News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Foley hypocrisy hurts more than one teenager

With all eyes on the United States, evaluating whether our leaders' claims to unique morality and effective democracy are legitimate, Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., is giving the world plenty to see.

Mr. Foley's questionable e-mails to a male teenage congressional page, inappropriate and raising questions of pedophilia, are ugly enough. Internationally damning, however, is the hypocrisy Mr. Foley displayed. The world already has been crying "foul" — in both senses of the word — over the disparity between America's self-appointed role as guardian of the planet's civil rights, and its prosecution of the war on terror.

Now the world gets a peek into a master manipulator of the democratic system and the hypocrisy of his positions.

Mr. Foley was a high-profile leader of legislation against child sex offenders. He founded and co-chaired the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. He pushed the recent Volunteers for Children Act, which gives organizations that work with children the ability to access fingerprint registries so they do not hire child molesters. His Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act overhauls the national monitoring system for predatory pedophiles. He sponsored measures to eliminate child pornography on the Internet.

His prompt resignation in the face of the e-mail disclosure was wise. It should in no way foreclose a thorough investigation into his activities.

Whether our political leaders should be waving the morality flag for all the world to see is questionable. Some question whether the evangelical U.S. insistence that democracy and morality perfectly overlap is either honest or wise.

One thing is certain, though. If our leaders proclaim our nation's morality, as our representatives they had better live it. And maybe most important, if our goal is to spread democracy through the world, we need to present it unmarred by hypocrisy.

If Mr. Foley's actions were as they appear, his disservice was not just to a teenage boy. It was to the entire nation.

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