Wednesday, August 29, 2007

new scandal has GOP whining that the media goes softer on Democrats-- only that's hogwash

It seems that a lot of Republicans and talk show hosts are now angry about the latest scandal involving Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) who wants to withdraw a guilty plea he made following an arrest for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a bathroom stall at the Minneapolis airport.

Many (though not all) Republicans in Washington are calling on Craig to resign from the Senate (though behind it seems to be a barely voiced but frequently alluded to fear that they may lose a Senate seat, even in Idaho, if Craig remains and runs for re-election next year) but then they always ask why the media (I guess meaning the corporate media) go 'softer' on Democrats accused of sex scandals.

I'd like to respond that that on several levels.

First, it hasn't been true. Start with the most obvious Democrat accused in sex scandals: Bill Clinton. The press reported until most people were nauseated on Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. During 1998, the Lewinsky scandal made headlines pretty much from January through the conclusion of the impeachment trial the following January. The problem for the GOP is that they took what could have been a minor 'gotcha' story and turned it into a story which in the end benefitted Clinton and Democrats by carrying it way too far and trying to impeach the President. And yeah, I know-- there are stories about Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broderick and probably some more, but I suspect the reason the media hasn't reported much about those is because most people have gotten the idea by now that Bill Clinton is a wandering husband with a zipper problem, and yet another story about it, especially after the impeachment trial would be like watching re-runs of a syndicated black and white TV show for the ninth time. (Yawwwwn.)

Beyond Clinton, it hasn't been true that the press brushes over Democratic sex scandals. Ask Gary Hart and Gary Condit about that. It's just recently, the guys involved in sex scandals have mostly been Republicans. The talk show hosts like to cite former Congressman Gerry Studds (D-MA), who in 1983 was censured for having sex with a male page. OK, fair enough. But did you know that on the very same day (July 20, 1983) that the house censured Studds, they also censured a Republican congressman for exactly the same thing (except that, as Indy Voter points out in the comments, the page was female)? Do you know his name? Probably not, if you listen to right wing talk radio. It was Daniel Crane, Republican of Illinois. But somehow the fact that this 1983 scandal is no longer making headlines (at least in terms of Studds, who incidentally left Congress a decade ago and died last year) is supposed to show media bias in terms of the current story involving Sen. Craig.

They also like to compare Studds to former congressman Mark Foley, who resigned last year after having sent sexually suggestive emails to male pages. But the fact is, Foley resigned the same day the story broke so we don't even know what if any action Dennis Hastert's Congress would have taken.

They also like to cite current Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, who was reprimanded by the house for his relationship with an adult male prostitute. This was in fact reported on in 1990. So I'm not sure what their beef is. They like to point out that the prostitute, Steve Gobie, ran a gay escort ring for awhile out of Frank's apartment. But Frank himself reported that to the House Ethics Committee when he found out about it and the Ethics Committee concluded that Frank had no knowledge of it until he reported it. And, if they think that having a gay escort service running out of Franks' apartment was such a serious crime that didn't get enough press, all I have to say to that are two words: JEFF GANNON.

But beyond all of this, there is the issue of hypocrisy. Neither Bill Clinton nor Gerry Studds nor Barney Frank ever tried to lecture anyone else about how they should run their sex lives. But the whole 'family values' platform is practically mandatory for a Republican running for office anymore. So they spout it. And when one of them is caught, well it is more interesting to see what happens to people who live in glass houses when they throw stones. There are many sinners in the world, and when a sinner is caught sinning it is less of a story than when the modern-day Pharisee, who claims to be the defender and upholder of high moral values, is caught sinning. That is human nature-- to want to hold the hypocrite up to the highest level of public ridicule and scorn.

Today right wing jock Sean Hannity tried to address the hypocrisy issue by saying, that 'Democrats SHOULD preach family values.' Hmmmm. Personally, I think I have 'family values,' but the problem is his emphasis on 'preach.' I'm perfectly willing to share my faith and my lifestyle with anyone who is interested, and I've always been up front about them, but I don't 'preach' to people about how they should live, judge them for their lifestyles (it was ironic that Craig's bizarre news conference seemed to be more focused on denying that he was gay than on denying that he was soliciting sex,) or frankly care what their sex life is. But apparently Hannity thinks (apparently because the hypocrisy angle almost exclusively cuts against Republicans) that therefore Democrats should become more like Republicans. Hint: If we thought that we had to 'preach' (and more to the point, legislate) moral values, well then we'd be Republicans.

To be honest, I don't care one iota whether Larry Craig is gay or not. His family, especially his wife, might care but the Craig family sex life isn't my business. Playing footsie under the stall partition in a bathroom is a bit weird, but weirdness isn't a crime. Soliciting sex is a crime, and pleading guilty to a crime without even consulting a lawyer shows a profound lack of judgement that the voters of Idaho might want to consider. Ultimately though, that is up to the voters in Idaho, and I don't live in Idaho.

But yeah, he might want to resign. Because I don't think he will find much support from other Republicans, especially those (like current and former Congressmen Dan Burton and Newt Gingrich who criticized Clinton's affair even while having affairs of their own) who may be trying to overcompensate for their own little secrets by beating the morality drums louder than ever.


Indy Voter said...

Eli, Dan Crane was censured for having sex with an underage FEMALE page, which is not "exactly the same thing" as what Studds was censured for.

Both men's actions were reprehensible, imo. The voters in Crane's district dumped him in the next election, but Studds won his race. I thought the voters in Crane's district made the right decision, and still do.

Eli Blake said...

indy voter:

In my book, it is 'exactly the same thing.' But then I don't consider heterosexual/homosexual relationships to be any more or less correct based on gender. Both relationships were equally wrong because they involved sex with minors, and in fact minors who were working in subordinate positions in which the Congressman was responsible for mentoring them.

And yeah, the voters did continue to re-elect Studds for another decade, as they've re-elected Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy. However, you can't blame the media for that-- Studds was re-elected largely because he had brought in a lot of federal money to the district and had fought hard on behalf of the fishing industry that is key in that part of Massachusetts.

Which proves another point-- that voters will be more willing to forgive an incumbent who has done a good job at representing them in other ways. Given that Studds, Frank and Kennedy are all from Massachusetts, it may also suggest that Bay State voters are more open to looking past real or perceived morality lapses than are voters in some other states.

Indy Voter said...

Well,Eli, if you think they're exactly the same thing why did you specify that the underage page Studds had sex with was male? Clearly, you DO see a difference because you chose to state the page's gender in your post.