Video: Scarborough: 'I'm absolutely stunned'

By Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 10/2/2006 3:29:12 PM ET 2006-10-02T19:29:12
COMMENTARY

It’s ironic, and not in an Alanis Morissette way, that Internet activities with underage boys would bring down a man who made stopping Internet predators a key platform.

But Mark Foley is certainly not the first member of Congress to meet such a fate.

In our story meeting today, Monica Novotny mentioned a website called The Political Graveyard, which has a chronological list of U.S. political scandals.

I couldn’t get to my computer fast enough.  I would have hopped on a Segway if I had one.

The site is Spartan, not very “2.0” as they say, but the information is a veritable treasure trove.  A Washington wall of shame for all to see.

The thing that struck me was the way scandals changed through the eras.  In the 18th Century, the main cause of ruin was treason, cerebral discretions based on principle.  Today, of course, the trouble has migrated farther south. 

The first disgraced politician on record was a man named Robert Alexander, a delegate to the Continental Congress. 
When he heard the Declaration of Independence, he was so disgusted that he fled to the British Fleet.

And Aaron Burr later became one of the most famous of the infamous when he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

Bumping off the boss rarely gets you far, in politics or otherwise.

The 19th Century was the era of grand corruption.  As that era progressed, the charges change from treason to bribery or money laundering.  Boss Tweed style political machines out to build dynasties with taxpayer money.

Certainly those scandals enraged people, but they weren’t the kinds of things you’d hear on Cinemax after dark.  The stories you can’t believe were even printed in a newspaper, involving cigars or lewd electronic seduction. 

They were very PG.

In fact, it wasn’t until 1983 that a member of Congress was censured for sexual misconduct.  And, interestingly, that incident also involved underage Congressional pages.

Republican Dan Crane was sleeping with an underage female page, and Democrat Gerry Studds had a tryst with an underage male.

Crane tearfully stepped down and ended his political career.  Tubbs, on the other hand, held a press conference with his young lover declaring it was nobody’s business.  He served another 10 years in Congress.

Mark Foley will not be as lucky.

It’s amazing to me that elected officials still behave this way, in an age when our every move can be traced with the help of technology.

The instant messages and emails he sent were permanent records of his discretions, and Washington blogs have been buzzing about his proclivities for months.

If there was an Internet in the 18th Century, history class would be a lot more exciting.

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