Don’t look now…

Jeff Kouba at Bachmann vs. Wetterling, brings up a question worth looking at: is the Foley scandal “over” from the point of immediate political benefit? I won’t get into Jeff’s analysis — that’s for Jeff to debate — but the question is a good one. Frankly, it’s one I had today.


When trying to assemble a newscast for the Current.

Face it, we’re the “short attention span theater” in this country and whether you believe the news media leads the people or the people lead the news media, the fact is that scandal only lasts until the next big story.

Don’t ask me to defend it; I can’t. I can only tell you it’s true. In fact, I know there was a “big” story out there just before the Foley incident broke, but I can’t remember what it was. Oh, wait, now I can: the Wetterling “More” ad. Big stuff in local politics right up until the moment when it wasn’t anymore.

And Foley? History. Replaced by North Korea nukes, which — by the way — will be replaced by something else pretty soon. But the Foley story has already reached the point of no understanding by the casual voter.

Want proof? Here’s what the AP ran tonight:

CAPITOL HILL (AP) – Mark Foley’s former chief of staff will tell

what he knows to the House ethics committee later this week. He’s

already on record saying he sounded the alarm about Foley to House

Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office at least back in 2003. Hastert

today says he doubts his staff covered-up anything, but says if

they did, those responsible will walk the plank.

Good story, eh? Bound to bring the Republicans down in November, right? Look closer and pretend you’re a “casual” news consumer. Notice something missing. Here’s a hint: who the heck is Mark Foley and what is it he’s supposed to have done?

Yeah, minor point. The, ummm, story. This is usually a sign that the story is now being driven by the inner-Beltway mentality. And the problem with that — if you’re a Democrat hoping to ride into office on this — is that the inner-Beltway mentality is 12 square miles surrounded by reality.

Stories written like that aren’t going to make many newscasts — it didn’t make mine.

The Foley story — from a political “points” point of view — is now over.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a good week for Democrats. It was. Patty Wetterling, in particular, was able to close a 9 point gap to a roughly 4-point.. at least on the fringes of the margin of error. But whatever bounce the Dems were likely to get from the scandal — or at least publicity about the scandal — they’ve probably already gotten. The scandal itself, is heading for the back pages.

As Stephen Colbert would say…. “moving on….”

  • Bill Prendergast

    Actually, I think the Foley story has “legs,” and you’ll continue to hear a lot more about it from now until the election and after.

    I was in a restaurant tonight; the TV over the bar was going and the TV show was the Situation Room. Foley, Foley, Foley–despite the fact that there were no big headlines today.

    The story is going to dribble out, bit by bit, and keep on going, as GOP Congressmen fingerpoint and leak, and as the GOP keeps turning over rocks to find a Dem who did something similar–to turn it into a disgusting bi-partisan scandal–which will disgust non-partisan voters so much with the whole electoral process that they’ll stay home in droves–which means that the Republicans still have a chance.

    Short of starting another war in the next few weeks, I see that as the only real chance for the GOP.

    War and the election: When I heard Dr. James Dobson speak in St. Paul last week, he was telling his faithful that the war would be with Iran (analogy was to striking against Hitler in the 30s rather than waiting for Hitler to attack.) North Korea’s a more attractive prospect for the GOP, though–air strikes, no massive ground invasion.

    They are also considering Venezuela. When Michele Bachmann spoke at Boutwell’s Landing in Oak Park Heights about a week ago, she told the senior citizens present that Hugo Chavez had vowed to destroy the United States. He hasn’t, but she told them that. I think it’s a page from the Christian right’s playbook, you see the same kind of thing on their web pages this week.

    The GOP and their backers are spoiling for another war somewhere–it would certainly help them out with this Foley mess.

  • Anon

    What the ‘casual voter’ knows, and will retain:

    Sexual Predator. In Congress. Prayed on kids. Current Republican leaders covered it up. Played politics rather than did what’s right.

    That’s all I’m hearing. But they do remember it happened. Now they see the fallout as inside politics. It ain’t over – it’s just beneath the ‘casual voter’ to worry about now. They just think it’s time for a change.

  • Bob Collins

    I think the Foley story will continue to be reported, I think the problem is it will continue to be reported in an “inner Beltway” way (as the AP obviously did).

    It’s entirely possible that the only people who’ve actually paid attention to the Foley story are the people who are really “in” to politics. Those people already had their minds made up. (Or have already shifted their vote).

    One week of blaring headlines, however, isn’t enough to “reach” the people that campaigns are trying to reach right now. It takes wayyyyy more than a week.

