Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t care if Larry Craig is gay, bi- or hetero as the day is long, and I don’t care what he was or was not doing in the privacy of a bathroom stall.
Nor do I care whether that Minneapolis cop correctly interpreted Craig’s “signals” as an invitation for hanky-panky when the Idaho Republican allegedly tapped his foot, then allegedly reached under the stall divider.
You shouldn’t, either. And that’s not because this teapot-brewed tempest effectively doused the senator’s career.
It’s because we’ve all got more important things to worry about. We should be worried about what elected officials are doing concerning subprime mortgage lenders, growing economic dependency on Communist China, civil liberties, restoring and protecting the Gulf Coast, the Constitution, the eroding bedrock of our republic, and Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.
Still, it was the Craig scandal that dominated airwaves and television programs for most of Labor Day weekend. And why?
S-E-X. Americans are obsessed with sex, and when it combines with politics, we talk out of both sides of our mouth. One side is shocked and appalled that anyone, let alone a U.S. senator, could do “such a thing.” Tsk, tsk, what a terrible role model!
The other side of the mouth, though, is hidden down our collective sleeve, giggling: “Sex! Hee, hee, hee! Gotcha!”
Unhelpful in any context, this type of puerility is risky when it’s the primary standard by which we judge our elected servants and their associates.
Remember sex, lies and Bill Clinton? Few would have cared about the lies had they not involved “sex with that woman” and the creative use of cigars. Don’t kid yourself.
According to Democracy Now host Amy Goodman in her book “Exception to the Rulers,” Clinton backed dictators in Nigeria (in the name of oil) and in Indonesia, which seems a far better reason to revile him than does what he did with a consenting adult and a cigar. So why is it we know more about that cigar than we do about Clinton’s Nigeria dealings?
It is fundamentally absurd to obsess over sexual peccadilloes while ignoring greater offenses.
Don’t get me wrong. Soliciting sex in a public restroom, while nowhere near on par with, for instance, preying on underage congressional pages, or even presidential adultery, isn’t the best way to exhibit fitness for leadership.
Also, the hypocrisy of Craig’s alleged activities vs. Craig’s politics on gay issues is both self-evident and territory well traveled by other commentators.
But why does it seem as though the only thing guaranteed to unseat a corrupt politician is a sex scandal?
Let’s veer down another well-traveled road and consider George Bush. He has continually changed his story about why we are in Iraq — and continually manipulated both our emotions and the evidence.
He has vilified his critics as traitors. He has “disappeared” countless suspects in the name of fighting terror and secured the power to declare American citizens “enemy combatants.” He has spied on us without due process. He has restricted our civil liberties, and the much-hated Patriot Act was his idea.
Bush started a war that is simply not fated to end well, and with reckless disregard for known facts about the Middle East. He has, for the past six years, let our real enemy escape, while creating more enemies elsewhere. This has caused more terrorism, more insurgency… and, not coincidentally, more warfare, which he can continue to use as justification for his agenda.
Bush has all but wiped his feet on the Constitution he swore to uphold; despite his folksy demeanor, he has nothing but contempt for the American people.
But, by Jove, he never cheated on Laura, and if he were to enjoy a ceegar, he’d probably keep it in his mouth! So, no impeachment for him!
The premium we place on the appearance of sexual morality — instead of on accountability for behavior that exposes us to constant danger — is apparent in our (over)reaction to the Craig flap. Networks analyzed him, while pundits questioned the media’s decision to inform the public of a public official’s public arrest and public plea (which might now be withdrawn) to disorderly conduct.
As for the GOP, it abandoned Craig because it feared the scandal would harm Republican political prospects — not because of the rightness or wrongness of the allegations. The GOP knew in the Clinton era what really pushed voters’ buttons and it knows it now.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is a journalist in Montrose, Colo.