    Comment by DanielFTL — October 5, 2006 @ 8:08 am - October 5, 2006

  17. It seems to me that two models for gay life in America are emerging. In one, people are open about their thoughts feelings and actions. In the other, they pretend that their life orientation doesn’t exist and everybody else goes along with the obvious lie. The reality of life can’t help but become nefarious and twisted if the latter model is followed and this is what happened to Mark Foley.

    Active gay participation exists and shapes the Republican party at EVERY level of government. As long as the participants remain closeted to protect the delicate sensibilities of the fundochoicers, their contributions will be discounted and their lives will be seen as diseased. Foley’s choices are more about the closet than pedophilia.

    Comment by reddog — October 5, 2006 @ 8:22 am - October 5, 2006

  18. What I have noticed is that there seem to be two kinds of people debating this. There are people who care genuinely about right and wrong, and about real people whose lives have been affected by this. On the other side, there seem to only care that this scandal helps or hurts their team in the political game.

    That’s the real moral issue. Is this just a game, or do you really care about the values, about the real people affected by sexual predators like Foley (but also like Bill Clinton, Mel Reynolds, and Gerry Studds)? Morally, how people are reacting to this scandal reveals a lot about their true moral character.

    Comment by Nobody — October 5, 2006 @ 8:23 am - October 5, 2006

  19. man, u guys are so full of it. i’m gay and i started hooking up with college guys at an after school program when i was 15! i know i’m hardly the only one who fooled around with adults when i was a teenager. and 16 is the age of consent is a lot of states and countries. a 16 yo is not the same as a 12 or 10 yo. it’s poor judgment but not pedophilia. and how many months was the guy away from being 17? 2, 3, 4? it’s so arbritary! 17 yo can go into the army and kill people but can’t have sex! that is the dumbest thing i’ve ever heard. and look at all the straight porn with “barely legal” plastered everywhere and “girls gone wild” don’t buy their self righteous bullshit for a second!

    Comment by ryan — October 5, 2006 @ 8:38 am - October 5, 2006

  20. And here’s an interesting fact: Gerry Studds served on the Host Committee for the AIDS quilt in Washington in 1996 with the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi and Andrew Sullivan. The fact that he actually hooked up with an underage page (which no one has accused Foley of doing), doesn’t seem to have earned him the animus of his party.

    Sexual predators are apparently welcome in the Democratic party.

    Comment by Nobody — October 5, 2006 @ 8:48 am - October 5, 2006

  21. And Jonathan, what about the ethical responsibility of those who knew about the story for months, but delayed making it public so that they could maximized damage to the GOP?

    And if you read the post, you would realize my point was not about politics, but about morals. It’s too bad you’re so eager to attack Republicans that you can’t engage me in a discussion, particularly on the point of the post to which you attach your commen

    If I read the post…. LOL. One thing is predictable about you, Dan. If someone disagrees with you or examines the suppostions of your posts instead of
    their explicit comment alone, that person did not read your post and is in some other way debilitated.

    Your post is consistent with the rest of the posting on here by Bruce. It focuses on sexual morality and identity rather than the ethical question (whose political consequences can hardly be separated from any aspect of the story, since politics may have motivated the leadership’s silence for years).

    Of course, it’s your right to ignore the ethical question of your party’s leadership. But the silence is deafening while you rant about the morality of Mr. Foley.

    And, of course, I further not that even though it’s inappropriate for me to question what is presumed and implied in your post politically, it is entirely okay for you to change the subject to blame the media.

    Whether there was a political motive in that, I have no idea. What I do know is that you people are whining about playing politics with personal morality when your party has campaigned on moral issues and indeed came to power claiming to restore ethics to government. We’ve had nothing but one scandal after another.

    Isn’t it rich, though, that a scandal originating in SEX, about which the GOP has campaigned so heartily, may well bring you down? Just another example of how fanatics are almost always trying to negotiate their own impulses by criticising and trying to control others.

    But wait, I’m off topic! Back to the media…I mean morality.

