David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Be Vewwy Vewwy Quiet, It’s Gay Hunting Season

Am I really going to have to be the one to say I just don’t care that much that Senator Larry Craig (supposedly) solicited gay bathroom sex in a Minneapolis airport? Am I going to have to be the one who says this is getting blown way out of proportion (pun unintended but inevitable)? I don’t think a lot of you are going to agree with me on this one, but I have to say it anyway.

Senator Larry CraigFirst off, the dude was railroaded into confessing his impropriety by the police to avoid embarrassment, and that bothers me. As unseemly as it may be that Senator Craig (supposedly) felt compelled to alert the plainclothesman in the next stall that he wanted to get his knob polished, it’s not a crime. Really, it isn’t. Just the same way that talking to a prostitute about her/his services isn’t a crime until you hand over the cash. Theoretically it might be construed as harassment if he just walked up to a stranger in the restroom to solicit sex in plain English — but it seems to me that the case is pretty thin when you have to be familiar with the whole procedure to even know you’re being solicited in the first place.

Now, actually having sex in a public restroom is a crime, and if the senator was paying a stranger to have sex it’s also a crime. But what if the man in the next stall had responded to Craig’s solicitation by slipping him a note saying “I’ve got a condo two blocks away, why don’t we pop over there instead”? That’s not a crime. That’s called a pickup. Sleazy, yes. But not illegal, and I’m not even sure it’s immoral.

And let’s say he did actually get a BJ in a public restroom. Have we really lost all sense of perspective here? Have we become that prude of a society? Breaking news, North America: men love blowjobs. If there’s any man who claims he doesn’t, please stick your name in the comments below so the rest of us can snicker at you. And while quietly having sex in a semi-public place while nobody can see you is crude and crass and unbecoming of a public official, on the scale of moral turpitude it ranks pretty damn low. I’d say it’s somewhere around shoplifting in the grand scheme of things, but I can’t decide if it’s north or south of that line. Lots of people do dumb things like this when they’re young. Hell, I did stuff like that when I was in college almost twenty years ago.

Of course, nobody wants to walk in on two people having sex in a public restroom. Eww. And you don’t want unattended minors stumbling across something like this either. Which is why you haul these offenders down to the police station, slap them with a fine and community service, and put something in the file that your future employers can dig up if they want to.

But Dave, you sick pervert, I hear you thinking, Larry Craig’s a U.S. Senator! We have to hold him to a higher standard!

Well, sure we do. That higher standard is called “elections.” If this joker decides to run for re-election next year after all, his arrest record, guilty plea, and lame-ass excuses are fair game for his opponent(s). Of course, it’s never going to get to that point. The Idaho Republican Party will wisely decide that supporting Craig is too costly for them, and the national GOP will conclude the same thing. Right now, there are undoubtedly GOP bigwigs calling Senator Craig telling him that stepping down now and allowing a Republican replacement to gain momentum in office for the next 18 months will be a big boon to the party’s chances in 2008.

I’m convinced that 60% of this whole scandal has to do with public disgust at male homosexuality. It’s a quick opportunity to score some political points because most Americans are really queasy about gay male sex. Gut check time: if you walked in on Carmen Electra and Angelina Jolie engaging in hanky-panky in a public bathroom stall, would you storm out of there looking for a cop and demand that they be publicly humiliated and dragged through the mud?

In case you’ve forgotten, this is Carmen Electra:

Carmen Electra

And this is Angelina Jolie:

Angelina Jolie

No, if you saw these two (or two women who look just like them) going at it in a public place and you’re like most people in this country, you’d probably back out of there very slowly, make lots of conspicuous coughing noises, and state in a loud voice that you hope nobody in this restroom is doing anything that the approaching police officers might take offense at.

If 60% of this scandal is motivated by public disgust with male homosexuality, then what’s the other 40%? I’ll allow that 20% of the impetus for pushing this story is purely morality. The remaining 20%? Why, a witch hunt against conservative Republicans who have supported the war and President Bush’s über-conservative policies. And I say this as someone who opposed the war from the start and who has vocally opposed Bush’s agenda for years now. I’ve still got a John Kerry 2004 sticker on my car, fer Chrissake.

Here’s an idea: let’s vote Republicans like Larry Craig out of office because they support the war and because they support discrimination against gays. Are the Democrats really proud of the fact that they’re holding a majority in both houses of Congress because of silly sex scandals, because George Allen once said the word “macaca,” and because Joe Lieberman refuses to officially join the GOP?

