The GOP’s Double Standard
August 30th, 2007
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest and subsequent guilty plea for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport public restroom continues to dominate the airwaves and the blogosphere. As the discussions and reactions continue to unfold, I’ve noticed a very significant double standard taking shape.
Now I know that a few in the gay community want to try to paint Sen. Craig as a victim of police entrapment in an operation presumably designed to single out gay men while somehow excluding straight people. But complaining about this being a double standard ignore the obvious: straight people generally don’t use public restrooms. They may use airplanes (mile high club, anyone?), parks, beaches, roadsides, and drive-in theaters, and they sometimes get busted when police receive complaints about it. But straight couples generally don’t use gender-segregated restrooms, for obvious practical reasons.
And while I’m well aware of the history of overly-aggressive police campaigns that have targeted gay people in more private settings or for more innocuous behavior, let’s not forget another key point. This was a public men’s room at a public airport visited by members of the public. There’s nothing private about it.
When I go to a public restroom, the last thing I want is some dirty old man’s blue eyes looking into my stall trying to decide whether I’m tap-worthy. And the second-to-the-last thing I want to encounter in a public restroom is someone who has found someone else tap-worthy. Please people, when you find someone you want to get down and dirty with, do what any other normal self-respecting person would: get a room, for crying out loud!
So I’m all for ensuring that our public restrooms are used for their intended purposes. And I’m grateful that, in my experience at least, this problem appears to be an extremely rare phenomenon. Either that or nobody has ever found me tap-worthy. I’m actually okay with it either way.
No, there’s no double standard there as far as I’m concerned. The double standard we really need to be concerned about is the reaction among others in the GOP to the revelation that Sen. Larry Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct — a misdemeanor.
Yesterday, GOP party leaders reacted to this misdemeanor by stripping Sen. Craig of his committee leadership posts, and Senators John McCain (R-Az) and Norm Coleman (R-Mn) have called for Sen. Craig’s resignation.
Sen. Craig may be a hypocrite, but that doesn’t automatically disqualify him from the Senate. If it did, they’d never have a quorum. And copping to a misdemeanor shouldn’t disqualify anyone either, unless it disqualifies everyone who cops to a misdemeanor. But as it stands now, it doesn’t.
Just last month, Sen. David Vitter (R-La) admitted to using the services of the so-called “D.C. Madam.” And while Vitter fully admitted his guilt publicly, he never had to do it in the justice system. And he probably won’t since the statute of limitations has passed for solicitation — another misdemeanor.
In stark contrast to the fallout for Sen. Craig’s misdemeanor, I don’t remember any GOP calls for Sen. Vitter’s resignation, nor have there been any sanctions by the GOP leadership levied against the man. In fact, when Vitter spoke before his Senate colleagues about the situation, he was greeted with a round of applause. Where were the calls for Vitter’s ethics investigation?
Can anyone honestly look at this situation and not see it as anything but a double standard?
Apparently the Log Cabin Republicans can’t. They stopped just short of calling for Craig’s resignation without a single mention of Vitter. (Update: In an email alert, LCR makes their call for Craig’s resignation explicit) I find that especially egregious. Surprisingly, it’s the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force who has accurately denounced the unequal treatment between Vitter and Craig.
Believe me, the last person in the world I want to defend is a dirty old man found lurking in public restrooms. Larry Craig may be a “nasty, naughty boy,” but if you take a hard honest look at the situation, either Sen. Craig is getting a really raw deal or Sen. Vitter has gotten away scott-free with “conduct unbecoming a senator.”
As long as Vitter remains in the Senate, Craig should be allowed to serve out his term (which expires in 2008), and the decision on future terms should be left to the good people of Idaho. But if the GOP insists on driving Craig out of town on a rail, then they had better hitch Vitter to the same cart.
Update (Aug 30): This post was updated to reflect the fact that the Log Cabin Republicans did not explicitly call for Craig’s resignation.
Update (Aug 31): Log Cabin Republicans clarify their call for Craig’s resignation:
Log Cabin has been providing a strong voice in the midst of the scandal involving Senator Larry Craig (R-ID). His behavior has been inappropriate and illegal. His explanation is not credible. He should take responsibility for his poor judgment and illegal behavior by resigning.
Again, no mention of Vitter.
Update (Sept 1): As BTB contributing author Timothy Kincaid points out, Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans is, well, mentioning Sen. Vitter in media appearances. I’m glad he’s bringing this up, but so far Sammon’s only calling on one Senator to resign and not two. I hope this changes.