    Comment by JonathanG — October 5, 2006 @ 9:23 am - October 5, 2006

  22. Matt Drudge this morning had the young man at being 18 years of age. Which ABC had him being at the age of 16.

    http://www.drudgereport.com/flashmfa.htm

    Comment by Michael G. — October 5, 2006 @ 9:57 am - October 5, 2006

  23. Well said JonathanG!!

    monty

    Comment by monty — October 5, 2006 @ 10:05 am - October 5, 2006

  24. #22 — 18 is still creepy and sleazy if Foley was around 50.

    Comment by V the K — October 5, 2006 @ 10:27 am - October 5, 2006

  25. My point is that ABC was saying he was under age. If Matt Drudge is right than he was not under age. I agee with you no man over the age of 50 should be hitting on someone that is 18. But the Law says that 18 you become a man or a woman.

    But again they are saying that they are other Pages that Rep. Foley was emailing also.

    Comment by Michael G. — October 5, 2006 @ 10:52 am - October 5, 2006

  26. I hope you didn’t think I was attacking your point, Michael G, because that wasn’t what I meant to do. I only wanted to express my opinion on that. Even if something is technically legal, I think sometimes you gotta be creeped out by it. I mean, bestiality is technically legal in several states, but it’s still gross.

    And, this is only going to piss people off further, but I think people are in denial if they don’t think intergenerational predation is rare in the gay community. I knew a guy in college who became hiv-infected at 17 through an affair with a guy in his thirties who picked him up on the internet. Also, we are aware that there are a lot of chat rooms devoted to older men cruising for barely legal trim, not to mention adult video companies marketing making mints off ‘barely legal’ product. It isn’t the right-wing making this sh*t up, it really exists.

    There seems to be some reluctance at addressing this reality.

    Comment by V the K — October 5, 2006 @ 11:35 am - October 5, 2006

  27. Politics aside, Foley has done damage to the Gay community. I’m not surprised that he is acting like all celebrities and using rehab and former abuse as an escape route.

    The general publics’ view of homosexuality has been the televised portions of the gay parades, always the most extreme elements. Will and Grace, (ughh!) and all those Bravo shows that trumpet and highlight the most flaming members of the community as main stream gay men.

    So now, due to Foley it is clear, a man becomes gay because he was molested by a priest as a teenager, and has no self control and must behave in a similar manner 40 years later. He just can’t help it, it is not his fault.
    So yes, it would be really nice if instead of hiding in rehab he came out and said: yes I am a gay man, but my attraction to teenagers is a problem I have that is unrelated to my sexual orientation. (there are many a straight man who is equally attracted and acts upon that urge with teenage girls).
    And I wish he had never brought up the molestation, because it makes him the victim and perpetrates the myth, that gayness is the result of someone else’s action, not a natural trait that appears in a certain segment of the population regardless of life experiences.

    Foley owes it to more than just himself to show a moral backbone, but of course he won’t. This puts a much larger burden on the moral, upstanding members of the Gay community. The hope has been that the more gay people take on community wide positions, the better it is for the community as a whole. The fact that he has these failings is not the problem, many people fail, that is what being human is about. But to really be a man he should go through the moral examination that Dan stated.
    But who am I kidding, with celebrities and politicians there is no moral responsibility towards a community, it is all about me-me-me!!!

    Comment by Leah — October 5, 2006 @ 11:56 am - October 5, 2006

  28. Well put, Leah. As I’ve said before, sometimes we’re our worst enemies.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — October 5, 2006 @ 11:57 am - October 5, 2006

  29. I agree with V the K-50 and 18 is pretty icky in my book, about the only strike it removes in my book is apparantly it wasn’t illegal, but creepy and unethical still apply.

    Ryan this sort of goes with what you are saying. While I wouldn’t want my 15 year old hooking up with college age people, you are still at least looking at an age difference of 10 or fewer years. Foley is 50ish, and 50 with 16-18 year olds makes me very leery.

    Comment by just me — October 5, 2006 @ 4:28 pm - October 5, 2006

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