A Shameful Report on the Foley Affair

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Once again the House ethics committee has failed to take a positive step in sending a clear message to the American people.

Instead, the bipartisan report on the Mark Foley scandal was a study in pitiful cowardice.

The committee recommended no penalty for anyone, including outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert. The evidence was clear that Hastert and his aides knew that Foley's seamy conduct was open to further investigation.

For a man who takes pride in his clear memory, Hastert suffered from convenient amnesia over warning signs of Foley's sexual interest in teenage House pages.

Hastert said he was pleased that the committee did not cite him for violating any rules of the House. What about moral rules, Mr. Speaker? They count even more.

At the very least, the committee should have asked for a sense of the House resolution criticizing Hastert and others who knew in advance of Foley's improper interest in young pages.

With scandal swirling around the House, especially with Republicans, you would think members would want to show the public a little intestinal fortitude. To the contrary, they chose the easy path of protecting their own.

About the strongest word the committee could use was "negligence" in the way the matter was handled. What were members thinking? There was a blatant attempt to hush up Foley's conduct over an extended period.

You would expect more from Hastert, as leader of the House, and any members or aides who failed to take some semblance of action.

The House has cloaked itself in shame. The report was released in the final hours before adjournment, and probably committee members were thinking it would get minimal attention.

But the public should know this was an outrageous example of failure of elected officials. Were members listening to the voters last month?

They are weary of scandal in high places of government and getting almost nothing in response.