To which Craig added, "Jiminy God!"
Before moving on to the next question, Craig turned to his wife and said, "Sorry, Hon."
That is from today’s Idaho Statesman, describing a scene in May when the paper played for Larry Craig and his wife a tape of an interview with a 40-year-old man who claimed to have had sex with Craig in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.
The paper actually spent five months investigating “rumors about Craig dating to his college days,” and wrapped up its inquiry in May, without reporting anything. Without this week’s Minnesota restroom revelations, the Statesman’s story might never have run.
And when I pictured Suzanne Craig listening to that tape, I briefly wondered if the story ever should have run, and if the paper had crossed a line in, essentially, tracking down every person Craig may or may not have had sex with in his life.
But it is fair, of course, mainly because of the scope and severity of Craig’s hypocrisy. He opposes allowing gays to serve in the military, extending civil rights protections to gays in the workplace, or even allowing them to enter into civil unions. Needless to say, he supported an election year effort to amend the Constitution in 2004 to prohibit gay marriage. And beyond his simple floor votes, he’s missed no opportunity to position himself as the voice of “traditional” values, trumpeting endorsements from anti-gay groups that traffic in the ugliest of stereotypes and even basing his presidential endorsement this year – of Mitt Romney – on “family values.”
Larry Craig, who has been dogged by whispers about his sexuality since at least 1982, was asking for it. (And if it was his idea to bring his wife along for his Statesman interview in an effort to shame the paper out of asking embarrassing questions, well, that’s his own fault too.)
But this episode does raise the broader question of when it’s OK to out a public official. Craig’s case is easy, but most are probably more nuanced.
Earlier today, I linked to this site, which is run by a gay activist blogger, Mike Rogers, who began outing gay Republicans – mostly Capitol Hill staffers – a few years ago. His work also snared Ed Schrock, another “family values” Republican who abruptly resigned his House seat when Rogers outed him with audio tape evidence in 2004.
I linked to Rogers’ site with some trepidation, though, because I have misgivings about his work. He began his blog in response to the G.O.P.’s exploitation of gay marriage during the ’04 election, as a means of exposing hypocrisy. Fair enough. But to Rogers, whose politics are liberal across the board (and not just on gay rights issues), the standard for hypocrisy seems to be this: Anyone who is gay and who in any way support anyone affiliated with the Republican Party. That’s a far cry from just focusing on the Ed Schrocks and Larry Craigs of the world.
Is that fair to someone who’s gay but who happens to be sympathetic to, say, a conservative economic message? Or, say, to a gay staffer who is just trying to survive on Capitol Hill, and who happens to work for a boss with an anti-gay voting record? Rogers would like everyone who is gay to stand up and make every single gay rights vote before Congress a line-in-the-sand moment, but isn’t the world more complex than that? And even though the national G.O.P. leadership has done its best to make gays feel unwelcome, isn’t it unfair for Rogers to essentially use blackmail to force gays into the Democratic fold?
I don’t remember the details, but a few years ago the G.O.P. Congress was poised to pass legislation that would have (as best I recall) prohibit gays from receiving White House security clearances. Barney Frank, Massachusetts’ openly gay congressman, reacted angrily and declared that, under the proposed policy he would feel compelled to reveal the names of closeted gay Republican congressmen, so that they wouldn’t receive a security clearance and, thus, endanger national security. Not surprisingly, the G.O.P. dropped its effort.
The point is that Frank, who could probably send quite a few Republicans into the turmoil Larry Craig is now facing, plays that card very sparingly. He doesn’t threaten to out Republicans every time there is a House vote on a gay rights issue. That’s a far more reasonable approach then the one favored by Mike Rogers.
Of course, the news of the last day only guarantees that we’ll be hearing a lot more from Rogers – and soon.