At least he took off his formal gang clothes to face the press. The day our column on GOP sexocrites© hit the street, Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho faced the media to talk about his encounter with a vice cop in a Minnesota airport men's room. Before speaking to the press, the dedicated DubMac Gang member (see "The Worst of All Gangs," July 25) first removed his official Dubya-McCrory gang "colors" -- the Brooks Brothers suit and U.S. flag lapel pin that GOP politicians seemingly pledge to wear for life -- and slipped into the group's official "casual" uniform: khaki pants and a polo shirt. Craig looked into the cameras and told a nation grown sick of his and his cohorts' gangsta ways, that "I am not gay."
Craig's denials came on the heels of his tortured, step-by-step "explanations" of how the Minnesota vice cop "misconstrued" his actions, which, by a wild coincidence, happened to match a typical routine used by men who troll public bathrooms for blowjobs. Craig has apparently been "misconstrued" for quite a while. Last year, he denied having sex with a man in the men's room in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. Earlier, Craig denied an Idaho man's accusation that Craig hit on him while cruising an outdoor gear shop, just as he rejected claims by college fraternity acquaintances that he had suggested having sex with a pledge.
No one believed Craig's denials last week. Not the press, who've seen this brand of GOP sexual hypocrisy too many times now. Not presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who quickly relieved Craig of his position as Romney's liaison with GOP senators. And certainly not Republican leaders who, hoping against hope to distance themselves from the party's latest disaster, asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate.
In many ways, Craig's humiliating fall was typical of what we've seen from Republican sexocrites©: a staunch defender of "traditional values" turns out to be either, like Craig, a closeted gay man, or like Cabarrus County's own Coy Privette, a prostitutin' Papa.
In another way, however, Larry Craig's sad flame-out seems different; it has a feel of finality about it, as if a tipping point has been reached for the whole miserable Republican era of misrule, a point from which the DubMacs can't recover.
This isn't just wishful thinking on my part. The warnings of doom are now coming from the GOP's own insiders, as national party leaders begin to sense an electoral tsunami approaching in 2008. "The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness," Scott Reed, a national Republican strategist, told the Washington Post last week. "... the impact this is having on the [GOP] grassroots around the country is devastating."
If the GOP's days of misrule are indeed numbered, well, good. Imagine a national political scene without all the sanctimonious prattle about "traditional morals," the mind-boggling levels of corruption that whored out Congress to the highest bidders, the submission to abuses of power by an arrogant White House, or the sheer incompetence.
That's a pretty sweet proposition, and if it comes to pass, the DubMacs have only themselves to blame, not just for being hypocritical about sex, but for choosing to align themselves with this country's backward, reactionary elements. I mean the folks who freak out because homosexuality is more accepted these days. They are heirs of the same kind of fearful people who've consistently been on the losing side of modern history, fighting progress every step of the way. They didn't want women to vote. They lost. They didn't want blacks to sit at white lunch counters. They lost. They didn't want blacks to vote. They lost. They didn't want women to be independent. They lost. And now, as former CL writer Frye Gaillard put it, "homophobia is the new cutting edge of bigotry." And the ass-backward crowd is losing there, too.
Tormented cases like Senator Larry Craig, and many others, are the natural result of the homophobia and repression the senator's own party tried to turn into national policy. The personal consequences of that repression can be devastating, as Craig's plight illustrates. History is littered with good men who suffered terribly -- including those who, like Russian composer Piotr Tchaikovsky, killed themselves -- because of society's homophobic attitudes and pressures.
Democratic politicians are just as likely to be crooks or idiots as the next party's, but at least the Dems, after some infighting, have usually come down on the side of progress. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, himself a former Republican congressman, lamented GOP politicians' hypocrisy last week, saying, "the Republican Party does not allow gay members to win their primaries, so maybe these guys have to live these secret lives ... [but] where you have Democrats that support same-sex marriage ... there aren't the issues of hypocrisy that follow Republicans around."
After decades of linking their party to forces of ignorance and religious paranoia, it's only fitting that the GOP's debacle is taking place under the leadership of Dubya, a bumpkin with so many of his own political problems, he can't possibly help the party out of the giant pile it has stepped in. To quote John Edwards' official response to Karl Rove's departure, "Goodbye and good riddance."