There’s More News Than That

I wholeheartedly agree with Mark’s sharp-eyed identification of Senator Craig’s potential abuse of power. But I disagree that the rest of the story is basically a yawn.

The point isn’t that Craig is a hypocrite, although that is true. It is that he is a hypocrite who is using his hypocrisy to oppress a vulnerable segment of the population. Larry Craig and the rest of the Republicans could have played by the Marquess of Queensbury rules concerning Clinton’s affair, and it would still be a worthwhile story to point out their hypocrisy, because it would also point out the absurdity of their public position. That’s more than “the sad consequences of family values homophobia;” it points out how ridiculous family values homophobia is.

The analogy, to my mind, is the revelation that Strom Thurmond had fathered a child out-of-wedlock with an African-American. Thurmond actually was not one to spend a lot of time attacking his opponents sexual behavior, at least not in his Senatorial incarnation. He was probably too addled to criticize Bill Clinton. But he did use the most unconscionable and egregious race-baiting and fear of “racial mixing” in his campaign.

Put another way, if Craig actually did what the police report states (and the evidence seems a little weak to me, although it is similar to much evidence used in solicitation cases), it isn’t private behavior. It is public behavior because Larry Craig wants it to be public behavior. He wants it to be public behavior because he is a bigot, and wants bigotry enshrined as American public law.

That’s hardly a surprise, but it is newsworthy.

UPDATE: Several readers have pointed out that the reference to the Marquess of Queensbury rules is about as ironic as you can get. I had always thought of the nobleman as just as an eccentric who promulgated some modern rules about boxing, but as it turns out, he also was a 19th-century gay-baiter, who outed Oscar Wilde and started the legal proceedings that landed Wilde in jail (or more accurately, gaol). So in point of actual fact, on this issue, the GOP really does follow the Marquess of Queensbury rules–which are the opposite of their popular connotation. Life imitates art.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.