A Tale of Two Cities

Antigay family values defend the girls of the Big Easy and attack the boys of Boise.

BY Rod McCollum

September 20 2007 11:00 PM ET

if schadenfreude
could be compared to a gourmet meal, let’s just say
the unraveling of Sen. Larry Craig’s political
career certainly qualifies as a veritable four-star
feast at Le Cirque. Decades of rumors of a closeted
lifestyle. A viciously antigay voting history. His
hysterical denial after last fall’s exposé
by gay activist Mike Rogers on Craig’s
extracurricular activities at Washington, D.C.’s
Union Station. Finally, the almost orgiastic
pièce de résistance: the virtual gang bang
conducted by Craig’s former friends and fellow
family values conservatives after the senator’s
“wide stance” was publicized.
“Unforgivable,” in the words of Senate
minority leader Mitch McConnell. “Disgusting,”
from Mitt Romney, 2008 presidential hopeful (who only
days before was Larry’s BFF).

Care for an
after-dinner mint? Try the senator’s delicious claim
of innocence: “We’ll fight this like
hell,” Craig promised as he drove off into the
sunset, sounding just as convincing as O.J. vowing to catch
the “real killers.”

Naturally,
gourmet meals are accompanied by a hefty price tag. In this
case, the (reality) check was brought by none other than
Patrick Buchanan: “Rarely has a United States
senator fallen so fast from grace or been so
completely abandoned.” As much as we hate to agree
with the likes of Buchanan -- he has never been a
friend to gays, closeted or otherwise -- the
archconservative pundit has a point. The right-wing
cannibalization of Craig was a perfect illustration of the
antigay core values of the Republican Party’s
social conservative base. That Craig was
self-destructing just as the presidential campaign season
unofficially began should be a warning for the months
ahead.

Compare this
scenario to the conservative man-crush that broke the fall
of Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana (a Republican, of course).
Implicated in the “D.C. Madam” scandal,
Vitter had also been racking up frequent-flier points
in a New Orleans bordello. Somewhere between floor
speeches supporting “traditional marriage” and
cosponsoring a constitutional ban against same-sex
marriage, the serial adulterer found time to call the
escort service -- from the Senate Republican Cloakroom,
reportedly. Unlike his closeted colleague from Boise, the
senator from the Big Easy was never pressured to
resign by his colleagues or, perhaps more important,
the party apparatchiks who telegraph right-wing talking
points to the social conservative base. “I realize
that I did not say this about Senator Vitter,”
wrote Hugh Hewitt, the patron saint of
“values” bloggers. “But Craig’s
behavior is so reckless and repulsive that an
immediate exit is required.”

That’s
what they’d like you to think.

Vitter’s
behavior was easy to excuse because it involved a woman
(good), and if he were to resign, Louisiana’s
Democratic governor would appoint his replacement
(bad). On the other hand, Craig was trolling men’s
restrooms (bad), and if he were forced to resign,
Idaho’s Republican governor, C.L.
“Butch” Otter, would name the successor
(good). Craig’s resignation was a win-win
proposition. The right wing could banish an
embarrassment, make an example of his pitiful behavior, and
maintain its political calculus.

Sure, some of the
leadership on the Hill qualified the double standard.
Craig “admitted guilt,” says Nevada senator
John Ensign, claiming that there’s “a
big difference between being accused of something and
actually admitting guilt. David Vitter never did that.
Larry Craig did.” But it doesn’t do much
to obscure the fact that Republicans care especially
about homosexual activity, as homophobic bigot Buchanan
pointed out during a shouting match on MSNBC’s
Live With Dan Abrams. Once again, the
unvarnished truth from the party’s core
constituency: The right-wing brand of family values is
arbitrary, politically expedient, and antigay.

Buchanan’s
naked homophobia is often minimized by the GOP’s
country club wing -- Pat has some colorful theories on
troop morale in foxholes if “don’t ask,
don’t tell” were scrapped -- but make no
mistake: The same expert compartmentalization
exhibited by Craig and other closeted antigays is the
standard operating procedure for members of the Family
Values Party. Their “values” are easy and
effortless: marriage to a wife, or a second (McCain,
Thompson), or a third (Gingrich, Giuliani). Adultery,
trysts with hookers -- even wife beating, in the case of two
GOP congressmen up for reelection last November -- are all
easily forgiven because, well, they still involve
“one man, one woman.” This makes the
GOP’s enemy all the more obvious: any relationship
that is not “one man, one woman.”
Antigay bigotry is as simple as stringing a
piñata at a child’s birthday party and inviting
the guests to take a swing without the blindfold.
Everyone can join in and feel like a winner.

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