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George Will on the Mark Foley Scandal:
Read Will's take here.
Randy R. (mail):
I'm glad that Will at least acknowledges that his party has been taken over by religious zealots and other wingnuts. Why did he wait so long?
10.5.2006 11:45pm
Cornellian (mail):
George Will has been drifting towards that position for some time, though with relatively restrained language. It's not something he brought up for the first time today.
10.6.2006 12:14am
Roger Schlafly (www):
Whereas conservative Christian parents once thought it was inappropriate for public schools to teach their kids about sex, now they want the schools to preach abstinence to children. Whereas conservative Christians used to be unhappy with evolution ...
This is inaccurate. They merely believe that if sex education is to be taught, then it should respect their values. There has been no big shift in opinion.
10.6.2006 12:26am
Caliban Darklock (www):
What we have here is three opinions.

Opinion number one is that sex should not be taught in schools, because it gets bound up in religious beliefs, and that is the parents' job.

Opinion number two is that sex must be taught in schools, because STDs are a very real danger for teens, and sex is something of a prerequisite for that subject.

Opinion number three is that if you are going to teach sex in schools, you should also teach children not to have it, and therefore there is no need to teach things like condom usage because the children will not be having sex.

One of these opinions is simply retarded.

I believe once a child hits puberty, he should be encouraged to go out and explore his sexual interests, aptitudes, and appetites. (Gender is irrelevant; girls should be so encouraged, as well.) However, I am not so stupid as to think that this perspective should be taught to *everyone's* children in a public school setting.

But those of you who like the idea of abstinence will certainly want to keep your daughters away from my sons. And, for that matter, away from me.
10.6.2006 12:45am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Not sure where you were going with that last sentence, caliban, but it's a little disturbing.
10.6.2006 1:04am
NewSisyphus (mail) (www):
On the above, come off it, people. There is a reason George Will is the MSM's favorite conservative. (Hint: because he is not especially conservative). I don't know two conservatives who give a good goddamn what George Will thinks about anything.
10.6.2006 1:09am
OrinKerr:
NewSisyphus,

So if George Will isn't a real conservative, who is? Also, what does Will say in that article that is contrary to the values of conservatism as you see it?
10.6.2006 1:16am
SP:
Orin, what exactly did the Foley scandal have to do with religious conservatives? Will seemed to be looking for something to hang on them, and it's a poor column as a result. Will seems unhappy the Republicans are about to get hammered, but it is incompetent leadership, not those Bible-thumpers, that is to blame.
10.6.2006 1:28am
OrinKerr:
SP, I didn't find that connection persuasive, either.
10.6.2006 1:35am
Caliban Darklock (www):
@ Daniel:

Any man who doesn't want to have sex with teenagers isn't really a man. If a barely-legal high school student makes eyes at me, I'm all over it, and here in Washington that means 16 years old.

So we should probably get off Foley's back already. Of COURSE he wanted to bone sixteen year olds. And if he CAN*, he SHOULD.

* - i.e. it is legal, ethical, and consensual
10.6.2006 2:06am
LTEC (mail) (www):
I have seen no evidence that the Republicans are more influenced by "religious zealots" than the Democrats. Although the phrase "religious left" is never used by the media, they regularly describe the phenomenon, usually positively. The Clintons and Kerry often speak to churches, quoting scripture and saying how religion has influenced their positions; this church condemns Israel and that church goes on a religious crusade for environmentalism. A good recent example is here. Anyone remember "liberation theology"? This seems to have been replaced by acceptance of just about any Moslem outrage, and sympathy for explicitly religious terrorist groups such as the "Party of God". Even the relatively reasonable Obama in a relatively reasonable speech said:
"I felt that I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth."
10.6.2006 2:08am
CaDan (mail):
On the above, come off it, people. There is a reason George Will is the MSM's favorite conservative. (Hint: because he is not especially conservative). I don't know two conservatives who give a good goddamn what George Will thinks about anything.



