Friday, October 5, 2007

Thanks, Larry

If the DNC went out and spent millions of dollars to develop an effective ad campaign and come up with a picture-perfect poster boy for right-wing hypocrisy and gay-bashing, they couldn’t have done better than the free ride they’re getting from Sen. Larry Craig. Fresh from a judge’s ruling in Minnesota who with barely-concealed scorn rejected the not-gay lawmaker’s petition to withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct in a men’s room in the Minneapolis airport, Mr. Craig has decided not to resign from the Senate and will serve out the rest of his term.

Thanks, Larry. That gives us fourteen months to remind voters that the same political party that impeached a president for consensual sex in private can’t even get one of their own to gracefully take his leave, and it’s driving them nuts. At least one GOP senator — John Ensign of Nevada — is vigorously working to get Mr. Craig to go, but Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is supporting Mr. Craig, so they can have a lively debate about whether or not a guy with a misdemeanor on his rap sheet should serve in the Senate. Now the ethics committee of the Senate is planning on having hearings on Mr. Craig’s conduct. This is an apparent attempt to shame him into leaving, but as he has already demonstrated, the gentleman from Idaho has very little shame left. I wonder if they’ve booked a brass band for the hearings, because that’s all that’s missing from the circus that will ensue… and I’m getting the popcorn.

It’s interesting to note that a year ago when Mark Foley was rushed out of town because of his behavior towards underage male pages in the Capitol, there was no question of the fact that Mr. Foley was gay. He did not come out and proclaim that he’s not gay and never has been, and in spite of the fact that his conduct was most assuredly inappropriate — not to mention reinforcing the stereotypical lie that gay men can’t be trusted around teenaged boys — there were no criminal charges pending against Mr. Foley, and he was never accused of a crime. But he was gay and that was enough to send him packing without a defender to be found among his colleagues in the House. Mr. Craig has staunchly — if not credibly — proclaimed his heterosexuality, and therefore he will stay in office regardless of the harm he does to his own party. That’s a subversive way of undermining gay rights: as long as you don’t admit to being gay, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor for a charge related to sex in a public place with another man and still be a senator. But if Larry Craig had done what James McGreevy, the former governor of New Jersey did — admit in public to being a gay American — he’d be back in Idaho trolling for hookups on the internet. It’s the GOP version of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and it’s working just about as well for them as it is for the military.

Well, as much as I’m grateful for the heartburn Mr. Craig’s lingering presence will give the RNC and the Religious Reich, I can’t help but think he’s not doing the gay movement any favors other than providing the country with a rich source of scorn and double entendres on late-night TV. Having a self-loathing and in-denial senator as the most visible icon of the gay community isn’t exactly what we need.