IT’S NOT THE CRIME, IT’S THE….Our story so far: Republican congressman Mark Foley has resigned after a 16-year-old former House page complained that he had received repeated emails from Foley that he described as “sick sick sick sick sick…..” You can see Foley’s emails here, and the New York Times reports that there were more:

By Friday, other pages had come forward with more blatant instant messages. ?What ya wearing?? Mr. Foley wrote to one, according to the network. ?Tshirt and shorts,? the teenager responded. ?Love to slip them off of you,? Mr. Foley replied.

This is bad enough. But Foley resigned very abruptly after the emails came to light, and it turns out this was probably because the Republican House leadership had known about Foley’s behavior for some time and had simply been hoping nobody would find out about it. The Republican chairman of the House Page Board learned of Foley’s behavior last year and House Majority leader John Boehner learned of it sometime this spring.

And how about Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert? As Brad DeLong points out, Boehner’s story has gone from “we told Hastert and he said he was taking care of it” to “I don’t remember if I talked to Hastert” to “I never told Hastert a thing about this and if you say otherwise it’s a scurrilous lie.” Hastert’s office may have known about this, but not Hastert.

Sure. Of course. Hastert’s office. And the lone Democrat on the House Page Board? He wasn’t told about this. And Foley? As a member in good standing of the law-and-order party, he just went on his merry way after some no-doubt stern counseling from….someone.

So: what did Boehner and Hastert know, and when did they know it? Somehow it always comes back to that same question, doesn’t it?

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