Favorite

Larry Craig: victim 

Sen. Larry E. Craig, the Idaho Republican who was forced to resign after a police sting in an airport restroom caught him acting a little like he wanted to have sex with a plainclothes cop, ought to have made a better case that he was the victim and not the predator.

Craig was the episode's only victim, even if it was of his own long career of showy piety, but he was the victim. Craig complained that his hometown newspaper hounded him into making the fatal misjudgment of pleading guilty to a misdemeanor by its relentless campaign to prove old rumors that he was gay. The paper, the Idaho Statesman at Boise, does have an infamous history of crusading against homosexuals, but Craig's worst tormentor was his own political party.

For 10 years the Republican Party has been beset by an endless succession of sex and ethics scandals, all of them far worse than the senator's vaguely suggestive behavior in a stall of the men's room, which would have been thrown out of court as evidence of criminal activity if it involved anything but homosexuality, but the party never before had risen in instant unison to insist that a Republican resign. Party leaders in and out of Congress seem to have concluded that after literally dozens it could not stand one more scandal, especially of the same-sex variety, and still claim to be the party of God and the family.

Not a single party leader demanded the resignation of David Vitter, the blow-dried senator from Louisiana who apologized this summer for his connection to a prostitution ring in Washington, D.C., and was accused of frequenting a high-priced brothel in New Orleans. The difference, it was explained, was that Vitter had not pled guilty to a crime. But paying a prostitute for sex is a crime in most states and private and consenting homosexual sex is not.

The timing could not have been worse for Craig. The Republican leadership's cover-up of the page scandal involving Rep. Mark Foley of Florida last year was blamed for part of the GOP's debacle in the 2006 elections. Now the party is on the verge of losing the presidency and being on the losing end of a landslide in Senate and House races, owing heavily to the accumulated evidence of hypocrisy on the “moral” issues.

Some spirit of nature there is that wants to expose hypocrisy. One by one, those who trumpeted the loudest moral judgments against Bill Clinton for his dalliance with a White House intern had their own serial adultery exposed, starting with House leaders Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston and the righteous Henry Hyde and Dan Burton. Let's not forget Craig's prim colleague from Idaho, Rep. Helen Chenoweth, who after condemning Clinton's unforgivable moral lapse had to admit a long-running affair with her boss, which she had previously denied. But she said she had spoken with God about it and he had pardoned her. Idaho voters forgave her, too.

But homosexuality apparently is something quite different in Idaho, home of the most virulent conservatism in the country. Craig, who ceremoniously opposed gay marriage and extending equal rights to gays, including protection from hate crimes, is not the first hypocrite but apparently the first from Idaho. Pat Robertson's congressman, Ed Schrock of Virginia, dropped out of his re-election race three years ago when he was outed as a homosexual.

The whole gay-bashing GOP strategy started in the early 1980s with the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC), which funded attack ads against Democrats on such moral issues as “the homosexual movement,” as its director Terry Dolan called it. Dolan subsequently died of AIDS and his associate, Republican consultant Arthur Finkelstein, continued to run gay-bashing campaigns for Republicans until three years ago, when he took advantage of Massachusetts' new gay-marriage law and wed his partner.

What is troubling about all these men is how they can publicly condemn something that is so much of their being. But it is not hard to understand. Sen. J. William Fulbright once infamously described it, explaining why he had spouted racism while privately abhorring it. Every legislator, he said, learns that there are certain convictions of constituents that are not of paramount importance to the future of the republic but “are too dangerous to trifle with.” He humored voters' prejudice, he averred, so that he could be free to exercise his own will on the important stuff.

Craig had more to worry about. The Idaho Statesman for a year had been investigating rumors about him that began in 1982 when Leroy Williams, an honor student at Hall High School at Little Rock and a page of Republican Congressman Ed Bethune of Searcy, fingered him as one of three representatives with whom he had sex. Williams later recanted his story.

After news leaked that Craig had copped a plea on the Minneapolis excapade, the Statesman ran a story that included various allegations of homosexuality against him. Craig no doubt remembered the Statesman's crusade against gays in 1955, the closest thing since to the Salem, Mass., Witch Trials of 1692. Under headlines like “Crush This Monster,” the paper campaigned to rid Boise of homosexuals, demanding that the police and prosecutor take action to rid the city of “this mess.” Sixteen people, including a prominent banker, were charged with being homosexuals. Only one beat the charges.

The closet is a crowded but lonely and dispiriting room. Larry Craig's failing is that he might have helped raise his party's conscience but he didn't.

Favorite

Comments (20)

Showing 1-20 of 20

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-20 of 20

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Ad man Heathcott sues CJRW for damages in ouster

    Gary Heathcott the long-time ad and PR man who now lives in San Antonio has sued CJRW, the major ad and PR firm, over its severing of a consulting deal with him last year and asks $1.3 million in actual damages plus unspecified punitive damages.
    • Dec 18, 2018
  • Court dismisses ethics complaints against Kavanaugh

    The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed numerous judicial ethics complaints against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh because the law exempts Supreme Court members, even for acts committed as a judge covered by the law. In short: Bart O'Kavanaugh is above the law.
    • Dec 18, 2018
  • In face of blowback, state will slow down assisted living cuts

    Brett Rains of 40/29 is tweeting from the Capitol that the Department of Human Services is slowing its push for cuts in reimbursements for home health aides that critics have said could force many people into more expensive nursing home and force companies that provide the services out of business.
    • Dec 18, 2018
  • More »

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Sex and Trump

    No one, least of all Donald Trump, should be surprised when sex puts him in mortal jeopardy, which seemed to be the case last week when his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to violating the law by arranging $280,000 in hush payments to a porn actress and a Playboy model who were prepared to tell voters about having sex with him.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A decent man

    The beatification of George H.W. Bush, which even the current president signaled was OK, would have surprised the 41st president, who seemed to have accepted the public's verdict that, although a waffler, he was a decent man who did his best and didn't do any harm to the people of the country or the world with whose well-being he was entrusted for a time.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • Prelude to war

    President Trump's casual disinterest in the murder of Jamaal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia's leaders, a crime he once abhorred, may be only the final repudiation of America's ancient obedience to human rights, but what if it is much more? What if it is a prelude to war?
    • Nov 29, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • Shrugging off sulfides

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported a shocker on its front page Sunday. The rotten-egg odor from the Koch brothers' sprawling paper plant at Crossett is still making people sick, but the state's pollution control agency is unaware of the problem.
    • Mar 29, 2018

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Sex and Trump

    No one, least of all Donald Trump, should be surprised when sex puts him in mortal jeopardy, which seemed to be the case last week when his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to violating the law by arranging $280,000 in hush payments to a porn actress and a Playboy model who were prepared to tell voters about having sex with him.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A decent man

    The beatification of George H.W. Bush, which even the current president signaled was OK, would have surprised the 41st president, who seemed to have accepted the public's verdict that, although a waffler, he was a decent man who did his best and didn't do any harm to the people of the country or the world with whose well-being he was entrusted for a time.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • Prelude to war

    President Trump's casual disinterest in the murder of Jamaal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia's leaders, a crime he once abhorred, may be only the final repudiation of America's ancient obedience to human rights, but what if it is much more? What if it is a prelude to war?
    • Nov 29, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: No leash

    • I used to believe I wasn't a cat person, till I had my first cat…

    • on December 18, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • I once had a cat -- Earl was his name -- who loved to ride…

    • on December 17, 2018
  • Re: Beware of 'unity'

    • I like this opinion piece of yours published on my 71st birthday. My best friend…

    • on December 17, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation