Behind the Right's Double Standard on Craig and Vitter
As the old expression goes, you are what you eat. And that imagery, apparently, is behind the growing conservative chorus calling for the resignation of disgraced Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig.
Revelations that Craig pleaded guilty to charges of "lewd conduct" in a Minnesota airport men's room is producing right-wing revulsion absent during the recent prostitution woes of Louisiana's David Vitter. With more potential revelations rumored to be coming from his home state Idaho papers, Craig's near-term survival (let alone 2008 reelection prospects) seems in great jeopardy. Conservative radio host, columnist and blogger Hugh Hewitt rejected the Senator's almost comic explanation and declared "Craig's behavior is so reckless and repulsive that an immediate exit is required." By Monday night, some right-wing Idaho bloggers (here and here) were already calling for Craig to step down.
The pressure from his GOP colleagues is also starting to build. Craig quickly resigned his post as the Senate leader for Mitt Romney's presidential effort, followed immediately by the Romney team scrubbing an adoring video by Craig from the campaign web site. And as FireDogLake and Down with Tyranny report, the groundswell to feed craig to the wolves is well underway in the conservative corner.
The contrast with the David Vitter affair could not be more stark. The family values Louisiana Senator and Clinton inquisitor emerged largely unscathed from his prostitution scandal involving his rumored predilection for women in diapers and threats from his own wife of a Lorena Bobbitt redux. As the record shows, Hugh Hewitt was not along among the mouthpieces of the right when he said of Craig, "I realize that I did not say this about Senator Vitter." Vitter's colleagues clearly felt the same way:
Bob Livingston, whose affairs led to his own moral implosion and eventual replacement in Congress by Vitter, said his fellow. Louisiana Republican should "pick himself up and charge forward." Arizona Senator John Kyl also rushed to the defense of the serial whoremonger Vitter, "I don't know what it is that he has apologized for, and until it's clear that there's some kind of crime that was committed, that was of such a nature that he should resign, it seems to me that talk is a little premature." And fellow Cajun conservative Bobby Jindal, the frontrunner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, had apparently joined Vitter in seeking divine intervention.
What's behind the right's different response to Craig's boy trouble? In a nutshell, the boys. When it's raining men, Republicans will rain criticism on their own. The philandering and serial marriages of Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson apparently fit within the big tent of Republican family values. But introduce the specter of homosexual behavior by the likes of Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, Jim West and Ed Shrock, and the conservative movement acts quickly to throw the sinner overboard.
At this point, the script will write itself. After his initial denials, Senator Larry Craig will issue the obligatory Republican "unpology" to anyone he "may have offended or disappointed." But it won't be enough. If he does not resign his seat outright, Craig will abandon his 2008 reelection campaign.
As so it is with the right. The punishment of ex-communication is certain when one of the faithful gets caught speaking of the love that dare speak its name.
UPDATE: ThinkProgress and Town Hall provide the latest updates on the Craig revulsion-fest now underway in right-wing ciricles. Particularly notable is the cognitive dissonance of GOP presidential hopeful and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback.