Bill Clinton, Mark Foley and Sexless Sex
William Saletan draws some interesting parallels between the sex scandals that brought down Mark Foley (and perhaps the Republican Congress) and that led to the impeachment (but not the downfall) of Bill Clinton:
Eight years ago, when Bill Clinton was caught lying about his affair with a White House intern, Mark Foley voted to impeach him. “It’s vile,” said the congressman. “It’s more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction.”
As we say on the Internet: LOL. We now know that Clinton and Foley were on different teams, but not in the way Foley pretended. And the irony only begins there. The two men have played similar roles, not only in their reckless personal lives but in the cultural revolutions of their respective decades. Clinton introduced us to the ambiguities of sex. Foley is introducing us to the wilder ambiguities of cybersex.
The ethereality of cybersex makes it hard to prosecute. Every state outlaws Internet solicitation of sex with kids. But if you postpone physical sex till your quarry is 18, as Foley tried to do, you can skirt these laws. That’s why he kept asking boys about their birthdays. Until that day, the sex had to stay online. Like Clinton, Foley carved out a kind of sex that in his mind wasn’t officially sex. For Clinton, it was oral; for Foley, it was digital. He’d pick you out as a page. He’d befriend you by e-mail. He’d groom you with instant messages. He’d find out your birthday. When you turned 18, he’d pounce.
To be sure, there are some significant differences. While both arguably abused their power, Clinton’s intern was unquestionably an adult while Foley’s were not. Once confronted with the charges, Clinton lied to the American people, a grand jury, a judge, and others while Foley confessed and went into rehab. Still, the parallels are interesting.