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March 7, 2007

grad school homework

I present to you my last-minute, late-night Mid-Term Exam/Case Study on Integration & Case Application of the Congressman Mark Foley Scandal for my Leadership and Decision Making grad school course.

Imagine if you will that I am the House Majority Speaker Dennis Hastert as the scandal broke out, and must use my knowledge of leadership and decision-making biases, theories and studies to apply to proper decisions on how to judge and manage. Here's an exerpt:

Curiously, Congressman Foley was chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, which worked on creating laws targeting sexual predators and creating stricter guidelines for tracking them. One would think, based on Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, that Foley would be motivated to reduce the cognitive imbalance in his life between his actions towards underage boys and the legislation he helped create. But this was not the case, and understanding this apparent disconcern for such a radical dissonance in his life is beyond my academic and psychological experience and education to comment.

Summary statement: "Like, OMG get that perv outta here!"

Thoughts about cognitive dissonance are appropo in light of the most recent not-gay Gannonite shill to come out of the woodwork.

Mid-Term Exam/Case Study
Integration & Case Application: The Congressman Mark Foley Scandal
MGMT 635, Section 1121, Semester 0702

Part 1: Application of Concepts, Principles, & Theories

The Congressman Mark Foley scandal that occurred in late-September of 2006 exhibited many opportunities to use the availability heuristic to pass good judgement on the situation. According to the Wikipedia entry on the scandal, Hastert and his committee were presented with numerous opportunities to act, but instead their office chose not to act on the accusations of inappropriate behavior by Congressman Foley. Assuming all the accusations were true, and there were many accusations, Foley was acting inappropriate towards underage male pages as far back as 1999. At the time the New York Times article was written, Hastert and his committee had many points of reference in recent memory with which to weigh their biases using the availability heuristic.

By the fall of 2006, Congressman Foley had not yet been externally motivated by punishment for his behavior. In fact, his career continued as if nothing had happened, thus his external motivation was the extinction motivator, or no motivator at all. And since the general public and the press were not fully aware of the problem, Hastert was not yet influenced by a negative-outcome bias to his judgement of the situation. No publicly-perceivable negative outcome had yet occurred, so Hastert was not yet motivated to make a harsher punitive response to the situation.

Finally, Hastert, his committee, and his party were under pressure from an actor-observer bias from the public and from within the situation. He/they may have casually attributed blame to the situations Foley was in with each page, but they were also aware that their voters and the general public would very likely attribute negative bias on the side of Foley, Hastert, and even the Republican Party as an important election date approached. Should the scandal gain more public attention, blame would be placed on Foley, Hastert, and the majority party, and not the situation.

Curiously, Congressman Foley was chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, which worked on creating laws targeting sexual predators and creating stricter guidelines for tracking them. One would think, based on Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, that Foley would be motivated to reduce the cognitive imbalance in his life between his actions towards underage boys and the legislation he helped create. But this was not the case, and understanding this apparent disconcern for such a radical dissonance in his life is beyond my academic and psychological experience and education to comment.

From what I’ve learned so far in this Organizational Leadership and Decision Making course, knowing the variety of potential courses of action that were available to Hastert and his party allow me insight on what could have, or should have, happened by the end of the scandal.

Part 2: Analysis of Potential Courses of Action

Using the availability heuristic, Hastert could have made several assumptions that would have helped him make a better judgement on the situation. Considering the number of accusations of inappropriate conduct and the length of time in which they took place, Hastert could have decided that Congressman Foley would be likely to continue his inappropriate behaviors (halo/horn effect) as he had done in the recent past. And considering his experience in politics, Hastert could assume that this information would become more visible in the press and to the general public. However, a punitive warning to Foley was beyond overdue as the news leaked into the mainstream media, and the moment and situation demanded that Foley be removed from the situation entirely. Hastert could assume that Foley would likely continue his behavior, and that this news would eventually reach and anger the public. Therefore Foley must be removed from the situation and apology be delivered to lessen the potential impact of the scandal to the Republican candidates up for re-election.

