Sep 30, 2006

On The Archaic System of Congressional Pages

Florida Rep. Mark Foley Left: Florida Rep. Mark Foley; photo courtesy of AP

Florida Congressman Mark Foley's resignation amid revelations of an exchange of lurid e-mails to a teenage page is only the latest in a series of sex scandals involving underage employees in Congress. The attention brought by Foley's purported transgressions should prompt the country to a larger discussion of the reform - and possible abolition - of this antiquated system.

The practice dates back to at least 1839 in the US Congress, but the term itself harkens back to the medieval period. There are many variants of page in Romance languages (for example, paggio in Italian, pagem in Portuguese), and pages served knights, royal courts, and acted as apprentices for artisans. Mercutio, in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet , provides a brief glimpse of the historical role of pages in Act III:

Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch;
Marry, 'tis enough.
Where is my page?
Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.
Foley, as previously noted, is not the first politicain to engage in questionable behavior with congressional pages. Rep. Dan Crane had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female page in 1980, while Rep. Gerry Studds admitted to a similar affair with a 17-year-old male page in 1973.

It stands to reason that these public scandals are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, since victims of sexual harassment and abuse often keep hidden their trauma. Moreover, given the considerable power wielded by members of Congress, victimized pages have likely kept their silence on such matters out of fear.

The actions of Foley are particularly galling in light of the fact that the congressman had been chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, and recently sponsored legislation to crack down on Internet child pornography sites.

Yet perhaps it is the archaic system of congressional pages itself that needs to be addressed. We have no way of knowing in advance which legislators wil cross the line into reprehensible behavior, but we can certainly better protect children by abolishing the page system, or restricting the position to persons over the age of 18.

Perhaps Congress - so keen to enact legislation to "protect" ordinary Americans - can best lead by example, and start by ensuring that no child will ever be abused by Congressional predators.


Anonymous said...

They should hang Foley by his testicles.

-Sepp said...

The guy is a scumbag pure and simple.

Anonymous said...

The page system is a good one and improvements have been made. I highly doubt that pages are afraid of Congressmen and they are intelligent enough to say something if a problem arises. I was a page in 1976 and it was a great experience.

Anonymous said...

Before you criticize the system, you should know the institution you are up against. It hasn’t been around since 1839 for just any reason. I was a House Page and it still stands as the best experience and year of my life. I cannot say ONE negative thing about the program and I was there for 10 months. The pages aren’t at fault here and you can’t protect them by abolishing the most esteemed program for young people in the country. You obviously don’t understand what the program does for so many.

historymike said...

I "obviously don't understand what the program does for so many"?


I understand what the program does for predators like Studds, Crane, and Foley, and that is what I am addressing.

Nice try, though, to attempt to dismiss the argument with an ad hominem attack on my "understanding" of the page system.

Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

You know Mark had a Myspace profile, right? Unless they took it down, it was here as of 10/1.

Anonymous said...

I was a House Page, and I knew Foley was creepy! But this incident is no reason to abolish the Page Program. There will always be scandals from time to time, but overall, the Page Program is very well-run.

Mark said...

As usual, when you go deeper into the story to find that Foley had been on the committee to protect Missing and Exploited children, the story is all the more disturbing and disgusting.

Without passing judgment on the Congressional Page system (though they're just a bunch of lousy punks who think they're better than me...but I'm not commenting on that), Congressman Foley did, unlike some of his past colleagues, do the right thing by resigning immediately amidst the scandal. If there is anything good to say about him, it is that.

Man-boy love...ewwwwww...

Suss & The Family Stone said...

Isn't Mark Foley a motivational speaker who lives in a van down by the river?

squeak678 said...

I am going to vote republican this go round, because the last time I voted democrat and it left a BAD TASTE IN MY MOUTH!

Mark said...

Holy cow, Squeak made a crack on Bill Clinton! That is SO funny, it makes me want to time travel back to 1999 all over again! What, no Judge Ito jokes?

Come back when you have some 21st Century insults, Squeak.

Calico Jack said...

Yet perhaps it is the archaic system of congressional pages itself that needs to be addressed.

Or not. It is Congress that needs to be addressed and the members changed to something other than moonbat or stupid.

This would be a predictable over-reaction to a single incident were it not for the Congress critters who were aware of this situation and did nothing to expose it. Let's put them in jail as well and replace them with some officials that can pass an extensive background check, and who are willing to allow the public watch them at work.

ToledoNative said...

'squeak678 said...

I am going to vote republican this go round, because the last time I voted democrat and it left a BAD TASTE IN MY MOUTH!'

Hey squeak678:
You DO know that Foley is a Republican, don't you? A little FYI for you.

Anonymous said...

If they stopped the page program the whole damn goverment would shut down.

Anonymous said...

All of this is completely ridiculous.

What would be the point of cutting the program? Does us being in Washington, serving our government, make Congressmen horny?

Do you think if you get rid of us the problem will go away? It is ridiculous. Hell, I don't even believe it is a problem. Just because one Congressman can't keep it in his pants doesn't mean that every single congressman is out for kids.

I was a page in 2005 and it was an amazing experience. It's one of the most defining experiences of my life. I loved it and I still love the program.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Seems like this post brought a lot of bent over pages out of the woodwork Mike.

Pages for the most part have been replaced with computers for the important things, and computers are well protected, what, with firewalls (both front and back) so the page system is effectively obsolete, much like quill pens, ink wells, and powdered wigs, but that's somebody else's problem.

Tragically though, you might find it tough getting rid of the page system, despite the fact that it is obsolete.

Anonymous said...

The page system needs to remain in place and for the "Congressional preditors" Leave Those Kids Alone.