The flap over U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon saying something stupid last week has basically died down.

But the remarks are not so out-of-character for Cannon, a Republican representing Utah's 3rd Congressional District who has stumbled over his statements before.

In case you've forgotten or just didn't hear about it, Cannon was interviewed by a KSL radio reporter, asked what he thought about the then-unfolding sex scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and House pages.

Pages are high-school-age kids who spend a year basically as "gofers" in Congress. Congressmen like to think that the pages are the best and brightest of kids, youngsters who learn a great deal with working in Congress.

Foley, who is gay, had been sending suggestive e-mails to current and former U.S. House pages who were male.

Some of the young men were under age 18 when Foley was soliciting them, technically making them still children. Others were over 18, so adults.

Here are the exact quotes played over KSL radio a week ago Thursday. In some sentences Cannon started with one idea, then jumped to another:

"I've been thinking about this. And I hesitate — but there's really not much you can do except educate kids as to the dangers.

"If you get online, you may find people who are creepy. There are creepy people out there who will do and say creepy things. Avoid them. That's what you have to do. And maybe we can say that a little bit more to the pages.

"These kids are actually precocious kids. It looks like maybe this one e-mail was a prank, where you had a bunch of kids sitting around egging this guy on. You know. So, it's, it's, the world is a complicated place. And we just have to do the best we can."

I went to my dictionary and looked up "precocious." Here is Webster's definition: "Precocious: exceptionally early in development or occurrence; exhibiting mature qualities at an unusually early age."

It is clear to me that Cannon basically said a bona fide stupid thing here.

Like most politicians, Cannon did not come out the next day and apologize. Instead he read definitions of "precocious" and then tried to really explain what he meant.

He said he wasn't blaming the pages at all. Total blame goes to Foley, he said.

Father to eight children, Cannon has said he's always fought for the protection of children.

But to use the word precocious in the same discussion of a man preying on youngsters is not smart.

Do women ask to be raped by wearing short skirts?

Do men and women working in the sex trade deserve to be beaten and abused because they operate in an unseemly profession?

Do "precocious" kids bring on themselves unwarranted and unwanted attention by adults?

Cannon may say a resounding "no" to all of the above.

But if so, why even bring any of this up?

Polling throughout America shows many citizens believe those in power — especially congressmen — have great arrogance.

While others struggle financially, congressmen accept yearly automatic cost-of-living raises.

Many are wined and dined by lobbyists, even taking golfing trips to Scotland that most Americans couldn't afford.

They refuse to raise the minimum wage. They refuse to adopt any kind of law that would help the poorer among us to get health care.

For House members, they run in specially drawn districts that ensure perpetual re-election (unless maybe you solicit minors for sex).

As incumbents, they have huge financial resources — allowing them to raise millions of dollars, outspending challengers 100-to-1.

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And then when a serious scandal breaks, they blame the victims. They blame the opposing party for "leaking" the information to the media near an election. They blame everyone except those whose public trust is to watch over these youngsters and protect them.

Leaders don't stand up, take responsibility and resign. Instead, they point fingers at others.

What does it matter if Democrats did leak the stuff on Foley?

What does it matter if many of the pages are precocious?

Wrong is wrong.

And more and more, U.S. senators and representatives, people we've elected to represent us and make wise decisions, are failing us.

And failing us badly.


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com.