Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Much More Ado About Craig

The Idaho Statesman editorial page begins today’s editorial with the sentence, “Sen. Larry Craig has spent 27 years in Congress ­ with rumors about his sexual orientation following him almost from the outset.”

Craig “must speak candidly with the people who have hired him for more than a quarter of a century,” the Statesman editorial continues. “He owes this to voters ­ no matter how difficult that may be for him and for his family. And voters owe Craig a chance to explain himself.”

Among the questions the Statesman editorial poses about the “bizarre case”: “If Craig’s actions in the restroom were misconstrued and he was not involved in any inappropriate conduct, as he said in a statement Monday, then why did he plead guilty?”; “Did Craig try to use his title to make the case go away?” (the editorial calls it “an inexcusable abuse of power” if, as reported in the police report, “Craig handed the plainclothes officer a U.S. Senate business card during an interview with police, and asked the officer, ‘What do you think about that?’); and “Why did Craig not come forward after the June 11 arrest? Did he honestly think this would never become public?”

“For Craig to keep this from his constituents, for 11 weeks, is not merely bad public relations,” the editorial goes on. “It’s an unacceptable breach of trust.”

The Statesman editorial also says voters deserve to know if Craig is gay: “Elected officials have a right to privacy, but also an obligation to tell the truth about who they are.”

Chris Suellentrop


Much Ado About Craig

Conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt wants Sen. Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho, to resign from office for pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport. “Craig’s behavior is so reckless and repulsive that an immediate exit is required,” Hewitt writes at his blog.

Reason senior editor Radley Balko says Hewitt has a double standard for Republican senators who engage in questionable conduct, because Hewitt did not call for Sen. David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, to resign after Vitter admitting to using an escort service. “Guess there’s some sort moral distinction between cheating on your wife via anonymous gay sex and cheating on your wife by paying for hetero sex with a prostitute,” Balko writes at Hit and Run, Reason’s staff blog.

Conservative blogger “Captain Ed” Morrissey isn’t sure that Craig should resign, and he thinks Hewitt is wrong to distinguish between Craig and Vitter. “At the least, he should confirm that he will not run again,” Morrissey writes at his blog, Captain’s Quarters. “I’m not convinced that Craig did more wrong than David Vitter, though — both of them broke laws.”

Hewitt isn’t the only person engaging in hypocrisy, says Reason editor Nick Gillespie. Craig himself “voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, a clearly anti-gay measure, and he supported the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage,” Gillespie writes at Hit and Run. He continues:

America is the land of opportunity and more power to Craig if he wants to have consensual sex with men in toilets … But I find it despicable that Craig would deny the option of matrimony to gay men who want it.

In somewhat of a surprise for a scandal involving a Republican, liberal bloggers have been less outraged by Craig’s behavior. Mark Kleiman, the U.C.L.A. public policy professor who blogs at The Reality-Based Community, thinks Craig’s guilty plea isn’t even newsworthy. Kleiman counts the ways in which the story bores him:

1. It illustrates one of the sad consequences of “family values” homophobia. No real news there; we all knew that.

2. It illustrates what seems like a waste of police resources. Yawn.

3. The conduct involved is inconsistent with Craig’s proclaimed stance on sexual issues. Yawn.

4. Craig had earlier denied rumors about his sexual activities, so this makes him a liar. Yawn. He had a perfect right to lie about something that wasn’t the business of anyone outside Craig’s social circle.

Scott Lemieux, a political science professor at Hunter College in New York City who blogs for The American Prospect, isn’t sure we should be even talking about Craig’s behavior. “Indeed, discussing the Craig scandal at all poses a bit of a dilemma,” Lemieux writes at Tapped, the Prospect’s staff blog. “I don’t have much sympathy for him, given his relentlessly anti-gay voting record, but it seems pretty clear to me the arrest of Craig wasn’t justifiable.”

Robert Stein, a former editor of McCall’s and Redbook and a self-described “blogtogenarian” who posts at Connecting.the.Dots, says the indignation by some over Craig’s behavior is evidence of the limits of “our supposedly enlightened age.”

“Craig’s solicitation of sex in a public place is a reminder that anonymous homosexual encounters in ‘tearooms’ are far from a practice of the past,” Stein writes. “Moral outrage seems to be the reaction of choice to this kind of behavior. Sadness might be another.”

Chris Suellentrop

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