The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Senator’s hypocrisy the real crime

Andrew Nesi | Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I’ve never been propositioned for gay sex in a men’s room. I don’t think I have, at least. Then again, before last week, I also never knew that tapping your foot in a bathroom stall meant that you wanted sex. Sure enough, though, every major national newspaper detailed that apparently popular men’s room mating ritual late last month.

Early this June, in a Minnesota airport restroom, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. According to the police report, Sen. Craig peeked into the stall of an undercover police officer. Sen. Craig then entered the adjacent stall and “tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer,” to those of an undercover police officer. The officer “recognized this as a signal for those wishing to engage in lewd conduct” and tapped his own foot “several times” in response.

Sen. Craig then moved his foot so that it touched the officer’s foot. He swiped his left hand, which bore his gold wedding ring, under the stall divider. The officer swiped his police badge under the stall. He would later place Sen. Craig under arrest.

At the time, Craig insisted that it was a misunderstanding. In one of its more comical moments, the police report divulges that Sen. Craig claims he “has a wide stance when going to the bathroom.” Despite his denials, Sen. Craig pled guilty to disorderly conduct in early August. He has since tried to retract the plea – he claims he was only trying to “handle this matter…quickly and expeditiously.” Using questionable logic, Craig claims he was effectively forced to plea because The Idaho Statesmen had been conducting an investigation of his sexuality for the previous eight months.

He claims, “Let me be clear: I am not gay. I never have been gay.” Forgive me for questioning his competence as a decision-maker if he believes the best way to prove his heterosexuality is by admitting to making a pass at another man. I don’t believe a word Craig says. He has an interest in maintaining his heterosexuality: Craig has long been one of the Senate’s most reliable conservatives.

In 2004, Sen. Craig was given a 100 percent voter rating by the Christian Coalition. Last year, he supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions in the state of Idaho. He sent a letter to constituents assuring them that “the appropriate definition of a marriage is between a man and a woman.” Craig won’t have the opportunity, though, to continue his fight against gay rights. Last week, he announced that at the end of the month, he will resign -because, of course, he is not gay.

But Sen. Craig should not resign. All things considered, he has done little wrong.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insists that Craig’s resignation is appropriate because he broke the law. But I tend to doubt that’s the reason Craig is resigning. Consider the precedent:

In 2005, Congressman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, was arrested for driving under the influence. He would plead guilty to the misdemeanor. Rep. Brady was re-elected to the House last November.

Since not every crime results in demands for resignation, there was something special about Sen. Craig’s crime. So why is Sen. Craig resigning? It still could be that Sen. McConnell believes that Craig’s crime is “worse” than a DUI – but I tend to doubt that is the case. After all, Rep. Brady’s crime was decidedly dangerous. By taking to the road, he put lives on the line.

Sen. Craig, meanwhile, tapped his foot in a men’s room. The crime is victimless. He sought sex with an anonymous man, but, presumably, would not have gone any farther if the undercover officer had not indicated his interest by tapping back. Sen. Craig has to resign because he hit on an apparently willing partner. If we forced every Senator who flirted with a potential partner to resign, the Senate floors would be nearly empty.

So why does Sen. Craig have to resign? He hit on a man. A willing man. And that is unacceptable. It is especially unacceptable for a 100 percent “pro-family” Republican. As a society, we are still uncomfortable with gay sex. More uncomfortable than we are with a Congressman driving under the influence of alcohol and more uncomfortable – as Sen. Vitter, R-La., recently proved – than we are with a “pro-family” Senator soliciting a prostitute.

Sen. Craig should not resign. And the “crime” he committed should not be illegal. Tapping one’s foot in a bathroom and flirting with a willing potential sex partner are not crimes. Sen. Craig was arrested by laws founded on an outdated discomfort with homosexuality.

It’s too bad Sen. Craig feels the need to be in apparent self-denial about his sexuality. It’s satisfyingly ironic, though, that it is Sen. Craig’s hypocritical politics and professed ideology that perpetuate the social discomfort that lead to his demise.

Sen. Craig, I wish you didn’t have to go.

But good riddance. You won’t be missed.

Andrew Nesi is a junior American Studies major from Fairfield, Connecticut. Last fall, his lung collapsed, possibly as the result of a bad case of mono and an ill-timed breakup. He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.