Until recently, Larry Craig was Mitt Romney’s “senate liaison,” a not insignificant job for a candidate that has no Washington experience and few connections. To judge by what Romney said in the wake the breaking scandal, you’d think the two had never so much as met, much less liaised:
I think we have all heard the story about Bill Clinton and how he let us down. That strikes me as another one of these acts of falling short… And we’ve seen disappointment in the White House, we’ve seen it in the Senate, we’ve seen it in Congress. And frankly, it’s disgusting.
Hm, what was that story about Bill Clinton again? Oh, that’s right: He also was involved in a sex scandal! Exactly the same! I wonder why Larry Craig’s approval ratings aren’t improving, then…
One assumes Romney took to such hyperbole (in GOP-ese, comparing someone to Bill Clinton is only marginally less insulting than comparing them to France, pre-Sarkozy) to compensate for ever having had a relationship with the man; someone on the campaign must have thought it wouldn’t be enough to throw Craig under the bus, Mitt should drive it himself. Or perhaps strap Craig to the top. However, to me, his quick and harsh judgment suggests a kind of opportunism that continues to shade the governor’s image. Remember when he distanced himself from his own wife once it was reported she donated to Planned Parenthood?
I suppose that anyone as desperate to as Romney is to burnish his social conservative credentials has to overreact to lurid tales about a colleague. Sam Brownback, whose positions have not seen nearly so much “evolution,” was able to muster a touch more compassion, or at least was able to resist simply stampeding over the man’s already tattered career: “It is not good,” said Brownback. “There is a guilty plea involved in this. But I think we ought to look and see what the facts actually are.”
Personally, I think there’s little doubt as to what Craig was doing in that public restroom. And my own emotional reaction to closeted gay Republicans is primarily that of pity. They’ve chosen to align themselves with a party largely made up of those who refuse to fully acknowledge their humanity and dignity. Hell, they refuse to acknowledge it themselves. What’s more, living a lie tends to suffocate and pervert one’s notions of right and wrong — leading to the kind of behavior that is the story’s true scandal: Craig’s attempt to use his position to weasel out of any charges at all. Homosexuality isn’t a crime — and some have said that cruising restrooms shouldn’t be either — but using elected office as a get-out-of-jail free card is, in fact, “disgusting.” Romney would have appeared more concerned with justice and responsibility — and less with own image — if he had lodged his criticisms of Craig from that more sturdy platform (and, you could argue, the Clinton comparison would have been just as apt).