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    October 19, 2006

    Trandahl finally speaks

    Posted by: Chris

    Jeff Trandahl, the now-openly gay former clerk of the U.S. House, finally told his side of Foley-gate to someone: the House ethics committee. In testimony earlier today, he reportedly pointed the finger at his old boss: Ted Van Der Meid, chief counsel for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as the staffer who Trandahl kept informed about all matters Foley.

    Trandahljeff Even before Trandahl had finished testifying, ABC News' Brian Ross, who broke the first stories about Mark Foley's sexually explicit online chats with former pages, reported the gist of Trandahl was expected to say:

    The Republican source said Trandahl planned to name Ted Van Der Meid, the speaker's counsel and floor manager, as the person who was briefed on a regular basis about any issue that arose in the page program, including a "problem group of members and staff who spent too much time socializing with pages outside of official duties." One of whom was Mark Foley.

    Ross further reported that Van Der Meid expects also to be called to testify before the House committee investigating the matter.

    Not surprisingly, the attention — from the mainstream media and the blogosphere — appears to be focused on tarring Hastert with any and all information about Foley reported by Trandahal and others to the speaker's staff — principally Van Der Meid and staff chief Scott Palmer. Many of these analysts are assuming that Hastert must have learned about the matter because he is "unusally close" to his top aides, even sharing a D.C. townhouse with two of them. Hastert has flatly denied that claim, a remarkably stupid move if in fact he was kept in the loop. It just doesn't fly as a theory for me.

    Follow the jump for a more plausible theory than blaming Hastert:

    But there's another, even more plausible theory, that the mainstream media is afraid to suggest and the lefty blogosphere is too busy salivating for Hastert's blood to be bothered with.

    So far, there are five individuals who've been named as having substantial information over the years about Foley's misconduct: Palmer and Van Der Meid on Hastert's staff, Trandahl, former Foley Chief of Staff Kirk Fordham, and retiring Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona.  Three of the five — Trandahl, Fordham and Kolbe — are openly gay, though only Kolbe was truly "out" in the media.  The other two — Palmer and Van Der Meid — are widely rumored to be gay. And, as the world learned earlier this month, Foley himself is gay.

    These six mostly-closeted, gay Republicans, if in fact they are all gay, would form the "thin pink line" I've written about before in the early days of this blog.  Confronted with reports of misconduct by one of their own, the theory goes, they kept the matter largely "in-house," keeping each other informed and trying to keep Foley in check.

    But from Foley's perspective, these slaps on the wrist from the fellow limp-wristed didn't carry any real sting because, in the end, he expected them to protect him, just as he protected their closets, however deeply in them each lived.

    Viewed one way, it's having your buddy's back, like the crooked and not-crooked cops in "The Thin Blue Line."  On the flip side, it's like the nuclear doctrine of  "mutually assured destruction," since all but Kolbe knew that their careers could be damaged or even ruined (in their minds) if their homosexuality became public.  (Interestingly, we know from a Newsweek profile that Foley used "MAD" to describe why he generally chose to cheat on his long-term partner with other men who had boyfriends, since all involved had something to lose.)

    If the media picks up further on this line of argument, as opposed to blaming Hastert for what his staff may well have kept from him, expect it to contribute to the hostile climate facing gays within the Republican Party.  To some degree, gays within the GOP are being hoisted on their own petard, not for working on behalf of a party that opposes their own civil rights.  But for staying in the closet for fear of how it would affect their career, leaving their judgment impaired and their priorities skewed.

    Rather than purge the party of gays, as some Christian conservatives want, the gay GOP'ers should all come out instead.  With their sexual orientation in the open, their incentive to close ranks would be greatly reduced.  It reminds me of the old saw that gays were a national security threat because they were supposedly vulnerable to blackmail.  In reality, that was (and is) only true of those who hide in the closet.



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