Sex. The most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.
— Woody Allen, Annie Hall
One wonders what explains the Repubican Party’s differing responses to similar transgressions by its members. It may simply be suffering from PCSS (post-coital stress syndrome). Enough, it may be thinking, is enough, which given several of its members’ recent moral lapses, it clearly is. On the other hand, it might be that being the party of family values it believes more opprobrium attaches to one type of indiscretion than to the other.
The juxtaposition (not a sexual term) of David Vitter and Larry Craig is a coincidence. David Vitter is the United States Senator from Louisiana who went from private life to the House of Representatives and from there to the United States Senate. One of the stepping-stones on his path to the House was Bob Livingston, formerly one of the most powerful members of the House. In 1998 Mr. Livingston was slated to become the Speaker of the House when, in the midst of clamoring for Bill Clinton’s resignation and impeachment, he learned his own sexual indiscretions were about to become public. Confronted with embarrassing disclosures he resigned from the House, thus paving the way for Mr. Vitter.
Upon becoming a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Vitter donned the slightly soiled robe of virtue left behind by Mr. Livingston and became a prominent member of the House and subsequently the United States Senate.
In July 2007 it was disclosed that the client book of a Washington madam included among its clients, one of family values’ lead trumpeters, David Vitter. Mr. Vitter acknowledged his involvement and said: “This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible.” He then went on to explain that he had asked for and received forgiveness from God and his wife (presumably in that order) and offered his “deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.”
The next day it was reported in the New Orleans’ Times Picayune that Mr. Vitter’s extramarital lust was not geographically limited and that he also frequented a house of prostitution in New Orleans. The proprietor of the establishment, Jeanette Maier, said he had been a client of the Canal Street brothel. Although his conduct, even though a historical rather than a current event, was a disappointment to those who wear family values like a suit of clothes, there were no calls for Mr. Vitter to step down from anything. That may have been because (a) his disclosed indiscretions preceded his advent to the Senate, (b) had he been removed a Democratic governor would have appointed his successor, or (c) heterosexual transgressions are not as offensive to Republicans as the other kind and only rarely attract criminal charges, they being perceived as more natural than the other kind and harder to initiate in a men’s room in an airport. And that brings us to the most recent affliction visited upon the Republican Party by the Lord.
While in the Minneapolis airport Senator Larry Craig of Idaho entered a bathroom stall; seated in the stall next to him was a law enforcement officer whose task for the day was to determine if people entering adjacent stalls were homosexual. (Although some might think a law enforcement officer would have better things to do than spend a day seated on a toilet in an airport restroom, they fail to understand what a threat the homosexual way of life is to the non-homosexual.)
While seated in the stall next to the federal officer, Mr. Craig did some things that are highly offensive to those who promote family values. He tapped his foot, he may or may not have reached down to pick up a piece of paper and at one point he extended his hand underneath the divider three times, palm up although it is not clear whether it was his left or right hand. He insisted it was his right hand but the arresting officer insisted it was the left hand since it had a ring on the finger. Mr. Craig ultimately pled guilty to the misdemeanor of disorderly conduct.
When this information became public there was an immediate reaction. Senator John McCain said anyone who pleads guilty to a crime (even if only a misdemeanor apparently) should not serve in the Senate. If Mr. McCain actually believes that political claptrap, he should resign from the Senate. Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota said Mr. Craig’s conduct was unbecoming a senator and Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader, said his conduct was “unforgivable.” Whether they were referring to the foot tapping or extending the hand beneath the stall divider was unclear.
Senator Vitter continues to serve in the senate. Senator Craig may resign from that body. He should not. His continuing service as a senator would prove that occasionally the hypocrites in Congress, though in the majority, nonetheless come out second best.