Foley’s inappropriate behavior had gone unpunished for some time, but a punishment delivered to externally modify this inappropriate behavior would have been moot as the scandal unfolded in the press. The damage had been done. Therefore the only punishment available as a tool to Hastert would be to get Foley out of any situations that would further jeopardize underage pages or further sully what remained of the integrity of the Republican Party.

Hastert could assume that the press, general public and potential voters would likely blame Foley (the actor) rather than the situation, time and place. In other words, the damage was already done, and Hastert couldn’t really do much to prevent negative observer bias.

Should Hastert have known about the cognitive dissonance theory as applied to equity theory, he could have considered relying on Foley to work out his personal imbalances over time. However, I’m guessing that sorting out one’s dissonances takes time, and Hastert was working under time constraints and could not wait for Congressman Foley to figure out his imbalances in regards to young pages versus the legislation that he championed.

Part 3: Heuristics & Biases

At the time the New York Times article was written, Hastert was left with very few choices that would result in anyone’s benefit. His best management approach would have been to request Congressman Foley to step down from his office, apologize profusely for his behavior, then get out of town. Hastert would also be advised to make a public apology and admit failure to act during the initial stages of the scandal as it unfolded, but to expect similar recrimination and possible firing as well.

My recommendations to Hastert’s course of action are biased as defined by the availability heuristic in that I live in the District of Columbia and know more than a few people who work on Capitol Hill. After ten years living here I am biased by the knowledge of the likely outcomes of action and the past behavior of politicians. I’m also biased in that I followed the scandal closely and am aware of the actual outcomes of Hastert’s decisions and ultimate fate.

I’m also biased by the representativeness heuristic in that I have witnessed, met or read about individual politicians who behave with more integrity than Foley. Thus I am basing some of my judgement on what I know of better-behaved politicians. I am also an out, gay man who is not interested in pursuing underage pages, and am acquainted with other out, gay men who work on Capitol Hill and behave appropriately in regards to underage pages. I definitely base some of my judgements on what I know of better-behaved gay politicians and lawmakers.

I don’t feel that I’m biased by either anchoring or affect biases, as I am aware that politics is a fluid process that combines both law and emotion.

Considering my known biases, I would not change my recommendation to Hastert’s course of action at the time of the scandal, other than to perhaps willingly step down from my position as House Speaker after an apology is delivered, knowing that would be the likely outcome anyway.

Part 4: Summary Statement

As House Speaker Dennis Hastert making decisions to rectify the damage done during the Congressman Mark Foley scandal, I would first make a request that Congressman Foley step down from his position and that he deliver a public apology. As Hastert I would also make a public apology and admit to not acting on the situation at an appropriate time. I would deliver assurances that pages, interns, employees and lawmakers on Capitol Hill of either gender are safe and protected from future inappropriate sexual conduct. I would also start cleaning up my House Speaker office supplies in preparing to move out of the position.

Sources:

Wikipedia entry on the Congressman Mark Foley Scandal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Foley_scandal

Zeleny, Jeffrey & Hulse, Carl, (2006, October). “Early Warning on Foley Cited by Former Aide.” The New York Times.

Posted by jimbo at March 7, 2007 12:44 AM

Comments

You're right. Cognitive dissonance suggests that Foley would be motivated to reduce his cognitive imbalance. However, that does not mean he would eliminate the source of his trouble. Drowning yourself in alcohol also reduces the cognitive imbalance, and apparently leads you to the young men's dorm at 2am.

Posted by: TSheehandc at March 7, 2007 10:07 AM

If you post it on the internets, isn't it like plagiarizing yourself? I wonder if the plagiarism software profs use would catch this...

Posted by: sam at March 7, 2007 12:31 PM

Your professor lets you cite Wikipedia? Man. I've only been able to do that when writing papers about Wikipedia.

Posted by: Jeem at March 7, 2007 1:11 PM

I put a Mark Foley themed comic strip on my website! Not even directly in response to your paper. What a coincidence.

Posted by: Gayest Neil at March 8, 2007 10:54 AM

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