Why Sen. Craig’s bathroom tap dance enables an assault on family values

By: Robert E. Meyer

I was once again saddened and disappointed by yet another revelation of a scandal within the ranks of the Republicans. This time it was Idaho Senator Larry Craig who was allegedly caught “with his pants down,” by soliciting sex with a stranger in an airport men’s restroom. Supposedly Craig made some sort of hand gestures underneath a toilet stall partition, and did a tapping sequence with his foot, that unmistakable identified his desire to have a sexual “hook-up” with a man in the adjacent stall. Unfortunately for Craig, the other guy happened to be a cop.

For my part, I am hopeful that Craig resigns as he implied that he would, rather than letting incident grow longer legs. There are some rumors that Craig might fight his original guilty plea based on the loophole of legislative immunity that the Constitution accords representatives as they travel to and from legislative sessions. Craig plead guilty to a minor charge at the time of his arrest, hoping that he could dodge the publicity that would come from fighting the charges. Obviously, that strategy backfired big time.

I don’t see much reason for Craig try and “duke out” this situation, unless he actually expects us to believe that he has never really done this sort of thing before. His denials about his personal proclivities almost make it sound that way.

Many people believe Craig has disgraced himself, and leaders in the Republican Party are primarily concerned about damage control when they insist Craig must resign. They know that the longer the hemorrhage bleeds on, the more likely they are to have a political corpse come election time.

Those on the left side of the country’s political divide are only too happy to point their fingers and gleefully observe what a hypocrite Craig has become. All this acrimony comes because of Craig’s statements and votes on issues of “family values.” Craig has been a staunch defender of family values, including the position that marriage is exclusively an institution between one man and one woman. And there is the rub.

Had Craig been a liberal politician who saw the same-sex marriage issue as an extension of the quest for civil rights, his indiscretion would have drawn far less criticism, and certainly it would not have garnered the same media attention. Of course, taking the flak when you raise the bar to a high standard, while falling short yourself, goes with the political territory.

But, charges of hypocrisy can only go so far in the invalidation of a principle that one asserts. For example, what if on some gloomy night I find you perched on the railing of a bridge, preparing to jump off. You inform me that your life is an irretrievable mess. In spite of your present hopelessness, I talk you out of the deed. Three years pass, and your insurmountable problems are but faint memories. To your horrors, you read in the morning paper that the night before, that I jumped off of the same bridge that I rescued you from years earlier. Are you going to say my own hypocrisy means it was wrong to convince you that your leap into eternity wouldn’t solve nothing?

Likewise, Craig’s advocacy of family values are not made wrong by his own hypocrisy in violating them.

But, the way some left-leaning critics of Craig are philosophizing about this issue is what I find more insidious than anything else about the whole fiasco. The implications are not that we should excoriate politicians for their personal lives, but maybe we should quit talking about “divisive issues” like family values to begin with. The pundits offer a phony “heads up” to the Republican leadership that goes something like this: “If you would quit talking family values, it wouldn’t hurt your party so much when these incidents become public knowledge.”

Remember back to the days when Clinton was on the proverbial hot seat his own sexual indiscretions. How were the more “enlightened” social commentators among us reacting to the outcry? They were reminding us of the attitudes of our more sophisticated counterparts in Europe. People over there simply expected that their politicians would have sexual affairs and risque liaisons, so any revelations of this nature were greeted with a collective yawn. That public expectation allowed political leaders and the general public to focus on issues that were actually important to the national welfare, or so we were told.

Hypocrites and politics can be likened to a hand fitting in a glove, so what is really behind this charade of advice to shun talk about family values, along with other “controversial issues?”

It is easy to flush out the motives beneath the surface. In the 2000 presidential election, it was widely reported that four million evangelical voters sat at home on their hands, unable to give their endorsement to Bush out of uncertainty. These were votes that were cast for the Bush Sr. and Reagan presidencies, so the mission was to reacquire them in 2004. To woo them back, Bush and other Republicans had to appeal to them by at least talking the talk. So under this political theorizing, the “values voters”, largely the Christian right, were considered the useful idiots on the Republican string–the dumb Clydesdales hitched to, and pulling the Republican bandwagon over the top.

By getting the Republicans to drop concern over social issues described as family values, thereby avoiding periodic embarrassments, liberals won’t gain that constituency, but they will get the ethereal four million to remain at home again. That is something like getting them to destroy their village in order to save it.

Furthermore, they perpetuate the image of the Republicans as a bunch of hateful creeps, who would deny martial rights to some Americans, while defiling their declared public standards in their private lives. As the Roman Senator in the movie “Sparticus” quipped, “I believe in all the gods publicly, but none of them privately.”

In the meantime, the important message is not that Republicans ask hypocrites within their ranks to step down, but that they are mean-spirited by holding their own to quaint and archaic standards, leaving them out on an island. And those politicians who are not publicly open about their personal proclivities, to gain constituents, deserve what they get later on when they reveal themselves. In spite of everything, the liberals will continue to paint a picture depicting the Republicans as the party of corruption. In the last year they have had a revolving door of Foley, Vitter and now Craig to peck at.

That strategy may work, but for my part, stupidity is not a family value.

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