The Corner

Re: “Open Secret”

Mark, thanks for dropping by! I’m not sure whether you meant for your post to be a criticism of me. But just in case you did, let me make sure I’m being understood here. I don’t believe (based on the evidence so far) that it was an “open secret” that Foley had sex with minors or even that he wanted to. I believe that it was an “open secret” that he was interested in men much younger than himself. When Rep. Alexander’s staff told the Speaker’s staff that the family of a 16-year-old page was complaining about Foley’s attentions, and suggested that the staff look into it, then that allegation and request, combined with the open secret, ought to have set off alarm bells. It probably should have set off those alarms for Reps. Shimkus and Alexander, too, but one expects a long-serving Speaker to know more about the members of his party conference than individual backbenchers would know.

Mark has explored the question of the possible political motives behind and the suspicious timing of the revelations on his own NRO blog. It doesn’t really bother me that some left-wing groups had political motives in bringing this to light. What does bother me is the possibility that some left-wing groups knew that Foley was a possible risk to pages and withheld the information until the most politically convenient time. Which is more or less the same thing that bothers me about the Republicans’ conduct: not enough priority seems to have been placed on protecting the pages.

Finally, Mark has stressed on his blog that the confidence of Rep. Alexander’s page and his family has been betrayed. They didn’t want publicity, they just wanted the contact to stop. That’s one of the points Speaker Hastert’s office has made over the last few days in explaining why there was no real investigation. I’m sympathetic to the family’s desire for privacy, but it seems to me that Alexander, Hastert, Shimkus, and anyone else whose lap this fell in had an obligation to all the pages and their families, not just to this one.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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