Nor is he a True Scotsman, it appears.
10.6.2006 2:11am
Jiffy:

I have seen no evidence that the Republicans are more influenced by "religious zealots" than the Democrats.

You need to get out more.
10.6.2006 2:13am
jim:
NewSisyphus,

I consider myself a conservative and I almost always find myself in agreement with Mr. Will. When I read the conservative blogosphere I frequently find Will referred to as the most respected conservative columnist, whether the blogger agrees with him or not.

Will may not fit your definition of conservatism, but he is an integral part of the intellectual world of self-defined conservatives. Speaking descriptively, not proscriptively, Will is certainly a conservative.
10.6.2006 2:25am
KMAJ (mail):
If you rely on the MSM and the main MSM pundits, you are missing a lot of the story. Those who say George Will isn't a conservative are ideologues. What form of conservatism Will adheres to, I will leave to others to label. But, the interesting part of that observation, is that Will engages in similar claims about others not being conservatives, as if his beliefs are the only true conservatism. It's almost as if you have to all fit into the same square hole in some peoples eyes, the left engages in similar demogoguery, hence the RINO and DINO designations. There are many vcariations of conservatism, from the well publicized neos, to the paleos, the secular, the social, the economic, the religious, etc., it is not a one size fits all, though there can and is some overlaps.

Now, there is one accuracy that was stated, Will is one of the left's favorite conservatives.

I get concerned whenever any individual is elevated to the level of being an 'integral part' of any ideology.
10.6.2006 3:16am
Cornellian (mail):
There is a reason George Will is the MSM's favorite conservative. (Hint: because he is not especially conservative). I don't know two conservatives who give a good goddamn what George Will thinks about anything.

You're not a real conservative until the Republican lunatic fringe starts calling you a liberal.
10.6.2006 4:07am
DK:
Of course George Will is a conservative, and he has always been recognized as such. (You can tell by the bow tie, big dictionary words, opposition to big government, skepticism of new ideas, and devotion to Tradition and Dignity).

The problem is that the Republican Party has ceased to be conservative in any meaningful sense. Instead, the GOP has been taken over by politicians who care more about power than ideas, and who agree with Humpty Dumpty that they can make words mean whatever they want (e.g. true conservatives are really "liberals", people who don't spout the party line are "the MSM's favorite", war is peace, torture is freedom, etc.). These politicians are trying to redefine "conservative" to mean "whatever the current GOP leaders need for political reasons," and as this thread demonstrates, they are largely succeeding.


This is essentially what Will is saying in this column. The reason he brings up religious conservatives is that it has been obvious for years that the GOP politicians don't care about economic conservatism (reducing regulations, low government spending). The Foley scandal is one of the less frequent cases where it becomes obvious that the politicians don't really care about religious conservative values either.
10.6.2006 7:52am
Huh:
I agree that this is a poor column for Will to use as his indictment of religious conservatives, but he's right about one thing: the party that defines itself as the moral/family values/Christian party is going to get absolutely hammered every time a Republican actually turns out to be human, with real vices and real conflicts. Especially if there's some notion that others within the party tolerated the errant behavior.
10.6.2006 9:02am
Matty G:
I agree with Huh.

While it may not have been the best way to connect the Foley scandal with his critique of christian conservatism, the bridge was certainly the glass house effect of strong moral party stands.

I have always thought of Will as something of a 18th century European enlightenment liberal, something like Hayek - he's clearly a realist, clearly places individual liberty above equality of outcome, and has little time for the mixing of religion and politics, and to a lesser degree religion in general. To whatever degree this separates him from contemporary American Republicans, it is more a reflection of the Republicans straying than of WIll straying.
10.6.2006 9:20am
DrewC:
I am a conservative and, to me, George Will is a giant of the conservative movement. His problem with religious conservatism is that it has abandoned any desire for small government in favor of engineering big government to serve socially conservative ends (faith-based initiative, intelligent design).

As for the charge that Republicans will be hit harder when one in their ranks fails to live up to the moral standards of the party: What does that say about Democrats? We don't have standards, so you can't call us hypocrites?
10.6.2006 9:31am
Huh:
DrewC,

There's a difference between having standards and DEFINING your party according to those standards. Will's saying it's unrealistic to hold each member of the party to the rectitudinal promises of religious conservatives. But it's unavoidable if these principles become the driving force behind your party. Implicitly, he's suggesting a party that hewed closer to the Western image of conservatism wouldn't have to endure an existential crisis every time one of its members had a sex scandal.
10.6.2006 9:56am
anonymousblogger (mail):
I am a conservative, and add myself to the other conservatives who have posted above: I have tremendous respect for George Will, and I usually agree with his perspective. To say he is not a conservative is asinine.
On the other hand, perhaps I am not a conservative either. For certain, it is becoming clearer to me that I can no longer be a Republican. This will be the first election in my lifetime where I will deliberately choose the Democratic candidate, and I will do so for conservative reasons (balance of power, federalism, respect for the law, etc.).
10.6.2006 10:15am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Caliban: Ok I was really willing to give you the benefit of the doubt before, but thanks for clearing it up, I guess. Please re-evaluate your priorities in life. Thanks. (creepy...)

Note: I'm not saying there's anything NECESSARILY wrong with legal, consensual sex with teenagers, but really... "Any man who doesn't want to have sex with teenagers isn't really a man?" "Of COURSE he wanted to bone sixteen year olds. And if he CAN*, he SHOULD?" I wonder what Kant would say about that last one...
10.6.2006 10:41am
sk (mail):
"The problem is that the Republican Party has ceased to be conservative in any meaningful sense."

Really? So why are democrats so unhappy?

This "republicans aren't conservative any more" meme seems to be so common as to be accepted without argument, but I don't buy it. Democrats want to change things, don't they? If Democrats do win, they will change things in their favor, right? You'd have to be a pretty unhappy Republican to really believe that Pelosi as speaker would be just fine with you. I don't think there are really that many Republicans who believe that.

Everybody likes to be cynical and above the fray-ironic detachment makes one feel smug and powerful (remember what it was like when you were a teenager?). "The Republicans aren't really conservative" is really just chance to feel/do that. Its not actually true.

Sk
10.6.2006 10:44am
MDJD2B (mail):
Is it liberal or conservative to believe that it is wrong to abuse relationships in which there is gross inequality of power in ordet to have sex?
10.6.2006 11:08am
Jefe:
"Is it liberal or conservative to believe that it is wrong to abuse relationships in which there is gross inequality of power in ordet to have sex?"
I don't know, ask Bill CLinton...
10.6.2006 11:24am
OK Lawyer:
The whole Foley thing reminds me of Harriet Miers. The GOP power players put her in place because they knew she would do their bidding on the SCOTUS. They also believed that the rest of the party would simply go along, b/c they knew what was best for everyone. They were mistaken. George Will was one of the most outspoken critics of Miers, as were most "true" conservatives. Most of what I consider "true" conservatives, don't care so much about results as they do about the means in which the results are achieved (among many other things).

This is another example of the GOP power structure simply saying, "Hey, GOP'ers, everything is all right, b/c we in the power say it is." This is also the exact reason they provide whenever they want to introduce any new WOT initiative that might be questionable. They don't provide reasonable explanations for their programs or actions, but merely rest on the assumption that they have power now, so they will always have it. Probably not the best plan.
10.6.2006 11:39am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Matt Yglesias rebuts David Brooks nicely, while we're on the Foley op-ed scene:
Ironically, Brooks describes himself as a defender of an older view of morality in which "we are defined not by our individual choices but by our social roles." But, of course, this is the point. Hastert is Speaker of the House of Representatives and is supposed to act like a responsible custodian of the House, not like a two bit goon ready to cover-up God-knows-what in pursuit of a contiued majority.
(Corrected Yglesias's "Haster" typo, doubtless a Lovecraftian allusion.)
10.6.2006 11:39am
Randy R. (mail):
The thing that always irritates the hell out of me about George Will is in penchant to say how liberals think, and then shoot them down. He will say that liberals enjoy telling everyone else how to act, but conservatives don't, for instance.

It really infuriates me, because he misrepresents the position of most liberals to set up a straw man to shoot down.

Bad man.
10.6.2006 12:05pm
margate (mail):
<blockquote>
"Is it liberal or conservative to believe that it is wrong to abuse relationships in which there is gross inequality of power in ordet to have sex?"
I don't know, ask Bill CLinton...
</blockquote>

You're both wrong.

The problem here is that a guy in his 50s is hitting on kids who aren't 17 yet and in the care of our elected officials. Americans get this.

As a parent of young kids, it's enough for me that the House leadership were on notice that something was amiss with Foley and the pages, and the leadership did nothing or next to nothing. That's what bothers me.

The fact the pages may have been of sufficient age to legally consent to sex is a red herring. Legislatures have set the age of consent where it is to account for HIGH SCHOOL SEX . . . so we're not making High School seniors criminals because they fool around with freshman or sophomores.

So it's real simple. Older guy Foley -- whom other House members knew -- was hitting on high school kids. Nothing was done to protect the kids. Not a complicated story.

Dragging Clinton and his 24 year-old mistress into it misses the fear factor resonating with people who have kids or whose kids are grown.
10.6.2006 12:10pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
What most of us really want to know is the reading content of all those titilating, juicy, deliciously scandalous, trashy emails Foley sent to various Pages -- that speak for themselves. It will be better reading than The National Enquirer.
10.6.2006 12:37pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
So if George Will isn't a real conservative, who is?

Lawrence Auster.
10.6.2006 12:39pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
And, isn't it apropro that Foley (1) gets caught, and (2) blames the Vatican. Next, Hastert will be blaming the Vatican's *Bishop* policy for HIS coverup of Foley. One week from now, it will come out that Abramoff lobbying efforts had a hand in underwriting the favorable coverup. And this is what we get from the conservative *Religious* right. It is high time to clean up our Republican party.
10.6.2006 12:44pm
A. Zarkov (mail):

Foley has given the Republicans a PR problem because it looks like they tolerated a potential pedophile, but I don't know how much that will influence the election. How many voters will say: I was going to vote for x, but because of Foley I'm going to vote for y? If that's the case, then the Democrats have their own problem with Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi choose March in the 2003 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. I think that presents problems for her because Harry Hay was chosen as the Grand Marshal of that parade. While not formally a member of NAMBLA, he certainly supported it. He marched in the 1986 Los Angles Gay Pride Parade with a sign: "NAMBLA walks with me." Hay had protested the exclusion of NAMBLA from the LGBT. Hay had other embarrassing affiliations for a Democrat. He was a member (and active participant) of the Communist Party USA, a strange choice for a homosexual as CPUSA formally excluded homosexuals. It gets even weirder as later Hay later petitioned CPUSA for his own expulsion. Which they refused to grant!

To a certain extent we are judged by the company we keep. If a Republican had marched in a parade where David Duke was Grand Marshal, he would have a real PR problem.
10.6.2006 1:27pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
In the interest of accuracy, I don't think anyone has alleged that Foley is a pedophile or even a "potential" pedophile. "Potential child molester" would be more precise.
10.6.2006 2:48pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Potential child molester" would be more precise.

Correct. The precise term would be "pederast."
10.6.2006 4:03pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Hmmm... is THAT the word used to refer to "the Jesus" in The Big Lebowski? I always thought he said "pet-her-ass" as some sort of slang term for pedophile.

That's why I love Volokh.com... I learn something new here every day.
10.6.2006 4:36pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@ Daniel:

You don't need to have sex with teenagers to be a man. You simply have to WANT to have sex with them.

