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Principled response accepts Vitter, condemns Craig

Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho is forced to resign after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, downgraded from a sex solicitation charge. Fellow GOP Sen. David Vitter from Louisiana apologizes for a past serious “sin” yet enjoyed both public and politicians’ support. The different situations tell us something about politics, politicians, and political attitudes, and to call different responses to each a “double standard” demonstrates an inability to think logically and clearly about these incidents.

Vitter, after it he was warned his phone number would show up on a list released by a woman charged with running a female prostitution ring, before its release issued a statement in years past he had committed this serious sin. He has neither specified it nor been charged with any crime in any matter. Craig months ago engaged in suspicious behavior indicative of sex solicitation of another man, but pled guilty to a lesser charge, even as rumors have circulated for years that he engaged in homosexual acts.

First, Republicans were more likely to rally around Vitter because he was immediately forthright about what was coming, as soon as there was a possibility of it being on the public record in a way designed to hurt him and his political allies and supporters. This brought him credit from both politicians and the public, taking his painful medicine without excuse or delay. In addition, supporters knew that while for the foreseeable future in open seat Senate contests in Louisiana a Republican will be favored, Democrats can win (and a Democrat likely would serve in the interim), so putting pressure on Vitter to resign would entail a risk that the seat could swing to a Democrat and/or liberal.

By contrast, Craig tried to pretend his situation didn’t exist, sandbagging his allies and supporters, in an Idaho political environment where because the seat is safer for conservative Republicans, there is greater political gain by cutting him loose than allowing him to stay on. The fact that Vitter accepted public punishment while Craig tried to hide and avoid his puts a principled stance of support for the former but not the latter even as there was an obvious political consideration.

Second, Craig’s baggage was much greater than Vitter’s. Vitter has not been charged with any crime, much less pled guilty to any. As such, it would be difficult to find a basis for his resignation. By contrast, Craig did plead guilty to a minor criminal act, which stayed largely unknown until only the past week. The fact that he did not owe up to immediately and it is a crime makes his transgression much more serious than whatever Vitter’s might be.

Third, the essence of their offenses (what we must presume about Vitter’s, that it was visits to call girls) fundamentally differ. Making that assumption about Vitter’s, in his case he behaved inappropriately on some isolated occasions many years ago, behavior that actually is encouraged by the state when in the bonds of marriage around it except that, of course, on these occasions the assumption is they occurred outside of marriage. The state welcomes these relations when engaged in by two people of different sexes in marriage because they serve desirable state goals: procreation and maintaining a healthy marriage bond which optimizes the raising of children.

By contrast, the original charge against Craig accused him of engaging in solicitation of sexual acts that serve no desirable state goal and which the state often proscribes in order to promote better public health, among other things. To put it another way, Vitter it is believed behaved in a way that, in the proper environment, is very beneficial to society, except that of course it is thought he chose the wrong environment, while Craig on that occasion (and was rumored to have done so on many other occasions over many years) was soliciting acts that society through its legal code has deemed harmful under any circumstance.

These differences politically, legally, and attitudinally, would create a principled response arguing for support of Vitter and condemnation of Craig. That’s why Craig Senate career will end soon, while Vitter’s likely will continue for some time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Professor Sadow. I have to disagree with you on Craig. He pled guity to a misdemeanor. So what? If every politician in Washington was booted because of a Class B, the Senate parking lot would be empty.
Craig's crime was trying to keep an embarrassing situation out of an unfriendly press. Not solicitation of sex. I promise you that after the Mark Foley kerfuffle, there is lots of nervous politicians to be found in D.C.

I read the arresting officer's report as well as listened to the tape. Craig should have fought this from the git-go. It was a bad bust and any LE officer will tell you that. He was really busted BEFORE he could solicit. And in our system of juris prudence, a person cannot be charge on "intention" to commit a crime. If that's the case, then the police can start ticketing on the "intention" to speed when you start your car engine.
Maybe the original charge was "solititation" but it would not have held up in court. And the fact that the news media did not report it until now (having happened in June) is suspect in and of itself.
Every newspaper has a police scanner in the press room and even assign reporters to cover the court beat. The local media knows whose been busted, who was charged with what and who is going to appear in court on what charge. For the media to sit on this story was for one reason; optimum affect. Had the information come out when Craig was first arrested and was made public, then Craig would have hired legal representation and it would have gone to court where the officer would have lost.

Vitter was accepted simply because of the attitude of the state he represents. The recent parades today in New Orleans is a clear example that it is more San Francisco than Dallas.

And if we are going to demand that our politicians achieve some higher level of prefection just because they are Republican, maybe we need to wait until the Second Coming to offer up any more candidates.

Personally, I subscribe to the "first stone" philosophy.

Wow! After all the time I have been reading you, we finally disagree. Guess we really aren't clones after all.