An Innocent Game of Footsie?
When I first read about the arrest of Senator Larry Craig in a restroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport earlier this summer, I was stunned. I wondered how a man in his position could have shown as little judgment as he had.
Ten months ago, he was the subject of rumors in the blogosphere, talk radio, cable TV and even a few mainstream newspapers that he had engaged in sexual acts with other men in restrooms at Union Station in Washington, D.C. At the time, I was skeptical of the claims, but also thought that if they were true, the senator, realizing that his restroom activities were not as anonymous as he had assumed, would have ceased seeking them out.
Last October, he escaped the public humiliation he is experiencing today. Indeed, his local paper, the Idaho Statesman had followed up on the allegations against him, but until this Monday, "had declined to run a story about Craig's sex life, because [it] didn't have enough corroborating evidence and because of the senator's steadfast denial." The paper even interviewed the senator. He was thus well aware that people knew about his actions.
Craig had been given a warning, but failed to heed it.
Matt of the Malcontent blog asks, "if you were actually straight yet were chased by a lengthy history of gay rumors, wouldn't you go out of your way in a restroom not to evince the slightest amount of suspicion?"
Given the power of our sexual urges-especially at moments when we are overworked, stressed, lonely or otherwise vulnerable-I do feel some compassion for a man like Senator Craig. Perhaps when he was changing planes in Minneapolis, he assumed that a moment's sexual release would ease whatever tensions he was then experiencing.
But despite whatever he was feeling at that particular moment, "in these cases, "as Macbeth put it when contemplating the murder of Duncan, "we still have judgment here." That the senator did not exercise his judgment, knowing the allegations that had been leveled against him and aware that he held a position of public trust, is why I believe he should resign.
Others, notably Roger Simon, have commented on Senator Craig's hypocrisy, that he would seek out clandestine homosexual liaisons while speaking against gay people serving in the military. (While he said he supports civil unions between same-sex couples, last year he "issued a statement saying he would vote for an amendment to the Idaho Constitution on the November ballot that bans both gay marriage and civil unions.")
The real issue here is not as much hypocrisy as it is absence of judgment. I don't think Craig sees himself as gay. When his desires for same-sex sexual contact pass after each of his liaisons, he may just assume they've gone away and won't come back. All that said, only he knows what he feels, but I would daresay he has experienced a lot of shame and emptiness and likely struggles to overcome his longings for same-sex contact.
Obviously he has not fully integrated whatever feelings he has for men into his life. Maybe when he's not seeking sexual contact with other men, he sees himself as straight.
Nevertheless, whatever any of us assumes about him is all speculation. We don't know what he is going through nor what he was really seeking as he was tapping his foot in that airport restroom.
If indeed (as most assume) he were searching for sex, he never consummated the act. While finding the senator's conduct "reprehensible," Ed Morrissey comments that "No one was harmed, and no crime was committed." The person being signaled by the foot-tapping "could just as well tell the signaller to get lost, just as they could in a bar or nightclub."
But, this is not a bar or night club where individuals go looking to connect (or, perhaps I should say, "hook up") with others. It is a public restroom in a busy airport where people go to relieve themselves and wash up while traveling. And apparently, many travelers had been inconvenienced by the sexual shenanigans going on in that particular men's room.
Under normal circumstances, Senator Craig's private feelings-and how he acts on them-should be his own business. But, these are not normal circumstances.
Some on the left will say that his political views demand that his conduct be made public. In coming days (as is already happening), much ink will be spilled (and pixels generated) on how his conservatism forced him to remain in the closet, leaving such clandestine encounters as his only means to act on his feelings and his desires for same-sex intimacy.
It's unfortunate that a man aware of his own such longings did not, in his public life, show much understanding for gay people.
The real issue here is that a man in a position of public trust chose to act out in private feelings in a public space entirely unsuited for such expression. Not only that, when similar allegations were leveled against him last fall, he had been put on notice that such actions could be made public.
That he continued to do so shows a terrible absence of judgment. And a lack of respect for the public position with which he had been entrusted by the citizens of Idaho. Because Senator Craig abused that trust, I believe he should resign his position without delay and let the governor of the Gem State appoint someone better aware of the responsibilities of that position to replace him.
All that said, I do feel for Senator Craig. His private life has been made public. He will be the subject of ridicule and innuendo.
But, a man who had been in public life so long, who, a quarter-century ago, rushed to deny his involvement in the page scandal, should have known better. His wrongdoing is not nearly as great as that of Shakespeare's Macbeth, but like that Scottish King, the Idaho senator still had judgment.
And each man experienced his downfall because he failed to exercise it when he could.
B. Daniel Blatt, a writer based in Los Angeles, is completing his Ph.D. in Mythological Studies and blogs as GayPatriot West at GayPatriot
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