The latest scandal

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 Senator Craig 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 SN&R, 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.

Our concern is less what happened to Craig than what all citizens are subjected to in these situations. A cop reportedly first investigated the behavior of men in the restroom because police had received complaints of men engaging in lewd acts there, interfering with people using 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.”

Oh really. Most people’s experience when they need to use the stall at the airport is that they put their 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?

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. Compared to all that, the threat of a senatorial hand job in a public toilet hardly seems worth a scandal.