Tuesday, August 28, 2007



We should offer Larry Craig compassion, not cruel parody like this artwork Adam forced me to put up

I've been attacked almost as many time for writing that Larry Craig is a closeted gay hypocrite as I was for writing the same thing about Mark Foley. Whatever Schadenfreude I may be feeling about Craig's exposure is directed towards his extreme right, bigoted and hate-filled segment of the Republican Party, not towards Larry Craig the human being. And Larry Craig is-- more than an extremist, more than a Republican, more than a gay basher-- a human being. Caught in a public toilet (again) soliciting anonymous sex from a hunky young plainclothes policeman, Craig has been kicked to the curb by his right-wing allies. The far right blogosphere is demanding he resign this week. Mitt Romney fired him as head of his Idaho campaign and senatorial outreach program and has forbidden his son Josh to even travel to Boise. I don't hear any of Craig's barbershop quartet buddies-- like Trent Lott-- coming to his defense and I don't hear the other closeted Republican homophobes in the Congress-- like Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) or House members David Dreier (R-CA), Jim McCrery (R-LA), Phil English (R-PA), Denny Hastert (R-IL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), or any of the others-- asking for understanding and sympathy.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, on the other hand, goes beyond just the obvious hypocrisy of a rightist Republican consistently voting against equality for gay men and women and their families while prowling public toilets for anonymous sex.
What’s up with elected officials like Senator Craig? They stand for so-called "family values" and fight basic protections for gay people while furtively seeking other men for sex. Infuriating pathetic hypocrites. What more can you say?

There is sad irony that a United States senator from Idaho has been caught up in the same kind of thing that destroyed the lives of dozens of men in Boise in the 1950s, so tragically chronicled in Boys of Boise.

The Task Force goes on to ask an equally important question, one legislators like Larry Craig (not to mention Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, David Dreier, Patrick McHenry, et al need to be thinking about): Why are Minneapolis tax dollars being used to have plainclothes police officers lurking idly in airport restroom stalls?

And I'll add something to that: The policeman they used was total gay bait. Although that Florida Republican who offered to pay a plainclothes policeman $20 for the pleasure of performing fellatio on him later claimed the cop was fat and unattractive, no one will be saying that about Officer Dave Karsnia, who wouldn't get out of any gay bar in the country without being showered with drinks and marriage proposals. (In fact, unless you're gay you probably don't even want to go to the trouble of finding Karsnia on this unrelated video about runaway airport carts. He's interviewed about the dangerous carts-- not dangerous Republican closet cases-- at 2:30 and 3:05.)

And then you find progressive gay activist and prominent blogger, Mike Rogers with a message of hope and redemption:
Larry Craig should stand up and be honest with the citizens of Idaho about who he is. Tonight is a historic opportunity for Senator Craig to run for re-election as a proud gay American. What a great turning point for one of the most conservative states in the country to be represented by an openly gay Senator.

But this isn't a path Craig is likely to take. Larry Craig comes from a very different place-- and I don't mean Idaho, which recently elected an openly gay woman state representative. Idaho, like most of America, has changed. Larry Craig hasn't, nor is he alone. Men and women brought up to believe homosexuality was "bad" or a "sin" or "unnatural" and who have had that drilled into their heads-- and in right wing Republican circles there has been a certain unrelenting obsession in that direction-- find themselves in a serious bind. The society that nurtures them and defines their identity and even their humanity, condemns part of their essence. Locking that part in a dark closet is the solution that has come as natural to politicians, especially Republican politicians.

I cannot imagine that there are more gay Republicans than gay Democrats-- despite how it looks from the police blotters. There are two reasons for that. Gay Democrats are not under the same kind of societal and social pressures as gay Republicans. They are generally not closeted, accept themselves and are accepted by friends, family and colleagues. Congressmembers Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Barney Frank (D-MA) are two of the most admired and respected members of Congress. Even Republican members forget about the "gay part" and just deal with Barney as the brilliant and powerful Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Gays who are not hiding in closets don't have to lurk around public restrooms in train station, shopping malls, parks and airports. About that, closeted gays usually all know the "humpy tea rooms" (i.e.- the public toilets where other closeted gays congregate). "According to the Minnesota Monitor, the restroom where the senator was arrested is 'well known among men who seek sex in public places.' Directions to this particular restroom are posted on a gay website bulletin board, and one visitor to the website said, 'This is the best spot for anonymous action I’ve ever seen.' The police know these facilities too.

I pity the Larry Craigs and Mitch McConnells and Jim McCrerys of the GOP. Whatever arrangements they have made with the women they "married" by political convenience is one thing, but the really sad part is the self-loathing that closeted Republicans have for themselves. That their judgments are warped is clear from their risky and even suicidal behavior. Larry Craig couldn't control himself. In 1994 he was exposed for having sex in a men's room in Union Station. It was unlikely he would have run for re-election in 2008. But to do a repeat performance of the same behavior in an airport restroom is almost unthinkable. Unless you are self destructive and extremely disturbed. Republicans in Congress all knew about Larry Craig, just like they all knew about Mark Foley. But they didn't reach out to him and offer him wise counsel. They swept it under the rug and now far right-wing extremists who loved his fascist-leaning voting record are already blaming the impending 2008 Republican disaster on him and the ultra-extremist Idaho Values Alliance is calling for his resignation.
One larger issue must be addressed. The Republican Party platform clearly rejects the agenda of homosexual activists. The Party, in the wake of the Mark Foley incident in particular, can no longer straddle the fence on the issue of homosexual behavior. Even setting Senator Craig’s situation aside, the Party should regard participation in the self-destructive homosexual lifestyle as incompatible with public service on behalf of the GOP.

