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Redrawing the lines of Republican family values

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This time the Republicans wasted no time. They buried the body while it was still warm.

Less than a week after news broke that Sen. Larry Craig had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in connection with a police sex sting this June in the men’s bathroom of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Idaho’s conservative senior senator announced his resignation.

The speed of Craig’s resignation -- just a few days after he insisted his guilty plea had been a mistake and announced, “I am not gay. I have never been gay” -- said a lot.

At first glance, it showed that the righteous Republican Party, the one that brought us Rep. Mark Foley’s congressional page follies a year ago, figured it couldn’t afford another festering case of family-values hypocrisy in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.

But the cold-blooded haste with which the Republicans this time drew and quartered one of their own has tapped another oozing seam of party hypocrisy. Wasn’t it just last month that Republicans stayed mum at the news that Lousiana Sen. David Vitter’s name appeared in the client list of the infamous D.C. Madam? Have you heard anyone calling for his resignation?

Vitter, one of the most unctuous of the family-values sanctimonious on Capitol Hill, sailed through the incident with a brief (and undoubtedly humbling) admission that he had sinned. Larry Craig never had that chance. In Republican circles, it seems Larry Craig’s sins, which despite his guilty plea he has denied, are beyond forgiveness.

Perhaps I'm being harsh, but I can only conclude that if you’re a right-wing Republican it’s OK to talk about the sanctity of the family while diddling a member of the opposite sex behind your wife’s back. But it’s not OK if you’re so much as considering making whoopee with a member of the same sex.

Now there’s morality at work.

Republicans, of course, already have developed talking points to differentiate the two cases. Craig, Republican pundits and talking heads have pointed out, pleaded guilty to a crime (although not explicitly to soliciting sex). Vitter did not.

That, however, is hogwash, points out Joshua Micah Marshall on his blog,

“For one thing, confronted with evidence that he made use of a prostitution service, Vitter conceded immediately that he'd ‘sinned,’" Marshall notes. “I'm not an expert in the subject, but as I understand it, paying for sex is a crime, and Vitter publicly acknowledged that he'd violated this law. He would have been subject to criminal charges, but the statute of limitations ran out.”

Oh …. Whatever.

Where is Karl Rove when the Republicans really need him?
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Jerry Lanson teaches journalism at Emerson College in Boston. He's been a newspaper reporter, columnist, writing coach and editor. His latest book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in January by Rowman & Littlefield.
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