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Did Larry Craig Resign for the Wrong Reasons?

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On September 1, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) resigned in the wake of the latest Republican sex scandal. Craig had been caught in a sting operation making sexual overtures towards a cute undercover cop in an airport restroom, and then pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in hopes that this would make the whole matter go away. But it didn't go away. And, when the news hit the media, several key Republicans promptly called for Craig's resignation.

But why did Craig really resign? And why did the Republicans get so worked up about this?

After all, other politicians have been caught up in sex scandals of their own, only to survive and thrive in office, even recently. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) comes immediately to mind. Earlier this year, Vitter was identified as a client of the "DC Madam" and a New Orleans brothel, and yet the Republicans stood by him, and Vitter is still in the Senate. Is hiring a hooker less of a crime that making a pass at another guy in the men's room? I am not a lawyer, but I don't think so. At least, it shouldn't be.

Sure, the Craig story is creepy, but what's so different in this case that merits the degree of pressure and humiliation that Craig has been made to suffer? Let's see...

Was it because of the hypocrisy? Was it about the fact that Craig had consistently voted against the interests of gays and lesbians, and judged others on their sexual behavior, while he was busy participating in his own gay sexcapades? That would be a good reason to call for his resignation. But I don't think it was the real factor at play here.

Was it because Craig was actually arrested, and actually pleaded guilty to something, whereas Vitter did not? If so, wasn't Vitter just lucky because the statute of limitations had made prosecution unlikely in his case?

Was it because Craig didn't handle the fallout as smoothly as Vitter did? Perhaps. Vitter delivered an Oscar-worthy press conference performance, his poor wife at his side, in which he admitted to his mistake, apologized profusely, and promised to do all he can to rebuild the trust of his constituents. Emotionally moving enough to win some sympathy. Craig, on the other hand, had an opportunity to redeem himself in a similar manner, and he blew it (no pun intended).

So then was it for partisan political reasons? We might be getting warmer here. If Vitter had resigned, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco would likely have appointed a Democrat to replace him. However, Idaho is a very red state, so Craig will most likely be replaced with another Republican. That Senate seat is safe.

But I think it has even more to do with the gay issue. Vitter solicited a woman's sexual favors. Craig solicited a man's.

And this can help set the stage for the 2008 campaign season, in which the Republicans will likely cling to their tired old themes of God, guns, and gays.

Meanwhile, American troops and innocent civilians are dying in Iraq, the polar ice caps are melting fast, and 47 million Americans do not have health insurance.

Can we really afford to waste time worrying about the sex lives of our politicians?

Does it really matter to you? Does it really matter for America?

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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