Rep. William JeffersonWhat makes me think this is partisan? If we’re so concerned with official corruption, we’d be seeing a daily drumbeat of Congressional leaders standing up and demanding the resignation of Democratic Representative William Jefferson, he of the $90,000 worth of bribe money stashed in his freezer. If it wasn’t partisan, then it wouldn’t be mostly the Republicans who are bum-rushing the airwaves to denounce Senator Craig’s moral unfitness. (Don’t you just love how Republicans always rush to loudly denounce anti-family values talk, while Democrats always rush to loudly denounce perceived weakness on national defense? This is how you get Barack Obama pushing for a big increase in military size and Hillary Clinton cozying up to the idea of threatening other countries with nuclear weaponry.)

Putting aside the sexual aspect of this case, what do we have? Not much. We have the potential intimidation factor of Craig throwing his Senatorial business card on the table and saying “What do you think of that?” Okay, this bothers me. But one statement is a pretty thin reed to hang an entire ethics case on, and you know that no sane jury would convict someone based on that evidence alone.

We have the hypocrisy factor. Definitely worthy of consideration that a senator who’s supported so many anti-gay policies over the years is himself gay. But again, I don’t think hypocrisy is all that great of a sin.

We have the supposed other instances of homosexual behavior. If you read the accusations, they’re all pretty flimsy. Craig followed some dude around in a store for half an hour? Some random guy claims he had sex with someone that looked like Larry Craig, but didn’t even get his name? Involvement in the page scandal would be a big deal if there was any evidence out there to support it. But all these things added up to so little that the Idaho Statesman wisely decided to kill the story until the guilty plea for disorderly conduct came up.

None of these accusations hold a candle to the fact that, you know, Senator Larry Craig supported anti-gay policies in the first place. Whether he’s straight, gay, bi, dom, sub, switch, decaffeinated, or unleaded is pretty irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. I’d just as soon not know.

I’m not suggesting we nominate Larry Craig for Senator of the Year or give him the Congressional Medal of Honor. I’m just saying, please America, stop it with the silly sex scandals. Larry Craig’s guilty plea for disorderly conduct should be a page 3 story at best, and the guy should be allowed to quietly step down from his committee leadership posts and then just not run for re-election.

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  1. cephyn on August 30, 2007 at 11:16 am  Chain link

    No, if you saw these two (or two women who look just like them) going at it in a public place and you’re like most people in this country, you’d probably back out of there very slowly, make lots of conspicuous coughing noises, and state in a loud voice that you hope nobody in this restroom is doing anything that the approaching police officers might take offense at.

    Tell that to the Carolina Panther cheerleaders. You’re wrong on this point.

  2. King Rat on August 30, 2007 at 11:30 am  Chain link

    Just the same way that talking to a prostitute about her/his services isn’t a crime until you hand over the cash.

    Not exactly. In Washington state discussing the price is enough.

    He or she solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee.

    I believe most states will have similar laws.

    Also, what cephyn said at 1. Two hot girls went at it in the bathroom. Things did not go well for them.

  3. David Louis Edelman on August 30, 2007 at 11:32 am  Chain link

    Cephyn: That’s a good point. I had forgotten all about that incident. I would, however, point out that a) none of the women waiting in line for the bathroom stall called security, b) both women were extremely drunk, c) one woman was charged with providing a false drivers license to police and beating the crap out of someone who yelled at her, and d) the other woman was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

    Maybe I’m wrong about this. But do you think things would have turned out differently if there were two Carolina Panther players in one of those stalls?

  4. tommyspoon on August 30, 2007 at 11:48 am  Chain link

    2 Quick Points:

    1. This is about the numbers in the Senate, not Senator Craig’s sexuality. The reason the GOP is pushing him out is because the governor of Idaho is a Republican and can replace Craig with a Republican. Contrast with Senator Vitter: he hails from a state with a Democratic governor. Guess who she’d replace him with? The GOP simply cannot afford to give the Democrats a wider majority in the Senate.

    2. Like I said before: Senator Craig (like Senator Vitter) broke the law. You cannot solicit for (or engage in) sex in a public bathroom. His sexuality makes no difference to me (and I suspect to most GOP operatives). They’ve known he was gay since 1982, for gosh sakes.

    Dave, I wish more people adopted your views on public figures and their peccadilloes. If you have any ideas on how to get there, I’m all ears.

  5. cephyn on August 30, 2007 at 12:18 pm  Chain link

    Maybe I’m wrong about this. But do you think things would have turned out differently if there were two Carolina Panther players in one of those stalls?

    Not really. I mean the girls were charged and kicked off the squad. They were the butt of jokes all over the place. The only difference would be some actual hate and vitriol towards the hypothetical players, since there’s a societal double standard for lesbians and gay men in this country. But other than that, not much difference at all.

