Who is to blame for this sordid state of affairs on Capitol Hill? Is it Congressman Mark Foley for hitting on young pages? Is it gays, as Tony Perkins of Family Research Council believes? Is it the GOP leadership who apparently thought that Foley’s $100,000 contribution to the congressional campaign committee last summer was a sufficient price to keep the lid on his abuse?

No, it’s the pages’ fault, according to Howard Kurtz of The Post.

Among the many depressing aspects of the downfall of Mark Foley–who has now done the inevitable checking-into-rehab thing–is that a number of young people could have blown the whistle on this deceptive congressman in recent years, but didn’t.

The Washington Post tracked down a couple of them. Former page Patrick McDonald said that at a 2003 reunion he learned of sexual messages that Foley sent three or four ex-classmates and thought, “if this gets out, it will destroy him.”

Matthew Loraditch says he has known for years about the “creepy” messages the Florida Republican sent three of his 2002 classmates. But no one wanted to come forward. “You take down a Congress member, and you can’t end up trying to do something later,” Loraditch said.

Now I don’t want to come down on 16-year-old kids (though some are now as old as 21) who must have been intimidated by the whole thing. Indeed, the power imbalance between a big-shot member of Congress and a lowly page is part of what makes this infuriating.

But did they really think that if they told the outside world that the co-chair of the Exploited Children’s Caucus was sending them, or their friends, graphic sexual messages, that their future careers would be ruined? That they would be washed up in politics? Isn’t it more likely that they would be hailed as brave for doing the right thing?

The naiveté of Kurtz! Or maybe he’s just trying to deflect the blame from the GOP. “Hailed” by the Dems maybe, but ostracized by the GOP. If any Republican page turned in Foley, it would be along time before that kid would be a Republican candidate for anything.