This column is going to make me very unpopular with Republicans.

I don’t care. It must be said.

Following the revelations about Florida Rep. Mark Foley’s sexually suggestive e-mails to a 16-year-old congressional page, I have concluded Republicans are unworthy of retaining control of the federal government.

I sincerely regret this is the case.

I would much prefer that there were a real viable alternative to the Democrats, who are not only unworthy, but also unacceptable.

But wishful thinking is not going to protect our country. Wishful thinking is not going to expand freedom, promote justice and restore morality to America.

It’s time to recognize the two-party system is just flat broken.

The Foley case is a great illustration.

It’s not just what one unfit congressman did. It is how his colleagues, mindful only of defending their own positions of power, reacted.

Over the weekend we learned that Rep. Thomas Reynolds, head of the House Republican election effort, went to House Speaker Dennis Hastert months ago about concerns a fellow GOP lawmaker had sent inappropriate, sexually suggestive messages to the teenage boy.

Hastert’s office said aides referred the matter to the proper authorities last fall but they were only told the messages were “over-friendly.” In other words, they did no investigating because they didn’t want to know the truth. An election was coming, and Republicans were hoping to hold their slim majority in a tough contest this year.

Reynolds, R-N.Y., is now defending himself from Democratic accusations that he did too little. He ought to be defending himself against Republican accusations. Republican incumbents and challengers are the ones who will be hurt by this devastating blow.

Reynolds never bothered to ask to see the messages. Hastert never bothered to ask for them. They turned a blind eye to the news.

Think about this. In 2005, there was still time for the Republicans to clean their own dirty laundry and find a suitable replacement for an unsuitable incumbent. They did not.

Let me also remind you that it is the sworn duty of the House to clean its own house. It should not have been a matter of simply turning over information to the “proper authorities.” The Congress of the United States is the proper authority to determine whether any member is unfit to hold office.

Hastert’s aides referred the matter to the clerk of the House, and “mindful of the sensitivity of the parent’s wishes to protect their child’s privacy and believing that they had promptly reported what they knew to the proper authorities,” they did not discuss it with others in Hastert’s office – including, apparently, their boss.

That’s a disgrace. Hastert is a disgrace for setting this kind of tone in his own office. There was obviously a circle-the-wagons mentality at work there.

Get this! After the issue was referred to the clerk, it was passed along to the congressman who oversees the page program, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill. Shimkus has said he learned about the e-mail exchange in late 2005 and took immediate action to investigate.

He said Foley told him it was an innocent exchange.Shamus said he warned Foley not to have any more contact with the teenager and to respect other pages.

That was it? That was the result of his investigation? Did he ask to see the e-mail messages? Why did he accept Foley’s explanation at face value? Again, the answer is clear. No Republican wanted to jeopardize Foley’s seat – which is exactly what they did by not kicking him out of the House in 2005.

Democrats, of course, are so disingenuous in their righteous indignation about Foley. When they were in charge, they allowed Rep. Barney Frank to run a homosexual call-boy ring out of his Capitol office. And they allowed Rep. Gerry Studds to get away with an actual affair with an underage male congressional page. Like Frank, the unrepentant Studds was re-elected by his perverse constituents until he retired in 1996.

But attempting to seduce male pages doesn’t go over as big with Florida constituents as it does with those in Massachusetts.

Republicans will pay a price for this error. And they should.

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