The Tragedy Of Larry Craig

The easiest available moral judgment one might impose on Sen. Larry Craig is that he is guilty of moral hypocrisy. Yet another Republican, anti-gay, turns out to be, well – he says he is not gay, but ___.

Many observers, and not just the press and the Democrats, will fixate on that one category of harm as if it were the most important. Indeed, the chain of Republican men who seek illicit sex from other men is a curious phenomenon of our time and deserves a bit more examination;

Craig, it has to be noted, now says that he erred in pleading guilty and asserts that his behavior was entirely innocent and, implicitly, non-gay.

The tragedy compounds for:

## family. Assuming Craig did what the police complaint says he did, the deepest tragedy here is private and personal. The perpetrators of these victimless crimes often are unable to reconcile their concern for their family’s well-being with their own impulses. Ted Haggard’s wife. Dina Matos McGreevey. Tia Allen, the daughter of Florida Sen. Bob Allen. Etc.

## His staff. Members of former Rep. Mark Foley’s staff had trouble landing new jobs. Their resumes have stains through no fault of their own. They suffered fairly considerable emotional distress and embarrassment – and Foley never apologized to them.

## Gay Republicans. After the Mark Foley calamity, many are just now regaining their confidence, buoyed by the relative lack of attention the White House candidates are paying to the “issue” of homosexuality.

## Gays, generally. Mark Foley blamed his bordering-on-pederasty behavior on childhood molestation; the allegations against Craig reinforce another stereotype.

## His party. When Bill Clinton liaised with Monica Lewinksy in the White House, it hurt the Democratic Party in ways the party still doesn’t quite comprehend. It remains a subtext of his wife’s presidential bid. Successive Republican sex scandals – and on a national level, most of the recent sex scandals have been Republican – are hurting the Republican Party. Many conservative evangelicals wonder whether the party tolerates, sanctions and even and covers up the sinful behavior of its members in order to win their votes. The National Republican Senatorial Committee now has another seat – potentially – to defend. The 2008 Republican presidential candidates now have another curveball to dodge.

Just as it’s implausible to argue that the scandals somehow exemplify the Republican ethos – a logical absurdity – it’s equally as implausible to argue that they don’t matter at all, and cumulatively, they don’t stand in the public mind as examples of a party torn away from its moorings.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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