Thursday, August 30, 2007
"IAM NOT GAY. I have never been gay," said conservative Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig on Tuesday as he tried to explain the stunning revelation of his June arrest on charges of soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a men's room at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. But, as he is quickly realizing, Mr. Craig finds himself in a world of trouble not because he may or may not be gay. His 27-year congressional career hangs in the balance because he was arrested, pleaded guilty, paid a fine, agreed to a year of probation and didn't tell anyone -- not his family, lawyer, Senate colleagues or his constituents.
Rumors about Mr. Craig's sexual orientation have swirled around him since 1982. That's when he publicly denied being involved in a congressional page sex scandal and declared that he was heterosexual. It was a curious move, since his name had not been a part of the story. He married two years later. Mr. Craig's alleged fondness for the restrooms at Union Station in the District was detailed in blog postings last October by local activist Mike Rogers, who published the account of a man who claimed to have had sex with Mr. Craig there. That got the Idaho Statesman newspaper interested. The extensive story compiled by the senator's hometown paper didn't run until word of Mr. Craig's Minneapolis arrest became public.
Mr. Craig nevertheless claimed that he pleaded guilty as an "overreaction" to that newspaper's investigation and that he hopes to reverse his guilty plea. But that "overreaction" is having major repercussions. Mr. Craig has stepped down as the Idaho chairman of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. The Senate Republican leadership called for an ethics investigation into Mr. Craig's behavior and then stripped him of his committee assignments. Members of his own party -- Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.) -- have called on him to resign. "Sen. Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator," Mr. Coleman said. No argument there.
Idaho voters could have a say in whether Mr. Craig continues in office, since his term is up next year. He has not yet announced whether he will run for reelection. But some in the Republican Party can't seem to push him under a bus fast enough. Maybe that's because the affair is another nightmare of hypocrisy come true: Once again, the party that embraces a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and blocks laws that would stop discrimination against homosexuals finds itself with a loyal foot soldier who votes one way and allegedly acts another. Mr. Craig voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. He voted for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2004. Last year, he supported an Idaho constitutional amendment that prohibits gay marriage and civil unions. Mr. Craig is yet another willing accomplice in the machinery of intolerance that has stunted the lives of many gay men and lesbians. Maybe even his own.