August, 28th 2007

And finally, my thoughts on Larry Craig

– Liz Mair

Well, today it's all been Larry, Larry, Larry, hasn't it? I'm finally weighing in.

First of all, let me say that I think it's extremely sad that we live in a society where people evidently don't feel free to just be themselves without having to conceal important personal attributes, like their true sexual orientation. I think, contrary to Sen. Craig's many protestations, that it is fairly obvious at this point that he is gay, or at least bisexual, but I don't intend to get into the issue of speculating about the correct labeling of Sen. Craig's sexuality. The intense, National Enquirer-like, focus on that is one of the worst things about this story, so far as I am concerned.

A lot of the coverage of this story on TV, at least, today has felt decidedly sensationalist to me. The issue that has been brought to the fore is not that Sen. Craig apparently has done something illegal and is still involved in lame concealing and ineffective smoke-blowing-- and that, to me, is the root issue here: we have another elected Republican sitting in office who has committed a crime and can't be straight (no pun intended) about it. The thing that is being most discussed, in the most twelve-year-old girl gossipy fashion is that, ooh, Sen. Craig is gay. Worse, Sen. Craig has gay sex. And anonymously.

Does all this matter because Sen. Craig had an "anti-gay" voting record? On the face of it, yes. There have been plenty of cries about hypocrisy because Sen. Craig voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment, against hate crimes legislation, and all the rest. But one question I'd ask, particularly with regard to the hate crimes legislation is, does the fact that you are gay, or have gay sex, mean that you automatically must support legislation that many experts consider violates the equal protection amendment to the Constitution, insofar as it applies to other gay people, or other people who have gay sex? I don't think so. Does the fact that you are gay, or have gay sex, mean that you must support gay marriage and anything less means you're a hypocrite? I hope not, because while most gay people I know do support full marriage rights for gays and lesbians, some do not (some are comfortable with civil unions).

Had Larry Craig introduced, or voted in favor of, or expressed vocal support for, say, a federal law criminalizing gay sex, then the hypocrisy claim might be right on. But, that wasn't the situation. What is in dispute is a different animal from hypocrisy.

Is it cool that Larry Craig certainly seems to be gay, and that he hasn't supported legislation that the gay community wants pushed? In some cases at least, probably not. But let's get real here: the focal point of the discussion here, just as with Mark Foley last year, is about Craig's gay (read: seedy-- don't tell me that that card isn't being played by people trying to make this into a political issue on at least some level) sex life-- not his voting record.

Readers may recall that Mark Foley had a pro-gay rights record that rivaled that of a lot of Democrats, who of course, by virtue of their membership of the socially liberal party, could not and cannot be hypocrites because, well, the Democrats are liberal, even if none of their leading presidential candidates support gay marriage.

Foley's pro-gay record did nothing to stop him being labeled a hypocrite-- a label that seemed just as much wheeled out because he was a member of a more socially conservative party and-- ooh-- liked male genitalia, as it was because he had sponsored the legislation under which he was ultimately busted (about the only count on which he could be labeled a hypocrite since, as noted, his record was quite pro-gay).

A great deal of the attention focused on Sen. Craig today, just like that focused on Rep. Foley last year, centers not on the fact that there is an ethics violation that has occurred in both their cases-- laws evidently being broken-- but rather on the sensationalist noting that both of them are gay (a revelation that still seems to shock a great deal when it applies to our public officials) and that they are not Democrats. And that liberal groups and individuals are focusing in on that detail, as opposed to the actual problem-- the ethics violation, i.e., the alleged (or in Craig's case, actual) sexual offense strikes me as stupid and, well, hypocritical. If liberal groups are supposed to be so accepting of homosexuality, then why does today's media coverage, featuring characters like Melanie Sloan of CREW (who incidentally is so gay-friendly she has not a single clue what ENDA stands for), seem slanted towards talking about the sex, and as a follow-on, the hypocrisy, instead of the ethics? Could it be because some liberal groups see a political agenda in wheeling out concepts that scare a lot of average Americans like two men getting it on? My gut says yes, to a certain extent.

None of this is, in any way, to excuse Craig (or Foley, for that matter). A crime is a crime, and the issue in both cases, was the commission of crimes (which is of course my point). The issue is Congress needing to clean itself up, not from the perspective of people engaging solely in "wholesome" sexual practices, but in terms of not breaking the law. A secondary issue is people not making dumb statements that intimate that they believe the collective American public has an IQ of five-- which is exactly what Larry Craig's press conference statement today did.

Personally, I think it's pathetic that Craig wheeled out the "the media's out to get me" line, while claiming that he was somehow "rushed" into pleading guilty to the relevant charge because he didn't have time to think about it (um, yeah, Larry-- you did. Like weeks, in fact). I think it's sad that he can't just say "hey, yeah, I'm gay, and I was doing stuff in bathrooms that I shouldn't have."

But I also think the undertone of "gay=icky" that feels like it's just a millimeter below the surface in a lot of the media commentary from today, and seems to be being voiced in vaguely concealed terms by at least some of the people screaming "hypocrisy" just sucks.

Personally, I hope Craig resigns, and the sooner the better because we don't need criminals of any sort representing the Republican party in Congress-- and that's the issue. More to the point, we don't need Craig hanging around, creating a situation where the party can't find someone who doesn't break the law to make a full-on run for his Senate seat, opening up the prospect that Republicans will have to spend money in his state, instead of in, say, New Hampshire (where John Sununu is going to need it), or Minnesota (where I feel that Norm Coleman is in greater peril than many imagine).


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