THE VELVET MAFIA….Did a “velvet mafia” of gay congressional aides protect Mark Foley for years? That’s what CBS News reported last night:

One senior House Republican tells CBS that there’s a lot of anger at what he describes as “a network of gay staffers and gay members who protect each other and did the speaker a disservice.”

In fact, David Corn says there’s even a list circulating that names names.

What to make of this? Here’s a wild guess. I suspect that some low-wattage GOP staffer has made a huge miscalculation, figuring that this disclosure would do a few things. First, it would take some pressure off Dennis Hastert and place it instead on a bunch of gay guys. And we know all about them, don’t we? Second, it would reassure the Christian right that this is a gay thing, not a Republican thing. The party just needs to clean house and everything will be fine. Third, if they can manage to get some liberal site to make this list public, it will help them promote the Limbaugh/Hannity storyline that this whole affair is just a dirty trick by Democrats who have known about Foley all along but waited to spring the news until a few weeks before an election.

Does that make any sense? It doesn’t to me, but I really can’t figure out a motivation here that does. To the Christian right base, the idea that the Republican party has been infiltrated by a gay mafia will do nothing but disgust them, keeping them away from the polls in droves. To everyone else, watching the the GOP resurrect its tried-and-true gay-bashing formula to divert attention from its own failings will seem revolting. There’s literally no one who will react well to this.

But why else float this trial balloon? Was it a completely instinctive lashing out? Or is there some subtler game being played that I can’t figure out? Anybody have any ideas?