  6. David Louis Edelman on August 30, 2007 at 1:35 pm  Chain link

    Tommy: Good point re #1, and one I should have thought of. And how get people to adopt my views on public figures and their peccadilloes? If everyone would buy copies of Infoquake and MultiReal, that’d be a start. 😀

    Cephyn: I will admit you’ve got a good point here.

  7. hugh57 on August 30, 2007 at 1:42 pm  Chain link

    As unseemly as it may be that Senator Craig (supposedly) felt compelled to alert the plainclothesman in the next stall that he wanted to get his knob polished, it’s not a crime. Really, it isn’t.

    Apparently, it is a crime, at least in Minnesota. Not a felony, perhaps, but a crime nonetheless. Other states may have varying definitions as to when and where the line is crossed, but it would seem that Sen. Craig crossed Minnesota’s. And it would seem that Sen. Craig thought they must have something of a case, or he wouldn’t have been so quick to plead guilty.

    And anybody who is so naive about how the law works (even after being in the US House and Senate for over a quarter of a century) that he thinks that a guilty plea (which is a matter of public record, whether you’re a Senator or a homeless person) can somehow be kept private, and doesn’t even seek legal counsel, probably shouldn’t be a lawmaker. As you suggest, I’m certain that the Idaho Republican Party will reach the same conclusion.

  8. David Louis Edelman on August 30, 2007 at 1:52 pm  Chain link

    Apparently, it is a crime, at least in Minnesota.

    Good to know. Some of the analyses I read yesterday suggested it wasn’t, but I suppose we’ll all know exactly where that line is soon enough. Tonight’s local news stories across the nation: “So if Larry Craig had done this in our state, could he have gone to jail?”

    And anybody who is so naive about how the law works… probably shouldn’t be a lawmaker.

    Yeah. But I say let the voters make that determination. They didn’t re-elect Gary Condit, after all. (Although voters did re-elect Jefferson, and they keep electing Marion Barry to office again and again, which is enough to make anyone take a good, hard look at democracy.)

  9. semanticdrifter on August 30, 2007 at 1:58 pm  Chain link

    While I understand the perverse glee at watching someone who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and other policies unfriendly to gays getting busted for a lewd act in a toilet stall no less, I tend to agree that there’s no crime here, or shouldn’t be. Essentially, he tapped his foot, wriggled his finger, and touched feet with the officer. I’m not sure arresting people for signaling a desire for sex in such a subtle way is the best use of municipal resources.

  10. tommyspoon on August 30, 2007 at 2:18 pm  Chain link

    I dunno about you, semantic, but I’d rather the public restrooms I use be free of bodily fluids that could potentially transmit STDs. But if you feel otherwise, then can my girlfriend and I come over to your house and have sex in your bathroom? 😉

  11. christopher on August 30, 2007 at 2:40 pm  Chain link

    david, although i agree with your position that we should speak with our voting, an integral aspect of democracy is an informed public. and to me this is where your plan breaks down. because not only are we not always informed, but there are aspects of the process that we are not able to affect by voting. there are byzantine processes in our government that we have no control over – especially by voting. when pork-barrel additions can be made to already approved bills, without review, how can we trust the system? we can’t. a person can get into power by saying one thing, and even voting a particular way, but accomplish other things that we wouldn’t approve of.

    when faced with such a system, our only recourse, feeble as it is, is to try and vote people into office that we trust. we can’t trust the system to check and balance properly, so we try to feel good about the people in charge. and to that end, information about incidents like this become a part of the decision making process.

  12. David de Beer on August 30, 2007 at 2:50 pm  Chain link

    [not an American here, but just some quick thoughts re: this post and your previous one on hypocrisy]:

    public leaders are not the same as ordinary people of the public. When they decided to become politicians, that is something they had to – or should have – accepted. They are held to different standards, simply because their decisions and choices affect an entire people and country that they profess to have the best interest of.

    Larry Flynt does not have a problem with what people do in their private lives (the dude banged a chicken or something when he was a kid, how could he have?)
    As far as his commitment to exposing the hypocrisy of the American Senate, there I will agree with him that bringing hypocrisy in public leaders out in the open are crucially important.

    the definition of hypocrisy – the practice of disguising one action or statement by simulating another which is believed to be more acceptable (stop and think on this one for a bit); pretended goodness or sincerity.

    You asked:

    Why can’t we just concentrate on the policy?

    because, if what a man does directly contradicts what he advocates, how then can his words or policies be deemed to carry any conviction whatsoever (I am not saying “do they still carry weight?”; that could be as much a matter of accident as anything else. Conviction, though, is an important consideration when someone is telling you what the correct way to live your life is, and makes decisions which could impact on your personal life. Weight is about impartial worth; conviction is about the accuracy of personal belief on a matter).

    That last part is the most important, and the reason why politicians above all cannot be exempted from how their personal lives reflect/ discords with their publicly professed policies – because politicians and public leaders are not ordinary people, what they do and say and (the policies) they decide impact on the PERSONAL lives of the people beneath them.

    It has nothing to do with morality in the Bible thumper sense, it is not wrong in that sense.

    Hypocrisy is wrong in the sense of it is a flat out stupid method of behavior.

    If, for example, a man walks under the banner of women’s rights, and tells me that I should respect women, not treat them like garbage and above all not force myself on them sexually because it is wrong and threatens to disrupt society or [insert whatever reason here], and yet I find out he has rape and sexual harassment charges against him – seriously, how can a man such as that have any weight of conviction when it comes to his pro-womanist policies? would I exempt his behavior and focus only on what he tells me to do, although he himself has done/ is doing the opposite? why? why is it not good for me but good for him? more to the point – would I actually believe and adopt his policies?
    of course not – 1) monkey see, monkey do, or 2) “dude’s talking shite – when a woman says no, what she means is: Take me, you stud you!”

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with your take on this matter overall and would suggest that you are perhaps a little too fixated on examining the sexual/ personal indiscretions being exposed. That is almost irrelevant, it is still about the principle of the thing (hypocrisy).

    Consider the much wider ramifications of politicians who are not held accountable for any glitch where their personal lives contradict their professed policies and dictates:

    would there have been a Sept 11?
    a war in Iraq?
    if no war in Iraq, would it have been possible that New Orleans would have been better prepared and defended against hurricane Katrina? or, at the very least, would more services and monies have been available to faster evacuate, provide better medical and other services and help re-build in the aftermath?
    the genocide in Rwanda?
    the still, right now, blatant disregard for human rights happening in Zimbabwe? (where do you think African leaders learn to adopt such callous attitudes of personal aggrandizement to the detriment of their peoples, knowing that they stand little risk of being held accountable?)
    would racism and sexism still flourish?

    after all, if politicians are not held accountable for the conduct of their own lives, why on earth would they seriously care about how to protect and provide for the people they have been elected to serve?

  13. David Louis Edelman on August 30, 2007 at 3:22 pm  Chain link

    Wow, you’ve sure got a lot to say, David. :-) I’m glad people feel comfortable having such in-depth discussions here.

    I believe we should enact policies and laws solely based on their merits. The messenger is irrelevant. Why? Well, Lyndon Johnson was an ornery bastard, but he signed the Civil Rights Act. What if some segregationist had gone on a crusade to bring his infidelities to the public and derailed that legislation? What if that dude who some people believe was Abraham Lincoln’s lover came forward in 1860 and derailed his campaign?

    If you make these discussions solely about the issues, the legislation stands or falls on its own merits. You can find dirt on anybody if you dig deep enough. Why should the message be subject to the (perceived) trustworthiness of the messenger?

    There is a very good reason politicians shouldn’t be hypocrites. And that’s because people who walk the walk are generally much more effective at talking the talk. So I’m entirely in sympathy with the people who say Craig should step down because he’s not going to be effective as an advocate of his family-values policies anymore. That’s realpolitik, that’s life. You go with the horse that wins the race.

    Obviously we can’t completely separate message from messenger. We’re all human, after all. But I think it’s what something we should aspire to.

  14. Buck Naked Politics on August 30, 2007 at 5:50 pm  Chain link

    It’s The Hypocrisy, Stupid (Part 3). GOP Forms Hollow Square, Drums Craig Out of His Committee Posts (updated).

    Poor Larry Craig. He didn’t even really do anything all that bloody specific, as far as I can tell and yet he’s already been forced to resign from three committees. The officer said in his arrest report that Craig began tapping his right foot, touche…

  15. David Louis Edelman on August 30, 2007 at 6:37 pm  Chain link

    Hey King Rat: Sorry, looks like your comment went straight into the spam bin. I’ve fished it out now.

  16. David Louis Edelman on August 31, 2007 at 12:40 am  Chain link

    One more interesting side note and follow-up to my comment #13 above… apparently LBJ’s chief aide Walter Jenkins was actually arrested for having sex with a man in a YMCA bathroom. This was October 1964, shortly after the signing of the Civil Rights Act and shortly before the presidential election. The dude was forced to retire from politics for good.

  17. Tallulah on October 28, 2008 at 7:44 am  Chain link

    Well said.

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