Now that the jokes and catcalls and cries for his resignation have calmed down a bit (although, as an Irving fan, I am upset that no one has pointed out how much Craig looks like John Lithgow’s Roberta Muldoon in the film version of Garp), it is pretty clear that there is an emerging consensus on Larry Craig coalescing across the blogosphere, namely that what Craig has been charged with amounts to not much. Captain Ed:
What Craig did was monumentally stupid and deservedly should shut down his career in the Senate, but all it comprised (in itself) was an offer of consensual sex, and there is nothing inherently illegal in an offer of consensual sex. Anyone signaled in such a manner could just as well tell the signaller to get lost, just as they could in a bar or nightclub. No one was harmed, and no crime was committed, even though many view the behavior as distasteful and out of place. As long as no sexual act takes place in the public area, I’d say no crime takes place. That’s why I think David Vitter should be seen as at least as culpable as Craig, and possibly more so.
The Editors at Slate:
Jacob Weisberg: Shouldn’t we stick up for the poor guy? I can’t believe it’s a crime to tap your foot on the bathroom to signal that you want to hook up, as opposed to actually having sex in the bathroom.
By the way, isn’t this what they got the LBJ aide Walter Jenkins on? Though I think it was in flagrante in that case.***
David Plotz: Having just read the arrest report, I am unimpressed. Craig didn’t disturb anyone, made very subtle signs and only touched the guy in response to a positive signal from the cop. If they want to stop disturbing and disorderly conduct, they need to find more disorder than this.
I understand why they want to stop a bathroom from becoming a den of blowjobs, but this seems pathetic. Also—there is little deterrent effect in doing this generally. It is an airport, so by definition it caters to people in transit, who aren’t going to know that it has become a police target.
Look, I wouldn’t want to bring my 4-year-old son into the airport bathroom and stumble across two people having sex, gay or straight. It’s tough enough getting in and out of the john without him touching every dirty surface or contributing to the mess with an errant aim. But sex didn’t happen here. Even the propositioning is murky at best. And short of a proposition involving sex for money, what is illegal about inquiring about sex? Tactless, maybe. But criminal?
And so on and so on. If this many different sources from different political persuasions can all agree on this, it is hard to think that anything other than Josh Marshall’s assessment is true (Again with the Catch-22 references):
Given what’s described, it seems quite possible that, with a good lawyer, Craig could have beaten the rap.
But had he tried, it would have become public and it would have been pretty clear — clear enough to doom him politically — that Craig is gay and that he gets sex in public restrooms. (If someone put their shoe under a bathroom divider and rubbed it against your shoe, you’d get the message I think.) Remember, there’d already been lots of unconfirmed reports in the past. Because of that, Craig couldn’t fight the charge even though he might well have been acquitted. But once he pled guilty, it really wasn’t a he said/he said, as his press spokesman said yesterday. Craig had said under oath that he was guilty of the charge.
One way or another, once he was arrested, the apparent facts, even if you think they aren’t ones for which you should be criminally culpable, were ones that were not compatible with his continuing in public office — given his politics and the state he represents. All he could do was plead out and hope against hope that no one ever noticed.
This is not to belittle the apparently widespread problem of bathroom cruising in certain locations, nor is it to excuse Craig for what may be the worst press conference in history (in which he basically said ‘I am not gay, I am stupid, and it is just a coincidence that after years of rumors about me cruising for sex in bathrooms I just so happened to get caught doing just that- what a coincidence! I blame the Idaho Statesman!’), but it sure does seem to me, at least, that Craig really did very little to nothing wrong.
And again, I am as guilty as everyone else for having fun at the Senator’s expense (and couldn’t even control myself in the beginning of this post), but despite Craig’s voting record, I can’t help but feel sad for him and his family. Going through life where you have to fulfill your deepest urges in quick, anonymous, and meaningless sex acts in public bathrooms so you can hide who you really are from everyone you love is not something I would want anyone to have to go through. I wish Craig’s voting record and political positions were such that he was not helping to damn other people to the same sort of fate.
*** Update ***
Apparently the calls to resign are not tapering off, but increasing.