Thursday, August 30, 2007

Okay, now I feel bad for Larry Craig

CNN has posted the transcript of the police interview with Sen. Craig following his arrest (link here). Craig tries valiantly to portray it all as an innocent misunderstanding. He's "a wide guy" so when he sat on the toilet seat his foot bumped the foot of the undercover cop in the next stall. His hand may have come under the stall when he reached to pick up a piece of toilet paper that fell. See?

Meanwhile, the cop isn't buying it because, well, he was there, and what he saw was not ambiguous. So much so that he accuses Craig of lying: "I'm just disappointed in you sir. . . . I mean, people vote for you."

Where to begin? Well, for one thing, Larry Craig represents Idaho, not the 4th District of Massachusetts, and so news that Craig has gay sex would make people STOP voting for him, so of course he's going to lie to you, Offiicer Karsnia. Unless, that is, Craig thought that the story would never get out. And while Karsnia assured Craig that " I don't call media, I don't do any of that type of crap," obviously somebody told the media something eventually, so Craig was not mistaken to be concerned.

Karsnia suggests that whatever embarrassment Craig feels for the solicitation, the real issue is the lying. But here, as with Bill Clinton, I'm inclined to disagree. The sex lives of Presidents and Senators---so long as they involve consenting adults---really should be private, and when their privacy is invaded, it's understandable even if not exactly noble for them to lie about it.

Now in Craig's case we have the added complication that the sexual act he was likely attempting to accomplish wasn't exactly private, in that it would have occurred in a public restroom. (Caveat: Maybe not? As one comment on my post yesterday noted, we only know that the solicitation occurred in a public restroom. Perhaps the tryst would have been scheduled in a hotel room. If so, it's hard to see what the crime is, because states can't make it a crime for adults to agree in a public place to have sex in a private place.) But even if that's not entirely a victimless crime, the only victims are the other users of the restroom, and their injuries are not even clear.

No doubt this story has legs because Craig, like some other high-ranking government officials before him, may be a closeted gay man who passes for straight by, among other things, pursuing anti-gay policies (e.g., voting for the Defense of Marriage Act). Does that make him a hypocrite? Sure. But he should be criticized for supporting the anti-gay policies, not for being gay (or bi or on the down-low or whatever). I understand the argument that it's appropriate to out people like Craig to expose their hypocrisy. I just think that the strategy is unfair and potentially counter-productive, as it takes as given that embarrassment is an appropriate reaction of people like Craig to being suspected of being gay.


Sobek said...

How exactly is it hypocritical for a gay man (closeted or not) to vote for DOMA?

KipEsquire said...

"The sex lives of Presidents and Senators---so long as they involve consenting adults---really should be private..."

The Oval Office is not private, and Monica Lewinsky was an intern and therefore not necessarily capable of "consent."

The airport restroom was not private, and the sergeant was not consenting.

Climatology said...

As for the precise law here, Craig was charged under MSS 609.72, subd. 1(3) & 609.746 subd 1(c).

under the first:
"subd. 1: Whoever does any of the following in a public or private
place, . . . knowing, or having reasonable grounds to know that it
will, or will tend to, alarm, anger or disturb others or provoke an
assault or breach of the peace, is guilty of disorderly conduct, which
is a misdemeanor:
. . . (3) Engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others."

there is at least arguably a mens rea problem here, if the preliminary foot-dance, which presumably could not alarm, anger, or distub anyone, is the means of determining whether the other person welcomes more attention. once you've established that the other party is interested, you neither know, nor should reasonably expect, that they'll be disturbed by what follows.

under the second:

"(c) A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor who: . . (1)
surreptitiously gazes, stares, or peeps in the window or other
aperture of a sleeping room in a hotel, as defined in section 327.70,
subdivision 3, a tanning booth, or other place where a reasonable
person would have an expectation of privacy and has exposed or is
likely to expose their intimate parts, as defined in section 609.341, subdivision 5, or the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts; and (2) does so with intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of the occupant."

now this one seems more reasonable to me. and the cop did allege that
Craig stared at him through the crack in the door. Craig's defense
was that he was looking at the stall next door. Dubitante. . . .

But overall, there are some real double standards here:

and obvious double standards among repubs re Vitter and Craig.

Unknown said...

On the question of the public bathroom stall and its ambiguous status as a potentially private place, david Sklansky has a terrific article on the subject, which you can find here:

Unknown said...

Sorry, it did not post properly, so you will have to cut & paste in 2 steps:

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