Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, September 07, 2007

Larry Craig, The Republicans And The Narrative

The uncomfortable truth is that you are safer sharing a bathroom stall with Larry Craig than riding in Ted Kennedy's Oldsmobile. Why doesn't that matter?

Never mind.

I was looking forward to watching Larry Craig’s opportunistic allies squirm. But, it looks like he’s going to resign after all and spare his new “friends” the discomfiture. It was probably these new friends that had Senator Larry Craig reconsidering his retirement in the first place.

A week ago, the New York Times published a relatively sympathetic editorial that was in reality a slam against the supposedly intolerant Republican Party. This paper followed. But the tipping point may have occurred when Jim McGreevey, the disgraced former New Jersey governor, expressed his sympathy for Senator Craig in the Washington Post. Within hours Larry Craig’s office announced that he was having second thoughts.

Whether or not Larry Craig should be forced out of the Senate because Minneapolis police were trolling for men looking for love in all the wrong places is not a concern of this corner. What’s troubling is the hypocrisy of the whole affair – and not just Larry Craig’s. If Senator Craig were to change his mind concerning retirement, he’ll almost certainly learn that the liberal lachrymosis that he enjoyed in his role as a victim was almost certainly Alligatoridae in sincerity.
I was looking forward to hearing all those compassionate liberals who wagged their fingers at judgmental Republicans come to his defense. Would they still rally around him knowing that it might help him keep his seat?

Liberals who imagine that Larry Craig’s treatment by his own party represents homophobic intolerance are ignorant of the stupid party’s historical naiveté. Republicans labor under the misconception that they will be rewarded for holding their own to a higher standard than the opposition.

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was hounded into resigning his leadership post for saying kind things about an old man that were easily misinterpreted as an endorsement of racial segregation. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ former Ku Klux Klansman, Robert Byrd, still enjoys his party’s reverence. During a tribute to West Virginia’s most famous Grand Kleagle, Connecticut Senator and Democratic presidential wannabe Christopher Dodd, praised Byrd in terms that could just as easily have been misconstrued as Lott’s, but hardly a raised eyebrow was raised.

The reason is that the mainstream press is not just ideologically sympathetic to Democrats, but works from established narratives that facts will not derail. As Newsweek’s Evan Thomas said when defending the press’s treatment of the Duke University lacrosse team rape case: “The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong.”

According to the narrative, Democrats are smarter, more ethical and more compassionate. Republicans are rigid, intolerant, cold-hearted racists. Facts bounce off the narrative as bullets bounce off Superman’s chest.

Do Republicans believe that pursuing an ethics investigation of Larry Craig will bait Democrats into setting the bar so high that not a single member of their own caucus could clear it? If that’s what Republicans think, then they truly learn nothing from history. Didn’t Ted Kennedy drown a woman in his car without paying a price? Democrats don’t even acknowledge the bar.

While doing opposition research on Maryland senatorial candidate Michael Steele, staffers employed by New York Senator Charles Schumer’s office illegally stole Steele’s identity. There was no ethics instigation and little press attention. To this day, New Yorkers who rely exclusively on the New York Times for their news are ignorant of their senior senator’s involvement.

In the aftermath of the Mark Foley escapade, press attention focused on what the Republican leadership knew and when they knew it. The real story was what the Democrats knew, when they knew it and what they did with it. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rohm Emmanuel learned of Tom Foley’s lecherous missives to male pages a year before he made them public. If Foley were such a threat, then didn’t Emmanuel have a moral and ethical obligation to put a stop to it immediately? Instead, he sat on the information until he judged that its release would inflict maximum political damage on Republicans.

From 2001 through 2005, California’s Dianne Feinstein used her position on the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee to steer billions of dollars in contracts to her husband’s company. That strikes me as far more unethical than Larry Craig’s sexual appetites, but if she is being brought before the Ethics Committee to answer, I’ve not heard it.

But, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the narrative.

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