The appearance of impropriety can be as damning as actual proof of wrongdoing. Appearances sway juries in criminal trials, they can make or break an applicant at a job interview, and worst of all, they can make those who once were friends give the cold shoulder. And when a public figure appears to do something malfeasant, the question of his/her guilt is a matter for the public spotlight and reputations can come crashing down. Mark Foley, R-Fla., abruptly quit the U.S. Congress on Friday. It is the hypothesis of many people that the reason for his resignation is “a series of electronic messages to teenage boys” that were “inappropriate,” as the Associated Press described it. With elections in the near future and Foley being a Republican, it was obvious that congressional Democrats would use this apparent fall from grace to gain a political advantage. It seems the appearance of impropriety surrounding Foley is severe that even his fellow Republicans are distancing themselves from him. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., called for a criminal investigation into Foley’s actions Sunday.
The AP reported that Hastert wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, saying, “As speaker of the House, I hereby request that the Department of Justice conduct an investigation of Mr. Foley’s conduct with current and former House pages to determine to what extent any of his actions violated federal law.”
Hastert wasn’t the only Republican to do so. The White House joined his plea, sending Dan Bartlett, a counselor for the White House, to talk to the press. Bartlett agreed the allegations against Foley are shocking, and while he said the White House had no knowledge of Foley’s alleged activity until the news broke last week, he was not exactly defending Foley.
“We need to make sure that the page system is one in which children come up here and can work and make sure that they are protected,” Bartlett said.
Frankly, this is unbelievable. These men are supposed to be the leaders of the free world, and yet children apparently need to be protected from them. These men embody the U.S. government when they are on Capitol Hill, and yet safeguards against their criminal behavior – sexual or otherwise – need to be put into place.
Worst of all, Foley’s alleged actions – as well as the actions of other corrupt politicians from both sides of the aisle – besmirch the American voter, because it is Americans who voted them into office. It’s more than shocking. Even the appearance of such behavior is shameful. There’s no other word for it but wrong.