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It's not easy for Republicans to defend their handling of Mark Foley's inappropriate behavior. The facts, developing day after day, simply aren't on their side.  But who needs facts when fiction has worked so well for the GOP in the past?  

Enter the paranoia, stage right.

As you know, top-level Republicans are peddling a Grand Conspiracy Theory that the Foley scandal was somehow designed and funded by George Soros and peddled by Clinton operatives. But that's wasn't their first  defense tactic.

Initially, shocked conservatives tried to argue that the emails were fake.  That attempt to derail the scandal was short-lived, given that the authenticity of the emails was confirmed by multiple sources.

Wingers turned next to describing the explicit messages as a "prank", a "joke" as James Dobson called it. It was a clever ploy by "16 and 17 year old beasts."  Come on, it's obvious, isn't it? The pages clearly possessed impressive techniques of hypnosis.  They used a calculated combination of smileys and "LOLs" to force the Republican Congressman to ask them to measure their penises for him.  "Beasts" indeed...

Alas, as more and more pages came forward--including one that is currently serving in Iraq--attacking the pages would appear....callous.  

Onto Plan C.

I like to imagine the strategy session for Plan C went down something like this:  trembling Republicans huddled around a table, trying to figure out how to fight back against their Foley "matter" (it's not a scandal you see, at least according to Hastert). One intrepid Republican comes up with the brilliant (and fool-proof!) idea. He takes a dog-eared copy of Byron York's The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy and begins carefully ripping out page after page.  He meticulously folds each page in a teeny tiny little square, and then puts all the little name-laden papers in a big bowl.  Pick a paper, any paper!  George Soros!  CREW!  ABC!  Pelosi! Emanuel!  Liberal blogs!  That should be enough names to weave a conspiracy theory, right?

And so, armed with a defense only a black-helicopter fearing X-Files fanatic could love, Republicans took to the talk show circuit and cried foul over a Democratic "plot" to take over the government this fall.

More below...

Watching Republicans articulate their Grand Conspiracy Theory, one cannot help but be fascinated by the acrobatic leaps of logic they engage in in order to reach their goal of blaming Democrats. I'm serious, it's simply fascinating.  Watch Sean Hannity and you can almost see the beads of sweat appear on his forehead as his brain struggles to fit every conceivable "liberal boogeyman" into the theory.  Same thing goes for Bill O'Reilly.

Too bad for them though that the press isn't prepared to wrap themselves in tin foil quite yet.  For example, watch this priceless exchange between CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) from this morning's Late Edition.  McHenry is quite literally speechless when Blitzer demands evidence:

BLITZER: So what you're suggesting -- and correct me if I'm wrong, because you've been doing this for the last few days -- that Democrats are behind the timing of the release of this information? Is that your accusation?

MCHENRY: Well, look, all the fact points lead to one question: Did Rahm Emanuel or Nancy Pelosi have any involvement on the strategic or tactical level? This morning on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the question was asked of Rahm Emanuel. His reaction was he did not see the instant messages or e-mails. He repeatedly said, he did not see. I've asked him to testify under oath to assure the American people that he was not involved in this issue in any way, shape or form.

BLITZER: Do you have any evidence at all that Democrats or others might have been behind the timing of this scandal?

MCHENRY: Look, let's be honest...

BLITZER: Do you have any evidence to back that charge up?

MCHENRY: No, no, actually, if the Democrats had any issue with saying this, putting all the facts out on the table, they would say, certainly, I'll testify under oath that I had no involvement in it. They've said no.

BLITZER: Well, you don't have any evidence, though, right?

MCHENRY: Well, look at the fact points.

BLITZER: Yes or no, do you have any evidence, Congressman?

MCHENRY: Do you have any evidence that they weren't involved?

BLITZER: I'm just asking if you're just throwing out an accusation or if you have any hard evidence.

MCHENRY: No. It's a question, Wolf. The question remains, were they involved? And if they were not involved, they need to say clearly. And it's a question. It's not an accusation.  

Over on This Week Emanuel did an excellent job putting the facts on the table:  according to Brian Ross, ABC's source for the emails was a "long-time" Republican staffer. The man coming forward and implicating the Office of the Speaker of the House is a Republican. The men pointing fingers at Speaker Hastert include Republican Majority Leader Boehner and Republican Congressman Reynolds.  Oh, and the whole media conspiracy angle doesn't work either, considering FOX News also had the emails.

Sure, the Republicans' wild-eyed rants of a vast-left-wing-conspiracy make us laugh at the sheer audacity of it all, but the GOP's defense tactic here--though ridiculous--is a serious, serious matter.

Their tactic is completely in line with their previous behavior on the issue.  Rather than truly caring about the well-being of affected by Congressman Foley's perverted behavior, they care more about their majority in the House. That's why they won't comment on the matter (the "ongoing investigation" wall is already up). Except, of, course, when they will comment on the matter to weave an impossible and irrational conspiracy theory meant to distract and diffuse the heat that's burning them alive right now.

Let them spin. Let them lie. As more and more Republicans come forward to implicate the GOP leadership, no amount of tin foil will protect Hastert, Boehner, Shimkus, Reynolds and the rest of them from the wrath of a pissed off and disgusted electorate this November.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 03:04 PM PDT.

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