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The IM That Ate Congress

6:00 PM -- Okay, I'll admit it: I read a few of the instant-message exchanges between former Rep. Mark Foley and ex-congressional pages. (I got to the part where he asks, "Did you spank it this weekend yourself?" and had to turn away in embarrassment.)

What gets me about this scandal is not just that there are sick people in Congress, and not just that the Republican leadership, having apparently learned nothing from the U.S. Catholic church, turned a deaf ear to rumors of Foley's extracurricular activities for years. It's also that Foley has now joined the lengthening list of fools who somehow think their electronic tracks through cyberspace will vanish.

ABC News has not been completely clear about what made the former pages save the IMs that forced Foley out of office (unlike email messages, IMs are not auto-saved; you have to save them manually -- with your free hand). But the randy Republican obviously made a fatal distinction between emails -- in which he confined himself to requests for photos and the like -- and IMs, where he let his, ahh, imagination run wild.

Here on Unstrung and Light Reading we often write about how telecommunications technology is changing the way companies do business. If the Republicans lose their majority in the House of Representatives, which many political analysts are now saying is inevitable thanks to the Foley scandal, it seems that these IMs will have changed history. (According to the latest revelations, Foley interrupted his vote on the Emergency War Time supplemental appropriations to have IM sex with a minor. Talk about "standing up" for our troops...)

I just hope when my son, who's now 6, reads in his high-school American History textbook about how the Republican Party self-destructed in George W. Bush's second term, they don't have a class discussion about what "spank it" refers to.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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