Disorder in the House: Party Leaders Spar on Foley

ByEd O'keefe

Oct. 8, 2006 — -- Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, defended his party's response in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal.

Putnam, the fifth ranking Republican member of the House, argued in an exclusive appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." that three separate entities -- the House, the FBI, and a Florida newspaper -- all knew about what he described as the "odd, overly friendly e-mail" between Foley and House pages, but that they did not see the sexually explicit e-mails uncovered in September by ABC News.

"The only people who acted were the House of Representatives," Putnam said.

"The important thing is that these revelations are coming out now," Putnam added. "We need to move ahead with that full, thorough investigation of members [and] staff."

Also appearing exclusively on "This Week," Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, rejected Putnam's contentions.

"What you guys want to do is take your dirty laundry and throw it over the fence and try to blame other people for the problem," Emanuel said.

Putnam replied, "The dirty laundry in our conference is gone. … Mark Foley, the person who was preying on minors, is gone."

In another contentious exchange between the two party leaders, Emanuel charged the Republicans, who took charge of the House for the first time in 50 years in 1994, with changing too much.

"You said you were going to change Washington; Washington has changed you," he said.

Harkening back to the Republican's "Contract with America" from that historic election year, Emanuel said, "You promised to clean up this swamp. … You're in breach of contract."

As the midterm elections approach and with most experts estimating the Democrats are within reach of re-taking a majority in the House, Putnam called a month, "an eternity in politics."

He argued that Iraq, the economy, and the Republican record will withstand fallout from the Foley scandal.

"Americans are talking about Iraq; Americans are talking about the war on terrorism," Putnam said.

If Democrats win a majority in the House, "That would mean a Speaker Pelosi," he said. "Elections are about choices and choices have consequences."

Turning toward Putnam and pointing in his direction, Emanuel countered, "Six years of a Republican majority in the White House, in the House, and in the Senate and all you've got is fear."

Emanuel also insisted that he and his fellow Democrats were not behind the release of the Foley e-mails, stating to ABC News, "Never saw 'em. No involvement."

Putnam, who replaced Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., as a guest on "This Week" after Reynolds cancelled his long-standing booking on the show, repeatedly argued that the Democrats were acting on a double standard.

The Democrats had stood by their embattled leaders, he said, whereas, "Mark Foley served about an hour and a half" after the sexually explicit e-mails came to light.

Reynolds, whose chief of staff Kirk Fordham resigned in the wake of the Foley scandal, is locked in a tight race for reelection.

Over the weekend, Reynolds' campaign released an ad in which the congressman apologizes for his role in the Foley matter.

"This spring I was told about odd, but not explicit e-mails between Mark Foley and a page," Reynolds says in the ad. "I never saw a single e-mail, not one. Even so, I reported what I'd been told to the speaker of the House. I trusted that others had investigated. Looking back, more should have been done and for that, I am sorry."

A Newsweek poll over the weekend showed that a majority of Americans -- 52 percent -- believe that Speaker Hastert covered up the Foley problem. Twenty-four percent, according to the poll, believe he did not cover up the issue.

"The speaker's office acted aggressively," Putnam said, and he asked that voters "contrast that to previous scandals."

Emanuel contended, "If a high school teacher was found doing this with a child, and the principal knew … the community and parents would have the principal and teacher out."

Stephanopoulos' entire interviews with Putnam and Emanuel can be viewed at "This Week's" Web page at www.abcnews.com.

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