Craig resigns from U.S. Senate

by Bob Roehr

Analysis

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig resigned Sept. 1, effective at the end of the month. It was just five days after news broke that he had pled guilty to charges of "lewd conduct" in a Minneapolis airport restroom in June.

The Senator had been battered by Republican leadership who sought to break him and rid themselves of the problem as quickly as possible. They had striped him of seniority on Senate committees almost immediately and threatened an ethics investigation and public hearing that could have become salaciously ugly.

"I apologize for what I have caused. I am deeply sorry," Craig said at the Boise news conference announcing his resignation. "I have little control over what people choose to believe, but clearly my name is important to me and my family."

Craig will fight to withdraw his guilty plea to the charges. He has hired Washington attorney Billy Martin, who has represented the high profile cases of White House intern Monica Lewinsky and former NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

"His actions in Minnesota and the way he handled this situation showed a profound lack of judgment. Sen. Craig obviously failed to live up to the principles he espoused as a lawmaker," said Patrick Sammon, president of Log Cabin Republicans. "Sen. Craig had no other choice but to resign." Sammon had called for Craig to resign earlier in the week.

Steve Elmendorf told the Washington Post, "There seems to be a double standard that reflects the GOP's fear and discomfort with all things gay." Elmendorf is openly gay and was a senior advisor to former Democratic Leader Rep. Dick Gephardt.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman deplored the differing ways that Republican leaders handled the hetero- and homo-sexual lapses of its Senators.

"One Republican Senator (Craig) is involved in soliciting (consensual, non-commercial) sex (not a crime) from a man and the Republican leadership calls for a Senate investigation and yanks the rug from underneath him," said Foreman.

"Another Republican Senator (Louisiana's David Vitter) admits to soliciting the services of a female prostitute (illegal) and there's not only no investigation but the senator is greeted with a standing ovation by his Republican peers. What explains the starkly different responses? I'd say rank and homophobic hypocrisy."

Homophobia likely did play a role as did political considerations, but there are significant differences between the Craig and Vitter incidents. While Craig, perhaps foolishly, pled guilty to the "lewd conduct" charge, Vitter was never formally charged with a crime and therefore has no criminal record.

San Francisco activist Michael Petrelis found an unlikely hero in the Craig affair, the National Rifle Association (NRA). "I never thought I would say bravo to the NRA for anything," he wrote on his blog, "But I applaud the NRA for allowing Larry Craig to retain his seat on the group's board."

Opportunity lost

Prior to the resignation, Alexander Robinson, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, had urged that the media and the country embrace the incident as a "valuable teaching moment...to talk candidly and knowledgeably about the fluidity of sexuality and its effects upon gay identity and gay sexual orientation."

"Society must come to terms with the fact that not everyone who has gay sex is necessarily gay...[Sen.] Craig rejects this [gay] identity, because this simply is not who he is. He is a conservative, married man who has very little in common with America's gay identity. In fact he is perfectly valid in stating that he is not a gay man."

.Robinson compared media coverage of the Craig incident and then New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevy coming out, with how the press treated the "down low" phenomena, which it identified as "heterosexual" black men having sex with men on the side. What McGreevy and Craig "both prove is that the down low isn't just a black thing, but instead it is a male thing."

.Did the media take up Robinson's challenge to explore deeper issues of sexuality and identity? Nah, they raced to inform the nation of toe tapping and other restroom stall activities that some men use to solicit sex.

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