Jonah Goldberg writes compellingly about why this whole Foley thing may one day backfire on the Dems. I particularly appreciated this bit:
What liberals don’t understand is that social conservatives actually believe their moral rhetoric, even when it’s politically inconvenient. That’s why GOP Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana had to resign when his marital infidelities became public during the Clinton impeachment, much to the chagrin of Democrats who wanted to advance the “everybody does it” defense of President Clinton. And that’s why vast numbers of social conservatives now want Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s head on a pike.
Meanwhile, the only moral lapse that reliably and consistently offends all liberals collectively is hypocrisy. As Howard Dean declared on Meet the Press last year: “Everybody has ethical shortcomings. We ought not to lecture each other about our ethical shortcomings.” But he continued: “I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy.” This is a remarkably convenient principle insofar as it can indict only people with actual principles.
Michael Medved (I think it was he) said much the same thing. To paraphrase, his point was that Republicans have standards. They recognize that not all people, even people who ostensibly (or intellectually) agree with those standards, will be able to uphold them, because people are fallible. Without abandoning the standards, therefore, they simply insist that those who fall from the standards take their appropriate punishment. In Foley’s case, that was his instant resignation. (I still have my doubts about whether Hastert was obligated to do so based on the emails alone, especially since he would have been in the untenable and, according to the ACLU position vis a vis Boy Scouts, unconstitutional position of convicting someone based solely on sexual preference, rather than actionable conduct.)
As Goldberg argues, Democratic standards tend to be more situational or, I should say, are tied to the actor:
Self-described progressives are great at whipping up a moral frenzy when it serves their purposes, and are hilariously indignant when Moral Majority types return fire in kind. Remember the national bout of St. Vitus’ dance over sexual harassment in the late 1980s and early 1990s? Liberals made sexual harassment their signature issue, rending their clothes and gnashing their teeth over Sens. John Tower and Bob Packwood and Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, among others. The puritanical zeal of these inquisitions cannot be exaggerated.
And then came Bill Clinton, who was, by any fair measure, a worse womanizer than Thomas or the rest of them. The Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit led, inexorably, to revelations of alleged rape and scandalous behavior with an intern. Forced to choose between power and principle, liberals and feminists held an impromptu fire sale on principles.
Whereas once feminists insisted that “women don’t make these things up,” accusations of rape were dismissed instantaneously. Whereas once zero-tolerance was the rule (“no means no”), feminist deity Gloria Steinem suddenly advanced a one-free-grope rule for powerful men. Whereas once even the appearance of impropriety was unacceptable, feminists suddenly argued that everyone should lighten up. Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, elected in 1992 — the “Year of the Woman” — as part of the anti-Thomas “backlash,” argued that female interns should count themselves lucky in the Clinton White House. After all, she said, “30 years ago, women weren’t even allowed to be White House interns.”