In Jack Trevor Story’s excellent satirical novel, Screwrape Lettuce, the entire British police force is afflicted with permanent priapism after eating a powerful strain of aphrodisiac red lettuce. One might be forgiven for suspecting that a portion of the current Republican Party has been eating something similar when another story like the one following emerged this weekend:
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call Monday afternoon.
Craig’s arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.
A spokesman for Craig described the incident as a “he said/he said misunderstanding,” and said the office would release a fuller statement later Monday afternoon.
After he was arrested, Craig, who is married, was taken to the Airport Police Operations Center to be interviewed about the lewd conduct incident, according to the police report. At one point during the interview, Craig handed the plainclothes sergeant who arrested him a business card that identified him as a U.S. Senator and said, “What do you think about that?” the report states.
Craig had been outed as gay last year by activist blogger Michael Rogers, shortly after the Mark “Page Pesterer” Foley scandal and shortly before the Ted “Muscles and Meth” Haggard scandal. (And while we’re on the subject of sex in toilets, let’s not forget the ongoing saga of State Representative Bob Allen and his fear of black men.) Craig’s office denied the allegations, of course; maybe the red lettuce or whatever it is they’re eating also causes these persistent lapses of Republican memory cells? Anyway, Michael Rogers issued a statement about Senator Craig earlier today:
“Larry Craig should stand up and be honest with the citizens of Idaho about who he is,” said Rogers, the country’s top gay activist blogger. “Tonight is a historic opportunity for Senator Craig to run for re-election as a proud gay American. What a great turning point for one of the most conservative states in the country to be represented by an openly gay Senator.”
“Senator Craig’s situation is exacerbated by the fact that he has a voting record that is counter to the interest of lesbian and gay Americans. All too often, closeted men like Senator Craig use their voting record to hide their truth from the American people. With this news now out in the open, I call upon Senator Craig to reevaluate his votes on issues like the Federal Marriage Amendment, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the Defense of Marriage Act.
“The Minnesota arrest is not a one-time occurrence,” Rogers added. “Last October, I reported on three other encounters that Senator Craig had with men – including one in a bathroom in Washington’s Union Station. What’s troubling about this is Larry Craig’s hypocrisy: he repeatedly votes against the gay community during his day job, while engaging in same-sex encounters as extra curricular activity. Now is a good time for Larry Craig to join millions of other Americans and be proud of who he is.”
On October 17, 2006, Rogers broke the story of Craig’s sexual encounters with men. Rogers independently interviewed three Craig sexual partners, two in the Pacific Northwest, and one who lives in Washington, D.C. The Washington source told Rogers that he and Sen. Craig had oral sex in two different bathrooms of Union Station, the train depot within sight of U.S. Senate Office Buildings.
Rogers said the sources each independently described something unique about the senator that could only be known to someone who had had sexual contact with him.
“Without a doubt in my mind, I am absolutely solid on the sources,” Rogers said in October. “I have come to the absolute conclusion based on multiple sourcing in multiple cities around the country. There is no doubt in my mind regarding this information.”
During debates in Congress last year about whether same-sex marriages should be legal, Sen. Craig said, “Marriage has always been defined as the union of a man and a woman, and I believe it should stay that way.”
Viewed from over the Atlantic, these occurrences are hilarious in a beyond-Daily-Show-parody kind of way and depressing in being indicative of the enormous problem much of America still has with different forms of sexuality, not least in its political class.
Here in the UK we have openly gay MPs in all parties now; they can form relationships with partners and live the way they want, they no longer have to cruise for sex in secret. More pertinently, no politician here would dream of using homophobia as a political weapon. We’re over that shit, and living like civilised human beings at last.
And really, we don’t need to invent any mysterious priapic salad to explain these recent scandals; the situation is an entirely self-created one. The problem all those little pink elephants have—and will continue to have—is that they’ve helped foster and sustain an atmosphere that makes it impossible for them to affirm their sexuality. They are—to coin a fine phrase—so far back in the closet, they’re in fucking Narnia. And as long as they stay there, they’ll keep getting caught out, in police stings and other scandals, because sexuality isn’t a choice, it’s what you are.
Bertrand Russell once said, “The people who are regarded as moral luminaries are those who forego ordinary pleasures themselves and find compensation in interfering with the pleasures of others.” He might have added that sometimes those pleasures have a way of turning against the interferers. Keep eating the lettuce, guys.