Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Senator Larry Craig Bathroom Sex Scandal: A Rush to Judgment or No?

I rarely have trouble making decisions. Ask anyone who knows me well, I usually have an opinion -- an opinion that I am happy to share. But when it comes to the Larry Craig bathroom sex scandal, I still have questions, on a couple of levels.

First, I'm not convinced that people would care as much if the scandal didn't revolve around accusations of homosexuality. At this point, it's significant that news conversations revolve as much, if not more, around Craig's sexual orientation as around sex of any kind in a public place, or even the fact that Craig is married, which is often mentioned only as an afterthought. Really, shouldn't the point be that the man was accused of soliciting sex in a public restroom?

Second, I find Craig's guilty plea perhaps persuasive, but not determinative of his guilt for anything other than legal purposes. As any lawyer, I am fully aware that it is sometimes in individuals' best interest to plead guilty to crimes which they did not commit. Sad, but true. Unfortunately, in this case, it was clearly not in Craig's best interest to plead guilty, but he did, and that cannot be undone.

Third, "You have to be guilty in order to plead guilty" which has become the mantra of CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, usually a quite well-reasoned commentator, is misleading at best. While, yes, that exact language may be printed on the plea form that Craig signed, it is basically meaningless. It is a standard convenience clause included in an attempt to preempt later challenges to guilty pleas. This is something I expect Toobin knows full-well, which leads me to my next and final point.

It is the reaction of Washington insiders coupled with Craig's willingness to plead guilty which I find most persuasive of his guilt, far more so in fact than his actual guilty plea. No one in Washington came to Craig's defense. When the story broke, it was immediately reported that Craig's sexuality had been a point of ongoing discussion for many years. While Craig and fellow "Family Values" Republicans argue against extending equal rights in many arenas to homosexual individuals and couples, they seem fully aware of closeted individuals who serve the party well and at the highest levels. This is something they seem to have little problem with until there is a scandal. The fact that no one came to Craig's defense, not even the staunchest Republicans, makes me believe the accusations against Craig and his guilty plea were something they found not only believable, but almost expected. If he did not actually commit the crime to which he pleaded guilty, it would require more cynicism than I can muster even for the Republican party.

More troubling than the scandal or its impact on politics, I find it deeply disturbing that we live in a society where many men find it more amenable to seek out anonymous sex in public restrooms than acknowledge an identity they are told is sinful and morally reprehensible. This only furthers deep and shameful secrecy that destroys the lives of these men and others.


Oh, The Joys said...

This is so well put. Thank you for articulating this.

Mostly I feel sorry for him, you know. Like he isn't able to be all of himself everyday.

p.s. I did your music thing today.

PunditMom said...

I generally like Toobin, but I couldn't believe his comment about having to be guilty to plead guilty -- it wouldbe nice ifour sysem worked that way, but it doesn't. Another reason I don't practice law anymore.

myminivanisfasterthanyours said...

Great last paragraph. And therein lies the tragedy.

Shannon said...

Thank you OTJ. Yes, the whole situation really is sad.

PunditMom, I generally like Toobin's commentary too. I was taken back when he not only came up with this response, but kept repeating it.

MyMiniVanIsFasterThankYours, thanks. It is a tragedy indeed.