Updated and Bumped: It appears my post this morning has had some impact. MSNBC is reporting that Larry Craig is reconsidering his decision to resign! Hopefully, the right-wing blogosphere will rally to his side and call for him to remain in office. Let's hear it from the Wizbang Classic crowd...
Amidst the fallout of Larry Craig's (R-ID) resignation from the US Senate we have been treated to the bizarre spectacle of Republicans attempting to justify why they decided to force him out of office. After it was discovered that Craig had pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct in connection with an alleged attempt at a gay sexual liaison in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, Republicans pounced on Craig threatening to cutoff his funds for releection and to run an opponent against him in the 2008 primary for his US Senate seat. They stripped him of his committee assignments and numerous prominent Republicans including Senator John McCain of Arizona publicly called for him to resign.
All of which raises the question? Why did the Republicans pounce on Craig so quickly and vehemently? After all, he denies any wrongdoing. Any legal analyst will tell you there is no way he would have been convicted of anything should he have decided to fight the allegations against him. Yet the concerted effort by the Republican Party to force Craig out of office was almost unprecedented as reported by the New York Times:
For four days, Republican officials engaged in an almost unheard-of campaign to persuade Mr. Craig to step down. Speaking to reporters in his home state of Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, on Thursday called Mr. Craig's conduct "unforgivable." Senator John Ensign of Nevada, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, raised the prospect of public ethics hearings should Mr. Craig remain in office. Senators also discussed privately the idea of withholding any political support for Mr. Craig should he try to run for re-election, according to aides.
Officials at the Republican National Committee, the center of party political operations, readied a news release calling for Mr. Craig to resign but withheld it after they learned that Idaho Republicans, including representatives of the governor's office, were interceding with representatives of Mr. Craig's to urge him to step down.
Contrast Craig's treatment with what happened to Senator David Vitter (R-LA) when he acknowledged this summer that he had used an escort service that the police described as a front for prostitution. While Vitter didn't plead guilty in court he freely admitted that he broke the law and solicited prostitutes. Vitter has actually performed the acts that Craig has only been accused of attempting. In addition, other members of Congress in the past have pleaded guilty to charges more serious than disorderly conduct without being hounded from office by the Republican Party leadership.
At the end of the day, we are left with one crucial difference between Vitter and Craig. Vitter was soliciting heterosexual relations from female prostitutes, while Craig was likely soliciting homosexual relations from other men. Despite Craig's denials, it is certainly not unreasonable to assume that he is in fact gay. (I will allow that some psychologists will argue that his actions demonstrate only a sexual pathology and that he could still be straight, but I think it's just common sense that a male seeking contact with other males in a restroom is likely gay himself).
Rumors of Craig's homosexuality have been around for decades and I have no doubt at all that the Republican Party leadership in the Senate knew which way he leaned. After all, many of these people have been working together for decades. So the Republicans knew he was gay and were comfortable with that fact, just so long as he kept it concealed from the rest of us.
The message to gay Republicans is unmistakable: we are fine with your sexual preference as long as you keep it in the closet and tow the line on our "family values" platform. Republican party leaders were clearly horrified at the prospect of having an openly (or obviously) gay Republican serving in the Senate. They are no doubt deeply worried about what that would do their loyal base of extremist social conservatives. They surely must sit up late at night worrying about what would happen if more of their leadership came out of the closet (or were involuntarily exposed).
All of this seems very unfair to people like Larry Craig who happen to be ordinary human beings just like the rest of us. But it's not too late to undo the wrong that has been done to Larry Craig by the Republican Party leadership. Craig announced only his "intention" to resign by September 30. He could still withdraw that statement, serve out the rest of his term and run for re-election.
It will be interesting to see if the right-wing blogosphere (whom we all know far too well) will put their money where their mouth is when it comes to Craig. Many of them have blamed liberal bloggers for forcing Craig out when, in reality, it was the Republican Party leadership that cut him off at the knees. I didn't see many people on the left calling for him to resign; we were satisfied simply with pointing out the hypocrisy of a homosexual vehemently opposing gay rights. But there's certainly no law that says every gay politician has to support gay marriage. We should all support Craig's right to maintain his positions even though they seem to contradict his own personal lifestyle.
So I'd like to propose that all of us, on the left and right blogosphere, rally around Craig, urge him to withdraw his promise to resign, and demand that the Republican Party leadership desist from forcing him out of office. I personally think it would do our country good to have a gay Republican serving in the Senate. Let's see if those on the right are courageous enough to support that as well.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!