No member of the Republican Party in the 1860s could represent his party and be a slaveholder at the same time. Nor can the Republican Party of today speak with authority and clarity to the moral issues that confront our society and at the same time send ambivalent messages about sexual behavior. It is time for the Republican Party to be the party that defends the American family in word, deed, and by personal example.

I think Mike Rogers' suggestion is a lot healthier and a lot saner. I think Larry Craig, Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham should give a press conference on the steps of Capitol Hill today and tell the world that they're gay and that they're sorry for their homophobic behavior and that from now on they will lead lives just like ordinary Americans-- no more closets, no more furtive sex in public toilets, no more lying and cheating. Larry, Mitch, Lindsey, come out, be proud of who you are. Save yourselves from the misery and aguish. Congressman Bob Bauman (R-MD) was a far right GOP congressman and a founding member of both the Young Americans for Freedom and the Conservative Union (of which he was chairman). In 1980 the congressman was arrested for having sex from a 16 year old boy. He was defeated in his re-election bid and his wife, who was also a YAF member, had their marriage annulled. Bauman wrote a book which all elected Republicans should read, The Gentleman From Maryland. He wrote poignantly about how his secret double life was so stressful that it led to alcoholism. He finally admitted he was gay and became a bit of a gay activist, in a conservative way


Does this look like someone pleading guilty by mistake?

Larry Craig wasn't much of a congressman or senator-- just a kind of hackish, right-wing backbencher spewing some far right talking points and always voting for the most extreme positions. He never offered any solutions to any problems. Until he was arrested in the toilet by an undercover cop-- an unfair hunky decoy trying to lure gay men into a trap-- all anyone really knew about him is that he sang in a barbershop quartet with some other right wing senators. Well, now they have stuff like this re-enactment by a local television news team. It's like our politics is just another chapter of the tawdry, embarrassing stories of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, or Mike Vick. As for all these repulsive Republicans, all they care about is that they can hold the seat. Revolting!

Flip Flop Mitt is disappointed. Craig is obviously insane. His statement to the press just now was the most bizarre political obituary I ever saw.

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At 1:02 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

What a terrific post! I'm happy to associate myself with it down the line.

I also thought Mike Rogers got it right, and even mentioned to a friend abroad (whom I was trying to bring up to speed on these developments) Mike's utterly clear-headed suggestion that Larry Craig take this "historic opportunity . . . to run for reelection as a proud gay American."

The problem is that when Larry looks in the mirror every day, he reallly does see someone loathsome and disgusting. He has no idea that it's not because of his physical attraction to men but because of the deformed personality his internalized homophobia has caused.

The reminder about Bob Bauman's case (and book) could hardly be more timely.


At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig swears he's not gay. Is it possible for a guy to like to play with other guys' dicks and not be gay? I dunno, maybe.

Maybe Craig thinks so. Maybe he doesn't see his own hypocrisy, and thinks he's a real stand-up guy. Religious conservatism requires that part of the brain be turned off, and when you do that, the craziest things can seem to make sense.

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Howie...

Is Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl (the guy who got a job in the Clerks office in 1995, and covered for Foley for almost 10 years) the man who is being identified by the Idaho Stateman as a "40-year-old professional man with close ties to Republican officials" who had oral sex with Larry Craig in Union Station? Or is it possibly Ken Mehlman, former RNC chair.

The reportedly happened in 2004. Trandahl was born September 14, 2004...making him about 40 at the time of the incident. Ken Mehlman was born (according to Wikipedia) on August 21, 1966...making him 40 until 6 days ago...

I mean, its gotta be one of these two, right? How many other 40 year old men with close ties to Republicans could say "I’ve always been interested in politics and probably if you showed me pictures of the hundred senators I could probably name 75 or 80 of them. And that would be true over the last probably 20 years. So, I don’t think it’s unusual that I did recognize him. There’s no doubt in my mind that that’s who it was."

Or is this just coincidence?

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howie, This OT but I thought you might want this link for another day.


Eureka Springs

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you on this one Howie. It's on point. I think one place the conversation falls apart is in the usage of language. I blogged about it on White Crane's gay wisdom blog. The media doesn't see a difference between "gay" and "homosexual" and it seems that teasing out the difference would be helpful. I, for one, think Craig is a homosexual and not gay. It's not just a matter of semantics. I think we should help folks understand that "gay" is a political, intentional, consciousness-raised understanding of oneself. "Gay" is about honesty and maturity about oneself. Homosexual is just the categorical tag. So, Craig's a homosexual but I don't think he's done anything that would make him worthy of the term I use for real adults like Harvey Milk, Harry Hay, Barney Frank and the rest of the folks who've done the hard work of coming out.

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Republican fundraiser Marvin Liebman publicly revealed he was gay about 1980 (he was on the cover of The Advocate) he begged his friend William F. Buckley to read homophobes out of the conservative movement the way he had read anti-semites. But the Catholic Buckley wouldn't do it.

Liebman related in his autobiography that the head of a Young Republican organization called the head of another organization and taunted him with, "So I hear your founder is a f++++t." Liebman commented, "The joke's on him--I helped found BOTH organizations."

At 4:50 AM, Blogger Caoimhin Laochdha said...

Regarding the Barber Shop quartet "all anyone really knew about him is that he sang in a barbershop quartet with some other right wing senators" -- I would just add that one of the four was Jim Jeffords. After Jeffords left the GOP caucus, none of the other three wingers would have anything to do with him despite all the time the four of them had spent singing (and traveling) together.


At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"......I have never been gay" Evidentally he has deluded himself into believing sexuality is something one can turn off and on like a light switch. This is tragic. If he came out of the closet he wouldn't be hanging out in bathrooms.


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