Readers Write: The Fall of Larry Craig
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On Monday August 27th, the media broke the Larry Craig scandal. By Saturday of that week, Senator Craig, buffeted by the media, his fellow politicians, left-wing and right-wing groups, announced his intent to resign -- right in time for everyone to relax on Labor Day. The call for the senator's head spanned the political spectrum: from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) condemning Craig's actions as "unforgivable" to the gay blogger, Mike Rogers, who had placed Craig on his list of politicians to "out" almost a year prior. It is perhaps the national spectacle of liberal and LGBT organizations leaping into bed with conservatives that has prompted some writers -- and readers -- to question what, exactly, we're condemning.
Some like Sandip Roy in his article, "The Outcome of Wanting (Gay) Sex" began by stating, "I come to defend Larry Craig, not to bury him." What followed was a clarification of the facts: that Craig might have wanted to have sex, but did not engage in any sexual acts. These were details that AlterNet readers like tomkara were also quick to remind other writers, "Several posters here keep saying or implying that Craig "had sex" in public. HE DID NOT." Ames agreed, "This is an important point to make and I'm somewhat surprised that it hasn't been made earlier. Wanting, thinking about, or engaging in homosexual behaviour (with a consenting adult) is neither morally wrong nor a crime."
One area of agreement among AlterNet commenters was that Larry Craig was a moral hypocrite. Just last year Craig voted in favor of a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. Seven years before that, he voted against expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. Poster thornwolf agreed that Craig didn't really commit any "real crime," but that his hypocrisy was the crime deserving of "punishment and expulsion." Libertine said, "I would have more sympathy for Craig if he'd not supported anti-gay legislation and other anti-progressive means. It's the hypocrisy that causes me to lose all sympathy for him." Fluffmuffinmom pointed to the use of anti-gay initiatives during the 2004 elections when "the homophobes took the bait and Craig and his Cronies wallowed in re-election glory." Bryanth798 noted, "If it had been someone else besides him, he would be calling for their blood."
Other AlterNet readers argued that his hypocrisy alone did not merit expulsion from the Senate. Mdharold wrote, "Hypocrisy is no crime." Freedom38 went further, saying, "We should let him remain in the Senate, but every time he attempts to discriminate against the LGBT community, we'll hold up an article or photo and cough loudly ("Ehemm ...")."
Jmooney wrote that Craig's fate should be left to the Idahoan voters. "He should go on statewide TV and make his case and ask for Idahoans to call his office ... That's how Ted Kennedy did it after Chappaquiddick ... does anyone think that some questionable behavior in a public bathroom is worse than the death of a young woman caused by Kennedy's questionable behavior? ... If we pull stuff like this away from voters of a given jurisdiction, that just makes voters less and less competent."
For some readers, there was a contextual understanding for why Craig kept his homosexual desires confined to bathroom stalls. The aforementioned tomkara wrote, "Yes, Craig had the "option" of finding somebody in a gay bar or going online -- but as a horribly closeted man he wouldn't have been caught dead in a gay bar and would have left a trail had he gone online." Others, like HumanCourt, were more vocal, "AND IF HE IS GAY (admitting it or not) HE SHOULD STAND UP ... TO ALL THE STRAIGHT PEOPLE TELLING HIM AND BULLYING HIM ABOUT HIS HYPOCRISY. GIVE ME A BREAK. YEARS OF STRAIGHT PEOPLE RULES OF HYPOCRISY SHOULD BE SHOVED BACK IN THEIR FACE."
Roy and other readers pointed out this "double" hypocrisy happening, specifically contrasting Larry Craig's misdemeanor with another recent sex scandal that received far less attention or condemnation: Senator David Vitter (R-La), whose phone number appeared on a D.C. madam's clientele list. Vitter told reporters that he preferred to keep the matter between "God and his family," which was apology enough for everyone. Silverwizard quipped, "Why the HELL is Vitter still a member of Congress? Republicans, you gonna talk the talk then you better walk the walk! Put your money where your mouth is. Oops, guess Vitter already DID that."
Some readers, like rrk70, combined this analysis:
"For those still deep in the closet, for whatever reason ... toilet stall sex may still be the only opportunity to satisfy same-sex needs ...
"These cases are really about intolerance and homophobia. If Craig were banging some female in the toilet in mid-flight (the mile-high club) or some quiet corner or broom closet in the airport would he be arrested?"
Many respondents joined Arianna Huffington in her latest column, when asking if entrapping men using bathrooms as a hookup joint was really a proper use of national security resources. Emccready wondered, "One would think that the Police should have better things to do than sitting around a public toilet trying to entrap a person who -- for whatever reason -- is interested in finding a sex partner." Jmooney questioned the entire construction of the crime itself, "Craig apparently didn't offer up any money or even talk about sex in that bathroom. What kind of police state do we live in where police can just create crimes out of whole cloth? That's manufacturing crime, in my view. Don't we have enough real crime already?"
Finally, some readers pointed to the Republican Party as the source for its own ills. Doinaheckuvajob wrote, "To be a Rethuglican nowadays, not only do you have to be in the closet if gay, but sell your soul to a hierarchical leadership structure ... That's some pretty intense self-aggrandizing self-hatred, to the point where the riches the Party bestows upon you for enriching it, is the goal of your existence."
Larry Craig exercised poor judgment, not simply that day in the airport bathroom, but all the years beforehand that culminated in his arrest. Yet it seems, at the very least, we can agree that there is much more complexity in Craig's bad decisions than, perhaps, in Vitter's. And as a chorus of people from the Left and Right join together in taking Craig down, the question we should ask ourselves is: Whom are we roasting?