When told about the sex antics of former GOP Rep. Mark Foley, a flushed and indignant President George W. Bush professed shock and disgust to reporters in Stockton, Calif.
Bush's emotions were undoubtedly heartfelt, but he was anything but indignant at Foley six years ago, and for good reason — Foley played a pivotal role in sealing Bush's much-disputed steal of the White House in 2000. He helped shove thousands of dubious votes into the Bush column in his home district of Palm Beach County, Fla. And he enraged thousands of Democratic-leaning Black, Jewish and elderly voters by passionately and publicly defending the manipulation and exclusion of their votes.
A week after the election, with the air thick with court challenges and accusations of voter fraud by Democrats, Foley took to the airwaves and delivered the Republicans' weekly radio address. He flatly demanded that wrangling over the vote count should end. By then, national attention had focused on the faulty ballot design and the vote count in Palm Beach County.
Mysteriously, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan had gotten nearly 3,000 votes there — a total that stunned even him. He publicly quipped that the votes weren't his and probably should have gone to Vice President Al Gore.
But they didn't, and Foley helped see to that. He brushed aside any notion of hanky-panky and branded as false the claim that voters were hoodwinked to vote for Buchanan.
Foley didn't stop there. He publicly defied Gore to prove that there was anything to the complaints of thousands of elderly Black voters who almost certainly intended to vote for the vice president, but because of the ballot hieroglyphics had their votes miscounted.
Foley well knew that even the smallest change in the vote totals would affect the outcome of the race. A manual recount would have been a disaster for Bush, especially if the deeply suspect Buchanan votes were tossed.
He demanded an end to the lawsuits and appeals and implored the Secretary of State to officially certify the vote. The rest, of course, is history. Thanks to a pro-Bush U.S. Supreme Court decision, the disputed votes were never recounted and the controversial ballots weren't voided. And Bush got his wafer thin 537-vote victory in Florida — and the White House.
Bush paid a huge price for the victory that Foley helped stage-manage. Florida became the eternal symbol of Black voter disgust and disfranchisement. The image of the Republicans as corrupt, mean-spirited, anti-civil rights and racially insensitive party was indelibly imprinted. The Florida vote hopelessly alienated civil rights leaders, the Congressional Black Caucus and thousands of Black voters, all of whom have waged relentless political warfare against Bush since then.
Foley was amply rewarded for his tireless service to Bush. He got a plum spot on the House Ways and Means Committee, and worked as right-hand man to the equally disgraced former House majority leader Tom DeLay.
Corporate and Republican National Committee money flowed in torrents for his Congressional re-election campaigns and an aborted Senate run. Though Bush never publicly thanked Foley for helping deliver Florida and the White House to him, he didn't have to. GOP leaders showed their gratitude for his singular service to Bush's election by showering favors on him — up to and including their see-no-evil, hear-no-evil denial of his sexual hijinks.
So far, they've professed no disgust at that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a columnist for www.blacknews.com.