By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 09/02/07
Anyway you look at it, the news this week on Senator Craig is tragic: tragic for him if the accusations are false and he has been tarred and feathered by the media for a falsehood, and tragic if true and he has struggled with identity issues and has resorted to sordid means to sort them out. And tragic for him and his family that after three decades of exemplary public service for Idahoans, that this would be his legacy, whether the claims are true or not.
Equally disturbing, however, is the double standard applied to such events. The New York Times led the story with the headline, “Scandal Scarred GOP asks ‘What’s Next?’” implying that scandal is endemic with the Republican Party. It appears that the “guilt by association” charge only applies to Republicans, whereas historical reality paints quite a different picture.
There was no declaration of party-wide scandal after William Jefferson (D) Louisiana, was found to have accepted $100,000 bribe later retrieved from his freezer during the Katrina hurricane. He still serves in the House, although he had to give up his position on the Ways and Means Committee.
I don’t recall cries of party corruption when Senator Diane Feinstein (D) California, was found to be funneling defense contracts to her husband’s company. She faced no charges, has remained in the Senate, and has also retained her committee assignments, including the one with the Armed Services Committee where she was wielding her improper influence for her own aggrandizement!
When former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D) Georgia verbally and physically assaulted Capital Hill policemen, or when John Ford, a Democrat party Kingman in Tennessee pleaded guilty to accepting bribes, there were no cries of scandal for the Democrat party. They were all “crises,” but certainly not for the party. Even after Gerry Studds (D) from Massachusetts engaged in homosexual behavior with an underage Congressional page, he declared it was his own business and nobody else’s, and was re-elected five more times to the House. By contrast, Mark Foley (R) from Florida was forced out of Congress for sending questionable e-mail to male pages. The double standard is readily apparent.
Even if we were to add up all the misdeeds of Republicans over the past twenty years, they still probably wouldn’t be as long as the list of accusations and confirmed misdeeds of President Clinton just while he was in office. Perhaps my memory fails me, but I don’t recall any headlines after Bill Clinton’s escapades in the Oval Office proclaiming a crisis for the Democrat party.
Every time there is a scandal that has anything to do with a conservative, Republicans are forced to go on the defensive, as if the party itself was guilty of improprieties, but it never seems to work the other way. To the Democrats, every event is political, and personal tragedy or indiscretion is not personal, but is an opportunity to ascribe blame and publicly crucify the offending Republican, but their own are immune to such public denunciation.
When Senator Tim Johnson, (D) from South Dakota suffered a stroke, in the same breath that expressions of condolences were expressed on behalf of the family, the Democrats were expressing concerns about how this would affect the composition of the Democratically controlled Senate. Again, every event is political, and personal tragedy is a by-line at best. If there’s a political advantage to be gained, they’ll exploit it for all it’s worth.
Let’s look again at the Bill Clinton scenario. Clinton was impeached by the House for lying under oath. But the escapades with the cigar, the blue dress, and a White House intern only disgusted us, and did not provide the grounds for the impeachment proceedings themselves. If that had been a Republican president engaging in such behavior, do you really think the events leading up to the perjury charge would have been as seemingly inconsequential as they were for Clinton?
If anything, Republicans seem to expect more from their own. They are vociferous in denunciation of wrong-doing, or even the appearance of impropriety. Name for me the last Democrat thrown under the bus by their own for improprieties, yet the list for Republicans is considerable. Do you honestly think that if a Republican left a woman to drown in his car after he drove it drunkenly off a bridge he would still be in the U.S. Senate after 30 years as Ted Kennedy (D) has? I didn’t think so.
In the present context, if Craig was a Democrat and he announced that he was a homosexual, he would be lauded by the party and embraced by the media for “coming out.” After all, look how long Barney Frank (D) from Massachusetts has continued to serve in the House since he came out, even though his live-in partner was running a homosexual brothel from their shared D.C. apartment.
One distinction some may make is that Craig is a conservative, and has always been supportive of traditional marriage and other conservative causes that some interpret as “anti-gay.” For one thing, supporting traditional marriage is not anti-gay, it’s just recognizing marriage as the foundation upon which the rest of the building blocks of society are built. But is that hypocrisy? How many people have you met who have been engaged in substance abuse who declare to others to never try it, or get involved in it? To me that’s not hypocrisy; that’s wisdom and insight afforded by someone with conviction born of experience.
Further, if Craig was a Democrat, you can bet that the focus would not be on his actions, as questionable as they are. The focus would rather be on how an intolerant society is to blame for someone having to secretly pursue alternative experiences, and there would be the concomitant denunciation of law enforcement efforts to curtail such behavior.
Yes, there are two standards. No political party has a monopoly on indiscretion in politics. I just wish that the same standards would be applied across the board. Larry Craig has done great things for Idaho. I will always appreciate what he has done in his many years of service regardless of how his years of service are terminated.