This is caused by the fundamental activity of hormones in the human body. Teenagers are brimming with them. If they don't arouse your interest, something is wrong. See a doctor.

And if someone arouses your interest, and there is no legal or ethical barrier to a relationship, and you're both agreeable to that relationship - there is nothing wrong with it.

This seems obvious to me. If a seventeen year old girl wants to go all to pieces with me in a motel room, I'm breaking out the Visa. If you think there's something wrong with that, how much of it is really moral outrage, and how much is just plain old jealousy?
10.6.2006 4:43pm
Stating the Obvious:
Caliban Darklock says: "If a seventeen year old girl wants to go all to pieces with me in a motel room, I'm breaking out the Visa."

I suspect Caliban is fantasizing, and should it happen be more likely to break out the Viagra than the Visa...
10.6.2006 4:58pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Well at least he's backed away from claiming that having sex with teenagers is a positive moral good to merely arguing that there is nothing morally wrong with it. I still think you're giving your hormonal instincts too much control over your moral code though, caliban, but to each his own.

You're right about one thing though... I'd sure keep my hypothetical daughter away from you.
10.6.2006 5:11pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@ Stating the Obvious:

Actually, I was thinking about someone I met in New Orleans a few years ago. Not exactly a common occurrence, but no Viagra involved, either.

@ Daniel:

I have not backed away from anything. ALL teenagers should be encouraged at puberty to explore their sexuality in any and all consensual, legal, and ethical scenarios they find interesting.

And it has nothing to do with me whatsoever. Notice there's nothing in there about how they should be encouraged to come over to my place or anything? It's all about what THEY want.

That's where the whole "keep away" question is ironic. If you actually understood that teenagers are human beings, you'd realise that you can't keep them away from anything. As long as you continue to think about them as objects, as property that belongs to you and that you can control, they will not be able to grow into rational adults. It's called "repression".
10.6.2006 6:26pm
Randy R. (mail):
As bizarre as Caliban's statements appear, they really are true. Teens are having sex anyway -- I would rather they have sex in a safe manner.
10.6.2006 6:55pm
lucia (mail) (www):
KDP asked:
What most of us really want to know is the reading content of all those titilating, juicy, deliciously scandalous, trashy emails Foley sent to various Pages -- that speak for themselves.


Most news reports are leaving those out. Mercuray News printed some. (There are some odd things about how the quotes are assembled to read like a conversation, yet the text just says "a page", instead of "the page".

Still, this bit captures the whole power-broker using influence to get sex idea:
Often implicit in the chats is an exchange of professional advancement in exchange for sex that plays on the allure of power that Foley used to entice one of the teenagers. Foley at one point promised to help him become the ``stylish elite type'' person the teenager said he wanted to be.

``We will make you successful,'' Foley promised, ``as long as you don't mind me grabbing your [deleted] once in a while.''


This is seriously disturbing for so many reasons. A unique feature is the entire purpose of the Congressional page program. These are teebs who are sent far from home, and whose parents specifically trust Congress to make the teens experience educational. One of the benefits of being a page should presumably be to develop political contacts and learn how the political process works.

So, what are the teens learning?
10.6.2006 7:15pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@ Randy:

> Teens are having sex anyway

Not only are they doing it anyway, it is the purpose of puberty in the first place - to make people have sex. Of course, in a world that rejects evolution, how long was it really going to be until they started actively rejecting biology?

After all, now that we've forced men to stop treating women as property, the only thing they have left to repress and stifle is their children.
10.6.2006 8:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
I always love the idiocy of 'save yourself for marriage' crowd. In the past, no one ever did, except for daughters of princes who needed to be virgins at their marriage. When the life expectancy was between 30 and 40 years, you got married asap, often before the age of 20. You produced kids as soon as you could, since you would barely live to see them as adults. Didn't matter if you were married, which was a religious ceremony few could afford anyway -- just have the damn kids!

