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    December 24, 2006

    Mark Foley from close up

    Posted by: Chris

    WolfechuckBe sure to check out a provocative op-ed about Mark Foley in the Washington Blade this week by my friend Chuck Wolfe, who heads up the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.  Chuck brings a doubly unique perspective, first because the Victory Fund encourages gay public officials to come out of the closet.  Second because through Chuck's roles in support of two-term Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles (D), he has known Foley personally and professionally over 20 years the two have spent in and around Florida politics. 

    Chuck notes how Foley began living the gay part of his life more openly the '90s and even lets us in on the advice he offered the Republican congressman when Foley debated whether to come out in the midst of his U.S. Senate bid:

    What I told Mark then and what all closeted politicians should know, is that most Americans appear not to care very much about a candidate’s sexual orientation. In fact, there’s growing evidence that being open and honest about being gay can actually translate into greater trust among the electorate. After all, if a politician can be honest about being gay, doesn’t it follow that he’d be more honest about everything?

    Of course, we all know now that Mark Foley didn't listen to Chuck Wolfe or others offering similar advice.  He instead stayed in the closet until after his predatory behavior with congressional pages came to light and it became more to his advantage to come out (as gay) than to stay in (and be presumed a pedophile).  In this respect, Foley is no different than former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, who only came out when it was more to his advantage to be a gay man cheating on his wife, than to be seen as sexually harassing or worse, sexually assaulting, a male staffer.

    Markfoley_3 Chuck concludes that Foley's inability to "muster the courage to face down his fears" was responsible for "ruin[ing] his career."  No doubt, the twisted lies required by the closet played a role in the predatory behavior that led to Foley's downfall, but reading Chuck's op-ed, another possibility occurred to me.  Perhaps Foley stayed in the closet to protect his predatory behavior.  I don't know why this never occurred to me before. 

    If he would risk everything to keep these teenage males close to him — and his IM chats are sprinkled with professions of "love" as well as sexual interest — then maybe he worried that, in addition to political fallout, the straight or questioning pages might steer clear of an out gay congressman. 

    After all, it's one thing for a (comparitively) hip, single congressman to chat up young male pages and go in for the sexual kill after they've left the Hill.  It's quite another for an openly gay congressman to engage in such flirty behavior, especially if it were known more generally that he had a long-time partner back home in Florida. 

    Chuck asks why Foley would worry so much about coming out when "certainly in a place as sophisticated as South Florida, Mark Foley could have easily weathered any political fallout from finally telling the truth."  Maybe it wasn't his constituents he was worried about so much as the young pages, interns and staffers he was warned by so many to steer clear of.



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    1. Alan on Dec 24, 2006 2:57:14 PM:

      You're both missing the point. Mark Foley did not come out because he did not need to come out. As a South Floridian who has watched his career with disbelief for almost 20 years I have come to understand that Mark Foley was in the proverbial glass closet. Every member of the South Florida GLBT community, the national and state Republican parties as well as the local and national media knew he was gay AND DIDN'T CARE. He survived the same outing in The Advocate that finally brought Jim Kolbe out of the closet because everyone knew AND DIDN'T CARE. He repeatedly openly appeared at GLBT related functions and private parties hosted by well known gays escorted by his partner AND NOBODY CARED. Heck, one of his former residences in Lake Worth, Florida was a gay bar for a while and his upstairs bedroom was turned into a meeting room in which we always had a good laugh about the Foley connection.

      The glass closet doesn't require you to come out. Just ask Mary Cheney. Within the luxury of the glass closet coming out only reveals your hypocrisy. And that is something people do care about.

    1. KJ on Dec 24, 2006 3:27:14 PM:

      Hmm..I followed Alan's line of thought until it led to a jump, without merit, in my opinion, to Mary Cheney.

      But, back to Foley: I have no idea how legitimate the trip to rehab was, but if it was due to authentic need, I think the whole situation cannot be understood without one-part delusion of being untouchable in power, one-part glass closet as Alan has described it, one-part really liking being near the young boys, and one-part clouded judgment during "self-medication."

