Senator Craig missed the point when he opened his news conference with the statement “I’m not gay”. Having been arrested at the Minnesota airport on suspicion of trolling for sex in the men’s room he says he copped to a misdemeanor so he could catch his plane and be on his way. Perhaps in his political milieu the ‘gay thing’resonates most profoundly with his constituents and his party.
But for the general public it is the hypocrisy of those who claim to be the standard bearers of morality and family values that strikes home most resoundingly. Their talking points often revolve around matters of sex – – gay, extra-marital,illicit – -probably because Republicans have always been able to count on the visceral reaction voters have to that issue and because it’s so much easier to understand than affairs of state, no pun intended. One might say that the GOP that has used prurience and biblical incantations to great advantage through several election cycles has been hoisted on its own petard.
Having cast so many stones and made so many claims about its virtue the party finds itself with a moral dilemma. That Tom DeLay appears on various talk shows to re-hash past Democratic dalliances and missteps is an ironic sideshow. For it isn’t only sexual issues that frame the debate about morality; politicians who lie and subvert the democratic process by putting partisan interests above the national welfare and by flummoxing the electorate with meaningless rhetoric have no claim to righteousness.
And no matter what judgment one makes about the behaviors of President Clinton or Ted Kennedy – – the two favorite examples of moral turpitude Republicans like to cite – – neither of those men or other Democrats (save Joe Liebeman perhaps)claim to be paragons of virtue intent on telling everyone else how to behave in the bedroom – – forget men’s rooms and bath houses. And a fundraiser’s night in the Lincoln bedroom during the Clinton presidency hardly measures up to the kind of stuff brewing in the house of prostitution frequented by Republican Representative Vitter.
Of course in Vitter’s case his sex was at least straight and as a politico from Louisiana with a Democratic governor Republicans haven’t been as quick to call for his resignation as they been in Craig’s case. Politics trumps all. But in the end the voters of Idaho will decide Craig’s fate no matter how hard the central party machine wants him out of public view and quickly. His conservative positions on things gay may not save him from voters who feel he has disgraced their state and their party.
Voters can be fickle, under-informed and partisan to a fault, can accept physical impairment, marital infidelity, even flip-flopping. But what they will not countenance are politicians who engage in illegal behaviors and then lie about it, nor are they patient when they are told to believe character is an issue while elected officials disregard the rule of law and fail to adhere to accepted standards of behavior.
In the end, however,no matter what the spin, ‘it’s the hypocrisy, stupid.’

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