So now people are supposed to save themselves for marriage, even if they don't marry until 30 or later! It does do one thing, though -- it provides cover for the closeted gay kids. They can piously say they are saving themselves for marriage, so no sex, honey! All the while, they are breathing a sigh of relief that they don't have to do the nasty with a *girl*.
10.6.2006 8:41pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@ Randy:

I don't think it really provides cover for the closeted gay kids. I think it mostly provides an excuse for gay kids not to confront their homosexuality for a longer period of time, with generally negative results.

Admittedly, I'm not gay myself and can't speak from personal experience on this... but it seems like most of the gay people I speak to about their initial identification with being gay simply do not realise they're gay unless and until they have an actual sexual experience.

This is usually an unsatisfying or outright impossible heterosexual encounter, after which he realises that girls just plain don't do anything for him. (The abstinence excuse is generally used as an explanation of why he's stopping.) A minority of people describe an encouraging effort by a more experienced and confident gay man, accompanied by the happy surprise that this is much more interesting than that stuff they talked about in health class.

But the universal factor in the stories I hear is that there is some sort of actual sex. I think encouragement for experimentation would bring gay teens to terms with their sexuality sooner and with a more positive outcome.
10.6.2006 9:52pm
NewSisyphus (mail) (www):
Well, I'm back late here, so nobody is likely to read this, but I want to clarify what I meant above about Will. Will is a celebrity entertainer who moves in a very high-powered media world. Part of what he does to earn respect in that institutionally liberal media world is stick it to Republicans in a manner likely to conform to the worst liberal assumptions about conservatives.

Yes, philosophically, Will is indeed conservative. And, no, I do not think that only those annoited by the ideologues "deserve" to be called conservative. There are conservatives on all sides of almost all issues, conservatism seeming to me to be more of an outlook or sensibility rather than a platform.

Will is allowed to remain the house conservative for the MSM because he is willing to bow to liberal piety and rub Republican noses in those pieties, like in this column. This is simply a more conservative spirit channelling a Kossack rant about theo-crats.

And, I stand by my assessment that there aren't many conservatives who give a damn about that or who look to Will as some kind of opinion leader.

That is not to say that everything he writes is awful or that conservatives aren't likely to agree with him most of the time; of course they do. But we also know very well what Will is: a trained seal put on panels to give them the appearance of "balance."
10.7.2006 3:19am
Randy R. (mail):
Caliban:: I think encouragement for experimentation would bring gay teens to terms with their sexuality sooner and with a more positive outcome.

You are, of course, correct. It would save a lot of pain both for the gay person, and the people around him or her.
10.7.2006 3:33am
John Herbison (mail):
"Whereas conservative Christian parents once thought it was inappropriate for public schools to teach their kids about sex, now they want the schools to preach abstinence to children. Whereas conservative Christians used to be unhappy with evolution being taught in public schools, now they want Intelligent Design taught instead (or at least in addition). Whereas conservative Christians used to want the federal government to leave them alone, now they demand that more and more federal funds be directed to local churches and religious groups through Bush's faith-based initiatives program."


The Republican Party has traditionally been (and still is) the handmaiden of Mammon. Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell and a few others taught the Party elders enough God talk to pander to those who perceive their deity as such a weenie that He needs help from Caeser. A big part of that rhetoric is exploiting the antipathy that fundamentalists feel toward homosexuality. That the House Republican leadership not only tolerated Foley, but took his $100K+ contribution and enabled his hitting on adolescents, is profoundly disturbing to the fundamentalist Republicans, who can now better appreciate what a used condom feels like.
10.7.2006 5:30pm
Bored Lawyer:
As for the charge that Republicans will be hit harder when one in their ranks fails to live up to the moral standards of the party: What does that say about Democrats? We don't have standards, so you can't call us hypocrites?

Do the names Gerry Studds and Barney Frank mean anything to you?
10.9.2006 2:26pm