30 August 2007

The Minneapolis Airport Shuffle

CNN has both the transcript and audio of a police interview with a senator involved in an alleged lewd behaviour that allegedly took place in the toilet stalls at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. The Minnesota police released the transcript and an audio recording to the news media across the United States on Thursday.

Bond lampooned the thing a couple of days ago, and frankly the transcript doesn't add much to the whole incident; it still seems bizarre for the actions involved, the police response and - this one is really big - a united States senator absolutely an undeniably foolish enough to speak to police without a lawyer present after the senator was arrested and charged.

According to the New York Times, calls are mounting for Idaho Senator Larry Craig to resign. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has, not surprisingly, called Craig's alleged behaviour disgraceful. Romney is shooting for the conservative vote and dumping a guy facing allegations like this would be am easy call. Add that Craig was the co-chair of Romney's campaign - that is until he resigned - and you can pretty much bet little time was taken in the Romney camp to question whether or not to stand by the guy.

While the saga of the Minneapolis Airport Shuffle seems bizarre, other aspects of the story are not. The Idaho Statesman carried a story this week of a 40-year-old Idaho Republican who claims to have had oral sex with Craig in 2004. Statesman editorials have pointed out other aspects of the case, and the senator's past, that have had an unmistakable impact on the story as it has unfolded. For example, the guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge apparently came two months after the arrest and Craig kept the incident from everyone, including his family.

The Statesman capped its coverage by calling for Craig to resign. The editorial board did so citing Craig's desire to keep secrets. and his performance in a public statement after the story broke.

There are a few observations to make, now that the story has developed further.

First of all, Bond's initial reaction was wrong. This is a very serious story. It is serious because of the senator's efforts to avoid or deny dealing with it. Craig apparently has been the subject of local rumours about his sexual activity in the past. The Minneapolis arrest appears to prove the rumours.

Second of all, and as the Idaho Statesman's editorials and coverage make plain, a lack of public accountability or attempting to deny what is obvious is considerably more damaging than dealing with the issue head on.

Third of all, Craig's posturing during the Lewinsky scandal and his opposition to equal marriage measures suggest a measure of hypocrisy, something certainly Idahoans appear not willing to tolerate.

Fourth of all, and looking at it from outside the United States, we might look in bewilderment at a culture which makes an individual's sexual orientation a political issue. Promiscuous heterosexuals can apparently run the entire United States government with not much being said about it.

Fellatio in the Oval office? Not really a problem for most Americans. Most who turned on Clinton - other than hard-core Republicans - did so because of the famous lie, not for the diddling in the broom closet.

But being a gay man?

That's another story in some parts of the United States.

The result of all this is that a 27 year political career in the United States senate has come to an inglorious end. Craig may have himself to blame, as the Statesman puts it, but at some level, there are probably a few other people who should be thinking about the opinion environment they've helped to create.

And as for the Minneapolis Airport? If the Statesman is correct and the place is a known hangout for public indecency and lewdness then by all means it needs to be stopped.

But don't stop it because the people taking part are of the same sex. Do it because none of us need to answer the call of nature either alone or to help our underage children and find adults in the next stall doing something else.

The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, but the porcelain palace is another matter altogether when horny Minnesotans can't just bother to get a room.