Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thank you, Senator Craig

Just when I thought all the news this week was going to be dour political crap, here comes yet another not-so-shockingly pervy Republican to dominate the headlines (but, really, he's not gay. I honestly don't care if he is or not.)

To be clear: I feel no sympathy for this guy's plight at all. People who make a career out of trying to control other people's lives behind closed doors generally don't get my sympathy. But, really, what exactly did he do that was illegal? (h/t to Volkh Conspiracy)
It's hard to work up much sympathy for Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). He had a perfect legislative score from traditional-values groups, a zero rating from gay civil-rights groups, supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, and refused even to commit to non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring for his own Senate staff. But what exactly was criminal about his conduct in that Minneapolis airport bathroom?

From the arrest report, here's what Craig allegedly did: (1) put a duffel bag at the front of his stall; (2) peered through a crack into an adjoining stall; (3) tapped his foot; (4) moved his shoe over until it touched an officer's; and (4) ran his fingers along the underside of the stall divider. That's it.

Given the long history of police fabrication of evidence and entrapment of gay men in these sting operations, there should be no presumption that the officer's version of events is correct. But assuming for the sake of argument that Craig did everything the officer alleged, how was it the basis for a criminal charge that could get him a $1,000 fine and/or ten days in jail?
I don't get it--what exactly was the crime here? Sure it was lacking in panache (I think that word fits here), but how exactly is that a crime? If he'd run something other than his fingers along the stall divider, sure, but give me a break. The officer should have said thanks but no thanks and marveled at how effective his shoes must be at getting dudes' attention. No harm done.

Honestly, my libertarian concerns here even seem to trump my Schadenfreude over the poor Senator.

Anyway, thanks for taking my mind off things for a bit.

UPDATE - Lawyers, Guns & Money has some good commentary & links.

UPDATE II - From Whiskey Fire, sweet, sweet hypocrisy. And insanity.


tODD said...

Just wondering here -- does the fact that he pleaded guilty have any effect on your reaction?

cryptic_philosopher said...

First off, welcome back, todd! We've missed you.

Second, since my reaction was a sort of compound snarkiness, I'm not 100% sure I understand the question. The short answer is "not really": as I said, I don't think a crime was committed, and I really don't care which gender gets him going.

To be clear, in an ideal world, I don't think it should matter what someone does behind closed doors, as long as there is informed consent all around. It is the cognitive dissonance of politicians who decry the immorality of certain acts or states of mind whilst paracticing what they decry that provokes my reaction. Since this is not an ideal world, my point is to suggest that maybe issues of morality like this should be kept out of the political sphere (so everyone can save face.)

This post by Glenn Greenwald did change my reaction somewhat: he discusses how the same folks who wanted people to stay out of Craig's business last year now want him to resign. To be clear, while it may have been lacking in class, I don't think what the guy did was technically illegal, and I don't think liking the dudes in and of itself should be a reason for him to resign.

Not being able to keep it in his pants in public? That would be different.

Its early and I'm still owkring on my coffee. I hope this makes sense when I look at it later.

cryptic_philosopher said...

Yeah, just to be clear:

Being the sort of person who is sexually attracted to dudes: don't care.

Actually having sex with dudes in public restrooms: unbecoming of a U.S. Senator.

What this guy did in Minneapolis: dumb but not illegal.

I'm gonna go back to talking about redheads now :p

tODD said...

"Welcome back"? Where was I to have gone? I've been back from Australia for over a month. I'm just quiet sometimes.

As I understand it, the issue here is not his sexual orientation (though that certainly has made it more media-worthy), nor what the senator does in private locations.

I was (mistakenly) under the impression that he'd actually been arrested for solicitation or lewd behavior, but I see it was a more nebulous charge. Still, the impression I (and the police officer) got was that the senator would be fulfilling his advances in same public restroom, which is illegal.

Now, you might say that it's possible that the policeman made it all up, or was mistaken, or that there's no law against hitting on someone in a public restroom. All true, and good arguments in a court. But, going back to my first comment, the senator pleaded guilty. He admitted that he'd done something wrong.

Now, you're infinitely more lawyerly than me, so maybe my ignorance is showing. But given that the senator understood the charge and was competent to plead guilty, that pretty much seals the deal for me. Sure (and this seems to be his story), perhaps he took a political/legal gamble and hoped that a quiet guilty plea would be better for his reputation than a public proceeding in which he defended his innocence. But his gamble didn't work, and now he's on record as pleading guilty.

I've had no coffee this morning, so who can say?

cryptic_philosopher said...

Just hadn't heard from you in a while, is all.

The more I read about this Craig thing, the more I'm convinced that (a) he really did do what he is accused of, and (b) all the various cries for his head on a platter are because he's gay.

I don't doubt anymore (at least reasonably) that he did the actions alleged in the charges against him. I'm just still not convinced that, in and of itself, that act should constitute a crime. Yes, perhaps it generally means that he would be the type of person to seek out sex in public restrooms, but that is not illegal in and of itself. Having sex in a public restroom is illegal. Defining the crime downward to catch people who might do the actual act makes me uncomfortable (yes, it is a sort of slippery slope argument.) To give an example, conspiracy-based crimes require an overt act in furtherance of a criminal scheme--it is not enough to just plan something. He may have pled guilty for political expendience, but who really knows?

As for conclusion (b), I am comparing the disparate reactions to Senator Craig's situation and Senator Vitter's. They both broke the Seventh Commandment, but only one did it with dudes.

tODD said...

As to your last statement ("As for conclusion (b) ..."), I agree that the salaciousness of the homosexual angle is playing this up.

But it's also interesting to note that the Republicans calling for Craig's resignation (and not Vitter's), who are greatly contributing to the brouhaha, are probably doing so for another reason: that Idaho has a Republican governor, and thus Craig's resignation would be beneficial to the party now and in 2008. Vitter, not so much.

cryptic_philosopher said...

Bullseye. Louisiana has a Democratic governor. I shall say no more.

mikey said...

Something you might enjoy - the 2008 Repub convention is being held at - you guessed it - Minn/St. Paul. I wonder how much action the bathrooms at the airport will get then...?