“I am not gay. I never have been gay.” – Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, responding today to charges of lewd conduct in a public men’s bathroom.
In 1996, Senator Larry Craig voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the aim of which was to effectively limit marriage – as recognized by the federal government – to a man and a woman. Therefore, news of the conservative senator’s arrest following disputed conduct in a men’s bathroom at the airport in Minneapolis took on added significance.
The Nation magazine went so far as to say that the incident wouldn’t have mattered, had it not been for Craig’s political record. At the same time, in another opinion piece, the magazine ponders whether politicians’ (The Nation mentions others who have faced similar allegations) ambitions for power trap them into roles that lead to hypocritical behavior.
Of course, in situations like these supporters and critics line up pretty quickly. CQPolitics reported on how Washington D.C. is reacting to the news, with some social conservatives using the “r” word – resignation.
Senator Craig held a press conference denying that he did anything inappropriate. Curiously, he pointed fingers at his state’s paper, the Idaho Statesman. Craig said the paper has been conducting an investigation on him, which he called a “witch hunt.” And the senator said, the stress of that investigation had made him plead guilty to lesser charges following his arrest in order to make the incident go away quickly.
We have seen embattled politicians point at the media before. The question is whether this is a desperate senator’s attempt to deflect blame and attention, or a legitimate grievance by a wronged man.
The Nation opinion article I mentioned first also makes another point: “Idaho conservatives may be willing to reward bigotry, but lying is another matter.”
Once again, it may be candor, as opposed to actions, that matters most to American voters.