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Message Lee Patton
Larry Craig’s nasty toilet scandal should be yesterday’s sick joke, but the Idaho senator is guilty of true crimes against nature.

As the Idaho senator fights solicitation charges, he may enjoy notoriety as eternal as O.J Simpson’s. However much Craig’s hypocrisy stinks, what’s really sick is not an anti-gay Senator playing footsie with a male cop. What’s really sick isn’t just that the Twin Cities sent police to entrap a citizen in a victimless flirtation, or even how Craig’s Republican brethren mercilessly--forgive me—dumped their longtime colleague.

What’s really sick is that hardly anyone in the media is headlining Craig’s real crimes against nature.   The senator had the arrogance to decry the “cloud over Idaho” his behavior caused. This from the man who has done everything he could to ensure that toxic clouds really do contaminate Idaho’s—and everyone else’s--environment.

Since 1999, Senator Larry Craig has earned a string of zeros from the League of Conservation Voters based on his execrable environmental voting record. In 2002, to smite his home state’s mighty but salmonless Salmon River, Senator Zero attached a rider undercutting salmon recovery efforts. An abject failure at toilet stall flirting, Craig is a true champion of habitat destruction. According the Columbia and Snake Rivers Campaign, exactly three—3--sockeye salmon returned to Redfish Lake in Central Idaho in 2006.

Craig by no means limited his attack on nature to his beclouded Idaho. Over and over he voted to undermine habitat health from Hawaii to Maine and up to Alaska. To counteract those zeroes from nature lovers, guess which industry sponsor filled Craig’s campaign coffers? (No, not just Charmin, please.) The right answer is--surprise--oil and gas.

For oil ‘n’ gas, Larry was the boy who couldn’t say no; he voted YES on defunding renewable and solar energy, YES to allow off-shore drilling for oil ‘n’ gas; YES to allow oil ‘n’ gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This consenting adult, however, didn’t just play footsie with “yes.” Craig groped for the “no” lever to vote NO on monitoring oil ‘n’ gas smokestacks for mercury pollution, NO on ending discussion of fuel efficiency standards, NO on adding 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010, NO on considering global warming in federal project planning, NO on desert protection in the Mojave.

Craig joined a right-wing circle jerk to reject more than $19 billion in environmental funding through 2010, his hand tipping a 49-48 vote. His sticky fingers defunded programs for conserving public lands and wildlife, oceans, coasts, water and farmland. It doesn’t get more basic or destructive than that, nothing less than Craig’s outright attack on the very elements of nature that sustain our national health.

But nothing so drastic or vile brought Senator Craig to his knees. No, his toilet adventure became the Joke of the Nation on every talk show and drive-time yakfest. We even laughed about him at my uncle’s funeral, and my uncle would’ve laughed the loudest. Few ever heard of this Idaho joker before his embarrassment in a Twin Cities men’s room; few cared about the long reach--the wide stance--of his votes against nature.

There are scores of our representatives in the Senate and scads in the House—family-values patriotic right-wingers—who vote again and again with Craig to destroy our homeland and endanger our families.

Our priorities--our infantile attention to grotesque scandals--would shame even a Minneapolis cop spending his shift tap-tap- tapping in a public toilet. We obsess over a senator caught in a moment of closeted, desperate human contact and ignore for a decade his votes against our well-being, our nation’s natural integrity, our very future. The joke’s on us.
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Lee Patton, a Denverite, writes fiction, drama, poetry and nonfiction.
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