Congressional Republicans "Rocked By" Rep. Mark Foley

The Times finds its latest Republican-majority killing silver bullet and twice conflates two sets of emails to make House Majority Leader Hastert look bad.

Congressional reporters Carl Hulse and Kate Zernike sign off on the latest congressional session, and foresee an uphill battle for Republicans in Sunday's "Along With Victories, G.O.P. Takes a Few Blows."

Rep. Mark Foley has become the latest issue set to doom Republican chances to hold on to the House in next month's congressional elections.

"Just hours before Congress closed down for the midterm elections on Saturday, Republican leaders threw together a ceremony to celebrate the passage of what they hoped to promote as their singular legislative accomplishment - a bill to bring terrorism suspects to trial.

"But after House and Senate leaders formally signed the measure for the cameras, the only questions they faced from assembled reporters pertained to Representative Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who had just resigned after accusations that he sent sexually explicit Internet messages to teenage pages.

"'None of us are very happy about it,' Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said before abruptly calling a halt to the questions, and the ceremony.

"No doubt.

"Republicans scored significant legislative victories in the closing hours. They pushed through the bill for detainee trials after weeks of internal squabbling, won approval for 700 miles of border fencing to show they are serious about cracking down on illegal immigration, passed spending bills for defense and domestic security, and enacted new port security initiatives.

"But the finale hardly went according to script for Republicans as they headed out to try to hold off Democrats determined to win a majority.

"The highly publicized case of Mr. Foley, who served in the House leadership as a deputy whip, threatened to build into an institutional scandal as House leaders acknowledged that they had known about the messages for nearly a year, but had relied on Mr. Foley's word that nothing inappropriate had occurred."

Hold on: The Times is again falsely implying that the "sexually explicit Internet messages to teenage pages" it discusses up top are the same ones they later claim House leaders knew about "for nearly a year." The Times is again conflating two sets of messages. The first set - apparently the only set seen by the Republican leadership - were characterized as "overfriendly," but not explicit. Those only came out later, after the more benign ones became public knowledge thanks to ABC News.

The paper's lead story on Foley from Sunday was similarly misleading: "Top House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children's issues, Republican lawmakers said Saturday."

(Mickey Kaus writes at Slate, "The only clearly guilty party, as far as I can see-aside from Foley-is the New York Times , which hyped the anti-Hastert angle by conflating the earlier, suggestive emails and the later damning ones....All hands on deck at the NYT. There's an election coming up!")

Hulse and Zernike continue: "Republicans were clearly rocked by the Foley episode. It gave Democrats, who need 15 seats to gain a majority, a new opening to pick up a seat in a Republican-leaning district. Florida Republicans were to meet to choose a replacement for Mr. Foley, but his name will remain on the ballot against a well-financed opponent.

"Setting aside the late drama, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the majority leader, was satisfied.

"'Legislatively speaking, I feel pretty good,' Mr. Boehner said in an interview on Friday night. He said Republicans had delivered most of what they hoped to with a series of security-related bills.

They offer the Democratic Senate leader time to clear his throat and mock Republicans.

"But what Republicans had at the outset dubbed Security September, Democrats declared a fizzle.

"Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, ticked off a day-by-day list of damaging news about Iraq in the last week. 'America must succeed in Iraq, and we need to win the war on terror,' Mr. Reid said. 'But this president and this Republican Congress are the wrong people for the job, obviously, based on their record.'

"Told that Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, had outlined 'quite a long list' of his party's successes, Mr. Reid interrupted: 'A long list?' he asked, incredulous, then stood back and said, 'Hmmm.'

"'I mean, can you imagine these fiscal conservatives are burying this country in red ink?' he said, finally. 'This fiscally conservative Congress - we don't even have a budget.'"

They fill up the story with more anti-Republican silver bullets from the past: "Republicans had hoped [lobbyist Jack] Abramoff would fade into the background and deny Democrats their 'culture of corruption' sound bite in the final weeks of the campaign. But the Government Reform Committee issued a report detailing his apparent contacts with top White House officials, allowing Democrats to remind voters that the Republican-led Congress had failed to enact lobbying reform despite the scandal, leaving a pledge unfulfilled."

Even good news is bad: "Despite their troubles, many Republican leaders believe tumbling gas prices could be their salvation. But even that benefit has drawbacks. Many Americans tell pollsters they believe that the drop was politically orchestrated to help Republicans in the election."

But while the Times makes fun of conservative voters who think Saddam had WMD, the Times won't mock this sort of liberal paranoia and economic ignorance, if it has a chance at helping Democrats defeat Republicans in November.