Friday, October 5, 2007

The Man Who Wouldn't Leave

Face it, even if you'd had years of experience as a political consultant, you wouldn't have come up with as brilliant a strategy as the one Senator Larry Craig stumbled into. When the glare of the spotlight was hottest, and his own party was baying for his head, he did the one thing he could to take the pressure off -- he said he'd resign. Then, a month later, he simply announces that he'll stay! Now his story is old news. People don't seem nearly as exercised. The Post says that Republican Senators are "furious," but I think the general public isn't as concerned as it was before. In hindsight, Craig's strategy brilliantly managed to put things off until they'd cooled down.

Should Craig go? The public's also had time to grasp that what he did wasn't that terrible, apart from the hypocrisy involved. I haven't looked up the state law, but I have doubts that simply soliciting sex, even from a stranger, is really a crime at all -- if you say to someone in a bar, "would you like to go back to my place and have sex?" that's no crime, and I doubt the state could even make it one if it wanted to. That the sex involved in this case would have been homosexual rather than heterosexual is irrelevant.

On the other hand, I presume a state could make it a crime to actually have sex in a public place like an airport bathroom -- the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the equanimity of the public, particularly children, who might unwillingly see or hear it -- and therefore, if Senator Craig asked the police officer to have sex in the bathroom, that would be an inchoate crime. Of course, it's a little tough to know exactly what Craig suggested, since everything happened wordlessly. I guess it's possible that the coded signals Craig allegedly sent could mean "let's do it right here" to those in on the code. It would be up to the prosecution to prove that, and for a jury to decide, but personally I'm skeptical -- it would be tough to exclude the possibility that the alleged signals would just have been the prelude to slipping off to a private place like a nearby hotel room.

So it's not clear that the Senator really did anything so terrible that it would be grounds for leaving the Senate. I guess I would say that (if the police officer's allegations are true) it does show very poor judgment for a public figure to reveal his deepest secrets to a random stranger. But in the end, the most important factor seems to be that Idaho has a Republican governor (who would appoint Craig's successor if he left), whereas Louisiana (home of Senator Vitter, who's apparently been up to some other illegal sex) has a Democrat.

No comments: