I know a black sheep old-time member of the Conservative Movement, who would often complain lugubriously over his cups (in relation to the unhappy consequences to his conservative career of his own pecadillos) that “the Conservative Movement does not know how to tend its wounded or bury its dead.”
I was tempted to apply that observation to the behavior of Republicans in the case of Senator Larry Craig, but listening to the 8:23 Minneapolis police tape (NY Times transcript) it isn’t even obvious to me that Senator Craig was genuinely wounded.
In the first place, it is perfectly clear that no sex, not even any explicit sexual proposition, ever actually occurred. It is also clear that the covert signals Senator Craig supposedly made were in dispute between himself and Sergeant Karsnia, the arresting officer, and that Karsnia’s version features at least one very major implausibility. Karsnia claims that, as a signal, Craig reached below the divider between his bathroom stall and the stall to his right, with his left hand palm down, and rubbed the bottom of the divider. How could anyone possibly physically do that in the cramped confines of a typical public bathroom stall?
It is also quite apparent, listening to the tape, that Karsnia is artfully and intensely manipulating Craig. He is continuing to sell Craig on the plea deal, and he is also doing his level best to persuade Craig to assent to his own preferred version of the facts. The tape does not contain the whole of their conversation, and the portion released was clearly made in order to support the guilty plea which had been previously negotiated.
Common sense tells us that Karsnia must have threatened Craig with far more serious charges, charges involving the possibility of felony convictions, life-time sex offender status, public scandal and personal ruin, then offered a deal. In Karsnia’s deal, Craig would plead guilty only to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. It would be like a speeding ticket. Craig would simply plead guilty to disorderly conduct, pay $575 in fine and court fees, and walk away a free man. He would even be able to catch his original flight. And, best of all, there would be no publicity, no scandal, no ruinous sexual charges.
We can see just how well the Minneapolis Police Department kept its side of that plea bargain. So why should we believe one of its members’ allegations of about intrinsically ambiguous signals?
Just how plausible is it that a married 62-year-old Senator is in the habit of passing the time between changing planes by finding himself some sort of awkward and unseemly sexual encounter featuring heaven-only-knows whatever precise activity which may be conducted beneath the divider between two lavatory stalls?
As Eric at Classical Values observes, that this is the second major national sex scandal involving a Congressional Republican with no actual sex.
The problem is not one of Republicans not knowing how to tend their wounded. The problem is that Republicans don’t know how to handle scandals, either defensively or offensively.
The Administration’s opponents leak the highest level National Security secrets to the Press, and only one single Intelligence Community official is ever accused, no trial ever takes place. There are no convictions and no punishments. On the other hand, the mere identification of Ambassador Wilson’s wife’s role in assisting his trying to impeach British Intelligence reports of Saddam’s efforts to secure uranium (for a second time) from Niger, in democrat hands, shook the Bush Administration right down to its timid and quivering foundations.
Barney Frank survived a gay prostitution ring being run from his Washington apartment by a gay prostitute he himself had previously hired. But, in the case of a Republican, it only takes a mere accusation for the Party leadership to run for cover, our own editorialists to demand summary execution, and the accused to slink away, his career permanently destroyed.
Bill Clinton sexually exploited a 22-year-old White house intern, and the democrats persuaded a substantial portion of the public that it was downright evil of Republicans to pry into the President’s private sex life.
Republicans need to develop the capacity both to take the heat of the unfair accusations of their adversaries without flinching and to fight back.
Larry Craig has one of the best voting records in the Congress. I don’t personally care if he has a habit of enjoying relations with Idaho sheep by the light of the full moon, and I’m skeptical that he is guilty of anything in Minneapolis. I hope that he will tough it out, and not resign.