    If the story is OBE, the next event is as likely to reach the voter, possibly more so.

  • Karl

    “Stories written like that aren’t going to make many newscasts — it didn’t make mine.”

    And what would it have taken to edit that lame AP story so it reiterated the Foley issues, Bob? Is that all the Current does is rip the AP copy and then “move on?” Where’s the news reporting at MPR? If the only reason you didn’t use this story in your newscast is because AP left out some pertinent details, what does that tell us about MPR’s news staff?

    Here’s a tip: Take the AP story, rewrite it, beef it up, REPORT IT, and THEN move on. Are you people news reporters or news readers? I expect more from MPR.

  • Bob Collins

    thanks for the tip, Karl.

    Actually, the AP story didn’t make mine. But I don’t “write” Current casts. and I don’t rip and read them. I mostly ad-lib them, or sometimes I just take a pen and highlight a couple of sentences.

    I didn’t use the AP story becuase the AP story was useless and it didn’t really tell me anything new other than someone was going to speak to the ethics committee. “Schedule” stories aren’t all that interesting and, as that copy showed, aren’t all that illustrative. And another day of “you did it…no I didn’t” isn’t going to cut it.

    So what’s really new in that story that we didn’t already know? And news has to be — and call me crazy — new.

    That’s why the Foley story played second bannana — on this particular day to Korea, Now when the guy actually testifies before the Ethics Committee, I’m sure there’ll be something there. But what you had yesterday was recycled Inner Beltway stuff. A story full of background (except of course what happened).

    Torii Hunter? That probably resonated with the casual voter more than a story on background did.,

    Like I said, you may not like it. I may not like it. But that’s hte way the news works.

    the foley story didn’t even make the first “A” section of the Strib today.

    If a candidate wants to make hay on this with the non-political-geek voter at this point, they’re going to have to manage the news cycld. They should understand how the news cycle works if they try that.

    The point isn’t that the Foley story shouldn’t be a politicla earthquake; or even that it hasn’t already been one. The point is that it’s not likely to resonate more than it already has with voters without something substantially new.

    In many ways, perhaps, the blogs might be able to keep the pot stirred, but the casual voter likely isn’t a big blog reader.

    What I find fascinating now is how the school shootings issue is having much more resonance and is reflected in the various angles that appear to be being developed. Page 1 on the Strib today.

    Still, no politician is talking a bout it; even a week later. That still is a head scratcher to me.

  • MR

    My guess is that the Foley story will turn out much like the Abramoff story. It’ll be an issue for those directly involved in the scandal (Conrad Burns and Mike DeWine for Abramoff, Foley and Reynolds for the Foley story), but most races will soon turn back to what they were about before.

  • Bob Collins

    I think it’s been pretty interesting, actually, how both parties in many cases aren’t running against their opponents, but against the party leadership.

    Republicans tried — and so far have failed to get much traction — to run against a Democrat by saying “a vote for XYZ is a vote for Nancy Pelosi.”

    Democrats are running against Hastert and the Republican leadership in the House.

    In both cases, it’s a risky strategy to prolong because the voter you’re looking to reach changes depending on what stage of the campaign you’re in.

    Maybe, the voter who is STILL undecided at this point knows who Nancy Pelosi or Dennis Hastert even are. Maybe they don’t.

    But I’m willing to guess it’s not high on their dance card right now.

    OTOH, I’ll bet the candidates last name is. (g)

  • bsimon

    Well, its looking like the President is trying, or briefly tried, to change the subject with an acknowledgement of the school shootings. Considering this week’s perp used an AK-47, maybe that’d be a good conversation to have, though its not clear how the GOP can use this to their advantage.

    One story that the Foley incident overshadowed was another White House resignation. Karl Rove’s executive assistant, who formerly worked for Abramoff, resigned after allegedly accepting improper gifts & sharing inappropriate information. Probably not a huge story, but its certainly an embarrassment for the White House which is trying to claim that Abramoff did not, despite his own claims otherwise, have special access to the Executive Branch.

  • James


    I do believe you’re right, the Foley story is old news. But the story will still haunt individual the GOP politically. Many GOPers who plan to fund raise with Hastard, won’t be able too. It will also hurt individual races, NY-26 and Fl-16.

    This gives the Democratic party two political advantages. First, it gives them one, and could probally give them another seat that they had no chance to pick up a two weeks ago. Second, it takes a lot of money out of individual campaigns since hastard is unavailable on the fund rasing circut.

    As a disgusted independent, I’ll take whatever I can to force some level of accountability in DC.