Not worth a drop

The issue of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s sexuality has moved off the front pages of newspapers but the arrest that prompted it and the reaction it drew deserves attention. Republican Craig senator was arrested on June 26 for disorderly conduct and interference with privacy. He flew under the radar for several weeks, but when he pleaded guilty, in an apparent attempt to stay out of the news, the story broke into the national headlines.Now, as we sat here in the offices of the World Headquarters of the Reno News & Review, we watched as the media and elected officials found the senator guilty of … stuff. Icky stuff.

The senator, himself, pleaded guilty to the crime of disorderly conduct, which, according to Webster is “a petty offense chiefly against public order and decency that falls short of an indictable misdemeanor.” And hypocritical members of Congress forced Craig’s resignation. Sen. John McCain told CNN, “My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn’t serve. That’s not a moral stand. That’s not a holier-than-thou. It’s just a factual situation. I think he should resign.”

Holy cow. What would McCain have said if he were being holier than thou? This is a misdemeanor crime—equal to a parking ticket. And it’s a hell of a lot more moral than voting to support the torture of people who haven’t even been accused of crimes, let alone had an opportunity to go to trial. And we, of course, are curious about all the time McCain spent dry-humping George W. Bush’s leg over the war on Iraq.

Our concern is less what happened to Craig than what all citizens are subjected to in these situations. So, what exactly was this evidence against Craig? Well, according to the police report, a cop first investigated the behavior of men in the restroom because he observed that “people were in the restroom for their intended purposes.” Isn’t watching people go potty in itself the very definition of interference with privacy? Isn’t the officer’s statement a sworn document and finally, isn’t evidence illegally gathered inadmissible in court?

Then came what Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota called “behavior unbecoming a senator.” According to the officer’s report, “Craig entered the stall and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door. My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall.”

Our experience has been when we need to use the stall at the airport, we put our bag at the front of the stall because there’s nowhere else to put it. More than that, if two men are hiding a consensual act, don’t the police have some, say, violent crimes to investigate?

But no, the little scamp is accused of and admitted to having swiped his hand along the bottom of the stall and having touched the officer’s foot with his own.

Note that the officer did not let the encounter reach a point where a location was mentioned—how do we know that Craig would not have said, “Let’s go to the airport hotel"? Is merely hooking up illegal in Minnesota?

We live in truly obscene times, folks, when we bring our young people home in body bags, illegal domestic spying is made “legal,” and people are tortured in the name of goodness and righteousness. The threat of a senatorial handjob in a public toilet hardly seems worth a squirt of ink—let alone the barrels that have been wasted on it.