    1. Alan on Dec 25, 2006 12:31:58 PM:

      Thx KJ. The jump to Mary Cheney is because of her own glass closet. Her decision to stay in it and work for a candidate that publicly invalidated her entire life is what prompted the backlash by gay activists. But she was allowed to stay in her glass closet because people DIDN'T CARE.

      However, she has now smashed that closet by her transgressive act of getting pregnant with the woman she loves. So now all these right-wingers who didn't give a damn are up in arms, "We all knew and left you alone but now you choose to shove your lesbianism in our faces - how dare you?"

      Did Mary expect this outcry? Her mother certainly didn't. And that's one of the disadvantages of the glass closet - you get a free ride for so long you start to feel invulnerable.

      Trackback here to Mark Foley. Drunk/sexually abused/pathological Mark Foley. As Linda Ronstadt sang, "Poor Poor Pitiful Me." It is BS. That so many powerful people let him live unblemished in his glass closet so long that it empowered him to believe he could get away with anything. Remember, at the moment, Mark Foley has not been proven to have done anything criminal, only totally inappropriate. His biggest mistake remains getting caught which I'll guarantee you was something he never dreamt would happen, as protected by his glass closet as he obviously thought he was.

      FELIZ NATAL to all.

    1. Casey on Dec 26, 2006 12:24:35 PM:

      Um, Alan? Mary Cheney hasn't been closeted, glass or otherwise, for a long, long time. Hell, if I recall correctly, her resume includes a stint as the lesbian/gay corporate relations manager for Coors - that's not closeted. True, the RNC didn't put out a press release on her personal life, but there was really no reason to. She's not a gay rights activist; she's simply somebody living her life, happy and accepted by her family, and simply by being a decent person, making some people on the right think. Back off of her.

    1. Alan on Dec 26, 2006 9:59:30 PM:

      Just because GLBT Americans all knew about Mary Cheney's lesbianism it is not something the average American gave a thought to or gave a damn about. This is exactly what a glass closet is - people in the know "know" but everyone else doesn't.

      Why do you think her father made such a fuss after then VP candidate John Edwards "outed" Mary during the Vice Presidential debate in 2004? Not because nobody knew but because the majority of people didn't.

    1. Alan on Dec 26, 2006 10:02:44 PM:

      Casey - also, don't think I have anything against Mary Cheney (though many gay activists do). I wish her and her partner nothing but future happiness and joy with their baby. But it still doesn't change my point about her having been in a glass closet.

    1. KJ on Dec 27, 2006 11:34:03 AM:

      Alan, We're not buying the "glass closet" label you're attempting to place on Mary as you describe it and aptly apply it to Foley.

      Mary has lived openly as who she is and has not attempted to use her sexuality for political gain. It is simply part of who she is, and that is how she has lived. She has demonstrated the strength of character to not bow to GLBT orthodoxy which would seem to believe that the "community" should be monochromatic in its political views regardless of the given subject at hand.

      That is how I live, and I do not believe that I, or my partner, are in a any type of closet, glass or otherwise. You weaken your excellent discussion regarding the danger of the glass closet by applying it where it has no merit.

      I'm not sure upon what you are basing your assumption that the "majority of people" didn't know about Mary's sexuality and partner during the 2004 election. That is simply not true, given the media attention regarding the matter. The Cheneys, including Mary's, negative reaction to Edwards' comments had nothing to do with "outing", since Mary was already out. It had to do with their belief, with which I happen to NOT agree, of Edwards' using the topic for political gain.

      You do not understand the religious right, a setting in which I spent 40 years, if you think that they have not cared about Mary these past many years. You also underestimate the Cheneys if you believe that they did not expect Christian-right backlash from the announcement of the pregnancy. I'm not nearly as politically savvy as Lynn Cheney, but I chuckled in anticipation of the political response when I heard the news. Dobson's editorial column in TIME was a bonus.

      Mary has disappointed many because they feel that an opportunity for impacting change was squandered due to lack of leadership on her part. I do not agree with that assessment. Mary has had greater impact on many in the Republican party simply by being and living as she is than if she had attempted to make herself a "poster girl." Not seeking leadership does not make one closeted; however, it likely makes on a better human being.

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