Wednesday, September 05, 2007

McGreevey on Craig

I haven't yet said anything on the Larry Craig scandal for a few reasons. First, the story broke while I was taking a blog hiatus - and I honestly didn't know whether or not I would resume blogging. Second, I wasn't sure what to say. Sure, there are a great many easy comments to make, but you've already read those lazy stories. And, frankly, Republican family-values sex hypocrisy stories are getting so common that they've really stopped being interesting.

I've read a few articles that almost elicited a comment or two out of me. Most of them have been in the vein of this one by Linda Chavez, in which she argues that Larry Craig would have been treated differently if he were a Democrat. Her article is the best I've seen of that genre. Others are much less subtle. The basic gist of all of them is that both the "liberal" and "conservative" attacks of Craig have been (like Craig's acts themselves?) hypocritical, in that they violate certain core "liberal" and "conservative" values: namely, from "liberals," the acceptance of all sexual acts that don't cause some obvious harm; and, from "conservative," the non-interference of government in private affairs.

At its best, that mode of arguing, like in Chavez's article, exposes our collective worst inclinations to fan the flames of scandal rather than to calmly pursue the best governing policies for our nation. Thus we dutifully read tabloid-like news coverage of the sordid details of private affairs, rather than demanding that news outlets investigate real issues that impact the real lives of millions globally. And thus Congress holds or threatens to hold hearings to discover who lied about having some form of sex with whom, while refusing to hold the executive branch of our government accountable for what can most charitably be describe as criminal incompetence.

At its worst, however, this mode of arguing - which rests in part on the dubious assumption that if Craig were a Democrat his closeted gay-sex exploits would be no big deal - ignores quite possibly the only real issue in this scandal: the scapegoating of uncloseted gays by closeted, self-hating gays with power. If the "allegations" (using scare quotes because he did, in fact, plead guilty, which where I come from amounts to the kind of confession of guilt that lets us stop using variations of the word "allegation") are true, then this is by no means the first time that a conservative politician who made hay bashing gays has been uncloseted by scandal.

And that brings me to why I'm finally posting something on Sen. Larry Craig, whose arrest for soliciting anonymous gay sex in a public bathroom has brought him to the public's attention. Until now I haven't been able to locate a measure of compassion for the man. But this morning I read this op-ed piece by former New Jersey governor James McGreevey. McGreevey, you may remember, resigned his office only two years into his term, after deciding (however un-freely) to leave the closet. In this piece McGreevey - who as a "liberal" Democrat was somewhat less party to the political sport of gay-bashing (though part of his self-closeting strategy including public support for the restricting of marriage to heterosexual unions) - shows the kind of compassion that has been missing from our public discourse on Larry Craig.

Rather than vilify or defend Craig, rather than call him out for his blatant hypocrisy or scold the rest of us for making what perhaps ought to be private behavior so public, McGreevey shares with us his empathy for Craig, while also exploring the dark confines of the all-too-common closet.

So check it out, and let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I can't feel sorry for Craig, but I do think this is a horrible use of undercover cops.