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    August 28, 2007

    No joy in mudville

    Posted by: Chris

    Larrycraigleft And another one bites the dust. Another Republican, this one with a zero voting record on gay rights and HIV/AIDS, is caught up in a seedy gay sex scandal.

    This time around it was years in coming. As you no doubt heard yesterday after Roll Coll broke the story, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig pled guilty to lewd conduct a month ago after he was arrested by an undercover officer in June in a public restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.

    The gay and leftie blogosphere is, of course, gleeful, as is practically every gay person I've talked to in the early hours after the scandal broke. I understand the indignation that rises up each time we see one of these "family values" types go down in flames. I just don't understand why we don't see the contradictions in how we cheer on the politics of personal destruction, however self-inflicted.

    Even in the early hours of the Larry Craig scandal, a few angles to this story give me pause. First and foremost, was Senator Craig really guilty of lewd conduct? I'm no defender of public sex or public lewdness, but so far as I can see he engaged in neither. According to the arrest report, an undercover police officer whose unhappy task it was to sit for long periods in an airport toilet stall noticed that a man later identified as Craig was peeking through the crack over a period of two minutes while "fidgeting" his hands. (Craig said later he was waiting for an empty stall; one of many points the officer disputes.)

    Craigarrestreport Once Craig was seated in the stall next to the officer, the senator put his roller bag against the front door of the stall. "My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall," Sgt. Karsnia of the airport police wrote in his arrest report. I guess those who use the bathroom "for its intended use," as Karsnia puts it in the report, choose to store their luggage in some more convenient location within the stall…?

    Craig then "tapped his foot," reported Karsnia, who "recognized this as a signal by those who wish to engage in lewd conduct." I'll leave it to you whether there might be one or two or 13 more innocent explanations for such behavior.

    Finally, Craig's foot tapping crept over into Karsnia's stall and even made contact with Karsnia's foot. Craig then swiped his hand a few times under the stall divider, enough that Karsnia could see his fingers and even his gold wedding ring — a point Karsnia made sure to include in his report.

    Based on this and this alone, Craig was arrested for lewd conduct. Now I'll admit to being much more naive than Sgt. Karsnia about the etiquette of toilet sex, but exactly how was this lewd? Strange? Yes. Annoying? Absolutely. Lewd? Explain that to me again.

    Let's assume for the sake of argument that Craig was somehow crudely indicating his sexual interest in Karsnia. The Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Lawrence vs. Texas decision that sex between consenting adults is constitutionally protected. Many states have correctly concluded that, as a result, solicitation of sodomy or other forms of sex, even when the conversation takes place in public, is also constitutionally protected. If conduct is constitutionally protected, then we have a First Amendment right to discuss it.

    That protection falls by the wayside, as well it should, if Craig was not just soliciting a private sex act in a public place but actually intended for the sex itself to take place in public. Nowhere does the arrest report explain to us how Sgt. Krasnia made that leap of logic based on Craig's foot-tapping and hand-swiping.

    The arrest report does indicate that Craig was late for a flight, so it may well have been some odd form of quickie was what was on his mind. But it also reported that Craig identified himself as a regular commuter through the airport, so another explanation might be that he wanted to set up some later rendezvous.

    Yes, I know that Craig pled guilty to the charge, and it's on that point where he most clearly hoisted himself on his own petard. He was so afraid of how things would look that he lacked the nerve to defend himself and his rights — just as over the course of his life he lacked the nerve to accept his sexual orientation (whether bisexual or homosexual) and defend the rights of those who share those orientations.

    The saddest part of the Larry Craig scandal to me is that it will only encourage and energize those who troll the sex lives of politicians in search of juicy slime to spread — as if that somehow makes the case for our equality. As for me, I don't favor arguing I have a right to privacy in my choice of sexual partners by invading that right in others, even if they are our opponents, and even if they are hypocrites.

    We should take no joy in the ruin of Larry Craig's marriage and reputation — even if it is well deserved and a long time in coming. The man has known for two years now he was under intense scrutiny for rumors that he's gay and has sex in public toilets. Not since Bill Clinton have we been treated to a public figure so compulsively unable to control the little head with the big one.

    But you won't find me arguing that somehow Larry Craig's self-destruction is an argument for my own equality. I can think of about 533 more effective arguments we could make that don't require someone else's ruin or suggest we all share some general (im)moral equivalence. Gay Americans are entitled to equal treatment and protection against discrimination whether or not every member of Congress who voted against gay rights has an utterly umblemished sexual history.

    If Larry Craig really does troll public toilets for sex, it doesn't prove his "family values" rhetoric is claptrap anymore than Bill Clinton's infidelity proved his support for gay rights was the product of his promiscuity. The case for gay rights is compelling enough on its own merits. Let's not jump in the mud and join in the muckraking.



