It was Friday night, a week ago now. I was in Washington, D.C. for the holiday weekend and my friend Jason was late to the party. The beers were sweating, mosquitoes were feasting on my legs and once again, the conversation turned back to Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and that whole thing. We decide that "I pleaded guilty because I was innocent" is a keeper, right up there with "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is," and "I did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it" — profoundly absurd yet utterly indicative of a certain time in history. I'm disappointed with myself for not writing about it before dashing away for the Labor Day weekend, wondering if it'll be too late on Tuesday.
Jason finally strolls in, apologizing for not being able to get through with working sooner, but his editor sent him to Union Station to hang out there and get the lowdown on the downlow of bathroom hookups. You know, because that one dude says he got busy with the senator in a stall there? Right. Then, Saturday morning, we all wake up to Craig saying he's quitting the Senate so as not to be a distraction — but not until Sept. 30, making my D.C. hosts groan at the circus that would ensue in the nation's capital over the next month.
By the time I arrived back in New Jersey — where, by the way, we know from this kind of thing, from the years of whispered is-he-or-isn't-he to the dramatic press conference to the shell-shocked wife looking on — Craig was reconsidering his decision to step down and now says he plans to stay away from D.C.
Let's tally up: The gentleman from Idaho may or may not be gay, pleaded guilty to an offense he may or may not have committed, may or may not be quitting the Senate and may or may not have left a voicemail for his lawyer on the wrong person's machine. So much for the story growing stale over the holiday weekend — this thing's not only got legs, we're talking wide stance here. OK, that was a cheap shot, but Larry Craig is a drama queen of the first order. For someone who claimed he pleaded guilty just to see the whole thing go away, he's proving more adept at keeping himself in the headlines than Larry Birkhead, who apparently also may or may not be gay and we all may or may not care.
Even here in the Jerz, where our to-the-left attitude is part drag queen, part gangsta lean, people are like, "Yo, good luck with all that." I never thought I'd say this, but compared to the what the folks in Idaho are dealing with, we had it easy with Jim McGreevey. The threatened lawsuit that pushed our former governor out of the closet and out of office never did materialize, but when the pork roll hit the fan, his response was shockingly honest: I'm gay, I cheated on my wife and I'm stepping down. McGreevey's relative clarity on those issues — he looked almost relieved as he declared himself "a gay American" — gave the whole thing a weird kind of logic. It certainly didn't excuse his adultery, or the serious ethical lapse he committed as governor by giving his crush a homeland security job. And though McGreevey is now in a committed relationship and about to enter the seminary (no, really), people still think he's a sleaze. But in the larger sense, all of the lying, the covering up and the misbehavior made a bit of sense when you looked at them in the context of a closeted man grappling with his sexuality.
Idahoans aren't so lucky. Craig can protest his innocence and heterosexuality with his words, but the only way any of his actions — from the airport bathroom to that podium in Boise — make any sense is if he really is gay. Otherwise, he's just a sleaze.