Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hypocrisy claims another victim

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) says that he now regrets pleading guilty to a disorderly-conduct charge stemming from his arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in June. I'm sure he does, now that the story has made the national news. The arrest was made by an undercover police officer, who alleged that the Senator propositioned him for sex in a men's room at the airport.

This is not the first such incident for Craig; allegations of homosexuality have dogged him for many years. (The Senator, who is married and has children, has consistently denied all of such charges, and in May told the Idaho Statesman that has never engaged in a homosexual act. However, in 1982, he had to deny that he had sexual relations with underage Capitol pages.)

News of the arrest and plea led Craig to sever his ties to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign; he had been the co-liaison (whatever that means) from the campaign to the Senate. Craig is only the latest in a line of highly-placed Republican whose personal peccadilloes have been revealed this year. Rudy Giuliani's South Carolina chairman had to leave the campaign to defend himself against drug-trafficking charges, the co-chair of John McCain's Florida campaign was charged with soliciting homosexual sex from an undercover police officer, and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has admitted that his name appeared in the little black book of a Washington D.C. madam.

My purpose here is not to gloat or poke fun at the problems Republicans are having. (It is hard not to point out, however, that Sen. Craig's connection to the Romney campaign may be poetic justice for the Mitt-man's holier-than-thou attitude toward Giuliani and McCain.) What is more significant is the hypocrisy that has led to so many of these scandals. Well, not the drug-trafficking charge, but the others.

The intolerant attitude toward sex exhibited by most--not all--of those who style themselves conservative has caused untold (in both senses of the word) misery among so many who espouse the same political cause and, through the enactment of draconian laws, among millions who do not. If the charges about Larry Craig are true, think of the agony that he must have experienced over the decades as he tried to reconcile his feelings with his public persona. Hypocrisy? Yes. And it is all too easy for us to scorn the hypocrites (that's my first impulse). But let's take a moment to consider what it costs the hypocrite to straddle the barrier between truth and appearance. Let us have sympathy for people who feel forced to divide their public and private selves, and then let us consider what needs to be changed so that fewer of them--those who are not engaged in truly criminal or anti-social behavior, that is--need do so.


Anonymous said...

I like your sympathetic approach to Larry Craig's dilemma of what am I supposed to do when I realize that my public views are completely at odds with my private life. Yet this is not the only area where "hypocrisy" gets manifest. How about the politicians who claim to personally oppose abortion, but consistently vote for it as a matter of public policy? Can a female legislator who once had an abortion represent her constituents on either side of the issue, or only just one? If so, which one? When the Massachusetts legislature votes (if ever) on casino or other gambling, are we going to canvass those on either side of the issue and ask them whether they've ever bet on a football pool?

The Old New Englander said...

It's not hypocrisy to say you are personally opposed to abortion yet vote to keep it legal, if you do so because you believe that this is not an issue where personal feelings should override the views of your constituents, or if you believe that it is an issue on which reasonable people can differ, and that prohibiting abortion has a greater effect on those who believe it should be legal than permitting it does on those who oppose abortion, and will, presumably, refrain from having one.