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    1. More Thoughts on Larry Craig from A Stitch in Haste on Aug 28, 2007 12:27:48 PM

      Two more hasty stitches on the Larry Craig incident: 1. I wondered how long it would take for some people, most likely my fellow libertarians, to ask whether Crai... [Read More]


    1. KipEsquire on Aug 28, 2007 8:38:49 AM:

      Even as a libertarian, I draw the line at touching the officer's foot -- which requires quite some effort.

      If that's not public lwedness, then nothing is.

    1. Alan down in Florida on Aug 28, 2007 12:39:33 PM:

      Sen. Craig's biggest crime beyond hypocrisy is stupidity. Here is a public official who was "outed" (without verifiable proof) months ago for the exact same type of behavior in a PUBLIC toilet [which trumps all of Chris' blather about legality of consensual behavior]. He knew, or certainly should have known, that in the wake of the previous "outing" that there were people keeping him under scrutiny to obtain the verifiable information. And yet he still pursued the same behavior - STUPID!!!! What will we find out next? That he was sexually abused, that he's a substance abuser, that he was afraid of an electrical storm and wanted to hold onto a lightning rod?

      I rejoice in Sen. Craig's self-created downfall with good reason. It is karmic payback for all the gay and lesbian lives destroyed by stupid, hypocritical bigot who use homophobia to prove their better and holier than thou mentality.

    1. jimbo on Aug 28, 2007 2:23:57 PM:

      C'mon Chris - you're going way out on a limb saying that these creepy individual actions are innocent, when it's clear the combination of these gestures lead to the hope of soliciting sex.

      When it comes to public cruising, these areas are multiple-use, public areas, and if any one type use is upsetting and prevents the act that the facility was designed for (i.e. pooping), then it should be prosecuted.

      Craig was clearly cruising. Other people in other stalls are trying to relieve themselves. If I had to let the train out of the station after a long flight I would be irritated that some troll was nubbing my feet.

      Tearoom cruising is tiresome, outdated behavior for closeted people. I for one am a champion of bathrooms for what they were made for: pooping.

    1. Sean on Aug 28, 2007 3:58:38 PM:

      It's incredible that gay people believe the stories police tell. The police have a long record of anti-gay attitudes. On top of what Chris said, a reporter has been staking out the bathrooms at the airport Craig frequents for months in an effort to catch him. I wouldn't doubt for a second that that reporter told the police and they made an effort to catch him.

      Chris is right about this. "The Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Lawrence vs. Texas decision that sex between consenting adults is constitutionally protected. Many states have correctly concluded that, as a result, solicitation of sodomy or other forms of sex, even when the conversation takes place in public, is also constitutionally protected. If conduct is constitutionally protected, then we have a First Amendment right to discuss it."

      I don't condone public sex by anyone. However there is clear discrimination on who is caught, arrested, and prosecuted. Gay people are usually the only ones to get caught, arrested, and prosecuted. Most straight couples get away with having sex in public not only because police ignore it but also because society does. Recently an opposite-sex couple in Fort Lauderdale had sex in public while onlookers snapped pictures. The mayor who has campaigned against gay people has been silent when it comes to incidents like this.

    1. Jeremayakovka on Aug 28, 2007 5:01:53 PM:

      Well said.

    1. Kevin on Aug 28, 2007 6:56:36 PM:

      I think you're raising very interesting points for debate, and we often forget the legal issues here when we pounce on the moral ones (i.e. Craig's hypocrisy). Your lawyerly side comes way out here, but gay lawyers are also quite passionate about these points for good reason. Despite all that, tho, I think the man is so obviously guilty. Those are indeed the classic tearoom come-on signals, and his bizarre 1982 denials to ABC News of non-existent accusations were a bit damning. I am the last one who would want to give Mike Rogers and his ilk any reason to celebrate their blackhearted efforts. But Craig hanged himself royally, and seems no different from the many many openly gay guys you and I know well who deal with their residual shame in very self-destructive ways.

    1. anon on Aug 28, 2007 7:18:29 PM:

      I usually disagree with Chris, but I agree here. I also think it's a sad day when LGBT folks "rejoice" in the downfall of a man who was caught in is own self-destructive internalized homophobia. What is there to rejoice about? The fact that hatred of queer people leads people like Senator Craig to desperately and pathetically try to hide his true self? No, that's nothing to celebrate in my book, particularly when so many LGBT people -- out or not -- have been destroyed by internalized homophobia in the form of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.
      Are Senator Craig's positions on LGBT issues reprehensible? Absolutely. But as a human being, i would think LGBT folks would be the first to compassionately understand his struggle. That's why Matt Foreman's typically venomous statement on this incident is so maddening to me. (See http://thetaskforce.org). It's so easy for Mr. Foreman to spit venom while sitting in NYC and enjoying the privileges gay-friendly NYC gives to a white gay man. The same cannot be said for many folks in Idaho who, like Larry Craig, live with daily self-hatred. Have some compassion, folks.

    1. Double T on Aug 28, 2007 7:42:57 PM:

      anon....while sitting in NYC and enjoying the privileges gay-friendly NYC....
      NYC is just a place. Like Idaho. The reason it's "friendly" is because people accepted the realities of life.
      While people living elsewhere have benefited from hate and fear.
      I suppose you would demand that the Jews show just compassion for the Gas Chamber Operators, they probably hated themselves and it was just a job.....
      Grow a set. Enough is enough.
      I ask only that this individual be judged in the same manner which they have judged others.

    1. Brian Miller on Aug 28, 2007 8:49:54 PM:

      "If Larry Craig really does troll public toilets for sex, it doesn't prove his "family values" rhetoric is claptrap anymore than Bill Clinton's infidelity proved his support for gay rights was the product of his promiscuity."

      Bill Clinton didn't (and doesn't) support gay rights. He was the president who gave us DOMA and DADT, remember?

      If anything, both Clinton and Craig seem to show that sanctimonious prigs who talk about "morality" and who support government power as a tool to punish "immoral gay people" are, themselves, most likely to be involved in so-called "immoral behavior."

      As someone who neither had sex in public places nor cheats on his partner, I have pity for neither of them -- just contempt for their hypocrisy.

    1. Chris on Aug 29, 2007 11:15:42 AM:

      may I add some sarcastic TV-spots from Britain about exactly this kind of behaviour of "some" politicians:


      I can´t resist the thought that reading Larry Craigs Statement in between the lines is exactly whats outspoken in these spots!

    1. Double-T on Aug 29, 2007 12:26:45 PM:

      Smoking Gun rocks!

      Judging by the picture, the Senator likes 'em young.


    1. Kevin on Aug 29, 2007 2:50:32 PM:

      Oh jeez here we go with the Jews and the gas chambers again. Can we PLEASE put that ridiculous nonsense aside and pretend we have IQs over 70?

    1. Wes on Aug 29, 2007 3:22:52 PM:

      I think it is reprehensible that anyone would try and use the Lawrence case to defend cruising in public restrooms. To me, Lawrence is more about all of our freedoms to engage in PRIVATE consensual sex--not drop our drawers and start jerking in public with strangers. Straight, bi, gay or whatever--public restrooms and areas should be reserved for their intended use.

      I really draw no pleasure in Craig's problem(s). But my lack of pleasure is frankly related to the fact that this reflects poorly on all homosexuals because our freedoms are basically a public relations matter. This should not be the case, but this is reality.And when your average Joe Straightmo thinks 'gay' this morning, he is thinking of some guy cruising a public toilet instead of the fact that my monogamous partner of 25 years and I are denied around 1100 benefits that would be otherwise granted to us if we were of the opposite sex.

      So which is the most important to me?....and which do I not give a rat's behind about...?

    1. Double-T on Aug 29, 2007 3:39:53 PM:

      Kevin, what's a matter? Did I get some dirt on your little picture of Hitler, hangning next to your little picture of Reagan?

      Kev, do you know what Hitler used first to build his camps of death? Was it the land? Lumber? Bricks?
      No, it was words. Hateful Words.

      Larry's dug his share of graves over the years. Maybe it was voting against funding for Aids or a speech driving a 17 year old to suicide.

      He dug his own, so let him lay in it.

      I'll work on raising my IQ above 70. Thanks for the advice

    1. Sean on Aug 29, 2007 5:50:48 PM:

      Double-T shut the f*ck up. I'm really glad you can enjoy this situation because of gay people like you that give straight people a pass to gay bash after stories like this. Everyone's been having a laugh at the gay angle of this story. This isn't funny. It would not have happened if society was not so prejudice against gay people. This incident was after a long time in the closet. Do straight people have closets because of society's prejude against straight people? NO!

      Last night CNN did a story that said bathrooms and parks were a popular destination for gay men to have sex. OMG!!!

    1. DaveNPA on Aug 29, 2007 7:11:17 PM:

      This story has given me "pause" too. I mean is every man on man public sexual encounter now going to be attributed to the "Gay" lifestyle? There are plenty of "Gays" who don't cruise public places for sex and there are plenty of "Straights" or "Straight IDentified" guys who do. Does cruising a public bathroom of the same sex make you gay? It's just another "Rotten, Filthy, Disgusting act" that straight people can pin on gay people. I enjoy seeing a hypocrit go down as much as the next guy. But in this case the emphasis should be on him not being so full of the family values that he preaches.

    1. Kevin on Aug 29, 2007 7:18:00 PM:

      Double-T, what did the doctor tell you about going off your meds? Double-Teeeeee, are you listening, hun?

    1. Andoni on Aug 30, 2007 12:11:10 PM:

      Here’s where I’m starting to get angry.

      Let’s see, a Republican Senator DOESN’T HAVE SEX, but propositions for sex with a man and the Republicans insist that he resign. However, another Republican Senator (David Vitter of LA) actually DOES HAVE SEX (but with a woman - a prostitute) outside of his marriage and the Republicans don’t rise to the level of indignation to insist on his resignation.

      So propositioning but not actually having is worse than actually having sex if the proposition was same sex and the actual fucking was opposite sex.

      The angle we should be focusing on here, is not whether Craig got his due, but is he being crucified because of the smell of gayness and the other guy is getting a pass because his sin hetero.

      I would feel much better about this if they asked Vitter to resign too.

      Doesn’t anyone else see this unequal treatment, unequal thinking?

    1. Bil on Aug 30, 2007 2:10:19 PM:

      This guy is a creep. He deserves what he got. I don't really like the idea of cops posing and baiting to catch people this way, but how else do you get them. There is no reason for tolerating pervs in a public place. There are lots of other ways to meet willing partners for anything. If he (Craig)or anyone like him, did it to me (and I am gay) I would be very upset about it.

    1. Double T on Aug 30, 2007 2:20:11 PM:

      Hey Sean, why don't you shut the F#ck Up.
      I'm not laughing. I'm not the one trying to have sex in a public bathroom. I'm not the one claiming to be one thing and doing another. Answer me this. Why is all your rage being directed at me? Exactly what did I do? Why don't direct some of your rage at GOP or at Craig? Can't do it, can you? You need their approval.

      This is part of self-loathing. What he did was wrong.

    1. Sean on Aug 30, 2007 3:28:21 PM:

      Adoni I completely agree. Don't forget that Vitter solicited at least SIX female prostitutes and kept it a secret for years.

      Double T, I don't reserve all my rage for you. Didn't you read both of my posts? This is about society. He would NOT have resorted to this if it wasn't for prejudice. I am mad at you and gay people like you for giving the media a pass to gay bash. ABC NEWS ran a story yesterday title" How Gay Men Use Public Restrooms". This story has been totally blown out of proportion. I went to google and it now has more articles than the Michael Vick case and it's only four days old while the vick case is several weeks old. Chris Matthews called him a "sexual deviant", Norm Colemn said what he did was "disgusting" for tapping his foot and slidding his hand under the stall. They were pretty kind to David "six female prostitutes" Vitter saying that situation was a private matter.

    1. Double T on Aug 30, 2007 5:17:11 PM:

      (Sorry I missed the other post) 1)I'm not giving them a pass to gay bash. Am I giving them a pass to bash down the closet door, maybe. 2)What are my other options, defend his behavior?? 3)Vitter is doing a better job of handling the spin.

      Craig is being attacked, because he is allowing himself to be attacked. Why not fight back?

    1. Citizen Crain on Aug 31, 2007 3:46:28 AM:

      Better late than never, I'll weigh in in response to a few of these comments:

      Kip: Touching feet with the guy in the stall is so clearly obscend that "if that's not public lewdness, you don't know what is"? Talk about an imagination deficit!

      Jimbo: Couldn't agree more that tearoom cruising is annoying and tired, but since when is annoying and tired a crime? Are we really prosecuting offensiveness now?

      Wes: I agree with you about the negative (and false) PR that emerges from this scandal, but I think you should reconsider your view about Lawrence. Some people do cruise public places so that they can meet and go somewhere private to have sex. In that instance, Lawrence and the First Amendment should protect them from police harassment and arrest, as much as you and I and Jimbo are annoyed by their conduct.

    1. Kevin on Aug 31, 2007 8:26:34 AM:


      Very interesting point. The New York Times editorial page agrees with you (see today's edition). I wonder if the gay people who are jumping up and down with such glee and pouring all their comment-section venom onto Larry Craig all over the 'nets might stop to think about whether they're contributing to the tenor of the double standard. Where were all these viperous queens when all the other, non-gay scandals popped up? Why aren't more people taking a reasoned approach to the whole issue of hypocrisy and corruption in government and holding everyone equally accountable? I think part of it is that a lot of people are kind of deranged with anger and paranoia on both sides of the political spectrum, and politics has just become a giant arena to work out stuff you should take to the therapist instead. Celebrating revenge and schadenfreude is more than just unseemly, it's poisonous.

    1. Sean on Aug 31, 2007 11:32:34 AM:

      No, you don't have to defend his behavior.

      Craig is not going to fight back because he's embarrassed. Didn't you hear the police interrogation? He said he wasn't going to fight back from the get-go.

      Where was the outrage from gay people with Vitter? Here he is a person that espouses "family values" yet had sex with scores of prostitutes behind his wife's back. He should have been forced to resign. That was a senate seat we could have changed to gay-positive. Larry Craig's seat would have been anti-gay with or without him.

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