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    September 10, 2007

    Case closed on Craig?

    Posted by: Chris

    Larrycraigarrestphotos1 That was the subject line of the email from long-time journalist Rex Wockner, giving his list serv a heads up about a blog post that does, indeed, close the books on the part of the Larry Craig scandal about which none of us had any doubts: The Idaho senator was in the airport restroom to solicit sex.

    The blogger, from Idaho, makes two very keen observations about the Craig arrest that have escaped pretty much everyone -- certainly me, anyway.  Bryan Fischer, who writes for the Sun Valley Online, pointed out these nuggets:

    Most observers have overlooked one of the senator’s first statements to the arresting officer, “You solicited me.” That is an admission on the senator’s part that some kind of exchange of signals occurred between him and the officer. Further, if he was not familiar with the protocol used to arrange sexual liaisons, how did he know he was being solicited in the first place? Most of us had no idea of the process homosexuals use to arrange restroom trysts until we read about them in articles about the senator’s arrest. …

    The senator by his own admission had frequently been in that particular restroom, a restroom which is advertised on gay websites as a prime location for anonymous encounters, and is so far out of the senator’s way that he actually had to leave security to get to it, then pass through security checkpoints again to get to his next gate. It beggars belief that, in an airport with dozens of public facilities, he just happened to find himself in the one restroom in the entire airport noted for anonymous sexual encounters.

    I've seen some web chatter since Fischer's post that takes issue with the second point, with some folks claiming the security perimeter at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport had been extended recently to include the restroom, and others saying it hasn't.

    For me, the first point is the more convincing, at least when it comes to Craig's intent. By claiming the officer solicited him, Craig not only made clear that he was fluent in the lost language of the tea rooms, but he had peered, toe-tapped and hand-waved in response to the undercover cop's invitation.

    But that same admission reminds the civil libertarian in me why the whole Craig bust stinks. The undercover cop acknowledged that he pumped his foot up and down in response to Craig's toe-tapping. No doubt he met Craig's peering gaze through the crack of the restroom stall as well. There's no indication that Craig would have ratcheted things up to foot-tapping and hand-waving -- much less overt sexual conduct -- unless the cop had responded favorably.

    But Craig was busted for engaging in conduct that was unwanted, which is the opposite of invited. He was arrested for "disorderly conduct," meaning "offensive … conduct … tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others," and "invasion of privacy," an offense only adopted last year in response to surreptitious videotaping of restrooms. Yet here, Craig's apparent interest in the undercover cop was entirely unsurreptitious.

    The offense Craig pled guilty to, "disorderly conduct" reads like political correctness run amok. Exactly how does a court decide whether conduct tends "reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others"? Holding my boyfriend's hand would probably fit that definition in Idaho. And Craig's toe-tapping and hand-waving probably wouldn't raise an eyebrow in many major cities.

    Regardless of how vaguely the statute is written, it's clear Craig's conduct was in response to behavior from the undercover cop that would "reasonably" suggest Craig was not "arousing alarm, anger or resentment."

    It's too bad for Craig that he pled guilty, though I don't feel a great deal of sympathy for him personally. But I do hope the public debate that's emerging now that he's fighting his guilty plea might discourage further unjustified arrests.



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    1. Double T on Sep 12, 2007 1:17:34 AM:

      Yes, TeaRoom-Gate is over. On to the next scandal, which appears in Pam's House Blend.

      * Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry has ties to Gonzalez and Drake, the latter was determined to be the shooter in the murder-suicide
      * Drake was also allegedly tied to a gay escort service in Virginia; the prostitution angle

      Try reading this. It's so crazy Hollywood wouldn't touch it.

    1. Double T on Sep 13, 2007 3:48:07 AM:

      I have other thoughts on the subject, but this does it justice.


      That is one of the great points that Deb Price makes in a column about the Larry Craig controversy.

      The political closet is dead. Debating the ethics or value of “outing” is now a waste of breath. It’s a weapon that’s here to stay. And in the Internet era — with the pressures of 24/7 news coverage and bloggers often setting the pace — if politicians are gay, they’re foolish not to come out before they get shoved out.


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