by Magan CraneSun
Political partisans traded blame over an increasingly tawdry sex scandal that threatens to end more than a decade of Republican control of the US Congress in November’s elections.
With opinion polls showing the public rapidly pulling back support for the party of President George W. Bush, majority Republicans went on the offensive, claiming that opposition Democrats were behind the news of former Republican representative Mark Foley’s e-mailed sexual overtures to teenage congressional aides.
"What I don’t understand is, where have these e-mails been for three years? Are we saying that a 15-year-old child would’ve sat on e-mails that were XXX-rated for three years and suddenly spring them out right on the eve of an election?" Republican Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia asked on "Fox News Sunday".
"That’s just a little bit too suspicious, even for Washington, DC."
Others asserted that Republican leaders acted quickly to oust Foley, who resigned 10 days ago when news surfaced that he had for years sought liaisons with underage boys working in Congress.
"The dirty laundry in our conference is gone," Representative Adam Putnam said on ABC News. "His resignation was demanded within hours."
The damage control effort followed a Newsweek poll Saturday which said that, for the first time in the Bush presidency, more Americans trust Democrats than Republicans on issues of morality and national security.
Newsweek said 51 percent were ready to vote for Democrats against only 39 percent for Republicans. If those numbers hold up through Election Day November 7, Republicans control of both the Senate and House of Representatives would be in jeopardy.
Opposition Democrats counter-charged Sunday that House Republican leaders had evidence of Foley’s follies for years but covered it up.
"What is clear is that the leadership did not do a very good job of protecting these 15- and 16-year-old pages from what appears to be a predatory kind of behavior. And frankly I think all of us are pretty shocked by it," Democratic Representative Marty Meehan told Fox News Sunday.
Democratic candidate for Senate from Missouri, Claire McCaskill, lambasted the Republicans for first treating the Foley scandal as an election issue rather than an ethical one.
"As a former prosecutor and also the mother of teenagers … I know that if my child was that page and I found out they called the head of the campaign committee instead of the ethics committee and the authorities, I’d be hopping mad," she said on NBC’s "Meet the Press".
Lurid details of Foley’s encounters with teenagers and young men continue to flood the media.
One former page told the Los Angeles Times that he had sex with Foley when he was 21 and that Foley began soliciting him shortly after he left the congressional page work-study program for high school students.
Newsweek reported Sunday that Foley’s former chief of staff will tell investigators that in 2002 or 2003, he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s influential chief aide, Scott Palmer, that Foley had been found drunk, lurking outside the page dormitory after curfew one night.
The issue is boiling over on the campaign trail in numerous states, battering the controlling party’s claim to the "values voters" who helped Bush win the White House in 2000 and helped keep Republicans in power in 2004.
A Newsweek poll found 42 percent of likely voters say they trust Democrats to do a better job on moral issues compared to 36 percent favoring Republicans.
"The only thing I hear from people is Foley," Republican Representative Ray LaHood told Newsweek. "It’s all anybody wants to talk about, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon."
But Republican Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina said voters are not interested in the sex scandal.
"I think voters are going to have a serious choice on election day. And they’re not going to decide based on a scandal from an obscure congressman from Florida," he told CNN.
Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse.