Thursday, August 30, 2007

An outbreak of no-risk rectitude

Following up on yesterday's entry, regarding the fate of Senator Wide Stance (R-Idaho):

It's noteworthy that so many of his colleagues in the family values party are lining up to take him down. Yesterday, Michigan Congressman Peter Hoekstra, presidential long shot/Senator John McCain, and Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman (a vulnerable '08 re-election prospect) all called on rest room habitue Larry Craig to quit the Senate. And today we've heard the same sentiments from Florida Congresspeople Jeff Miller and Ginny Brown-Waite, Indiana Congressman Mark Souder, Louisiana Congressman Bobby Jindal, and Kentucky Congressman Ron Lewis. Plus, the GOP Senate leadership has stripped Craig of all his committee assignments and perks. Plus, they have sent his disorderly-conduct case to the Senate Ethics Committee.

The heat on Craig has become so intense that his spokesman today was forced to publicly deny that the senator is planning to quit. Which is what a spokesman generally tends to say right before the boss announces that he is planning to quit.

But this speedy show of moral umbrage is not as impressive as it seems, given the fact that the Republicans continue to give David Vitter a pass.

Not a single Republican has lined up to declare that the Louisiana senator - a self-described family-values paragon recently outed as a serial patron of prostitutes - should resign his seat forthwith. On the contrary, he was roundly applauded hy his colleagues at a recent closed-door meeting, and enjoys their support today.

One can certainly point out that patronizing hookers is an illegal activity, and that such behavior is not healthy for a marriage, and that the sanctity of marriage is supposed to be a fundamental GOP tenet, and that Vitter has long advertised himself to be a champion of that tenet, and that his hypocrisy is arguably a blow to the GOP's family-values image...but apparently none of that holds any sway among Vitter's colleagues.

So why the double standard? Two points:

1. Whereas Vitter engaged in illicit straight behavior, Craig was seeking to engage in gay behavior. And whereas the Republicans are demonstrably concerned about how gay behavior might impact traditional family values, they are clearly not so concerned about the impact of heterosexual adultery on traditional family values. As Pat Buchanan noted last night on MSNBC, grassroots Republicans, when assessing the severity of sex scandals, are "especially against homosexual activity." And as social conservative Ross Douthat explained yesterday, "it is easier to demonize gay people" than to talk about "heterosexual divorce rates."

2. And this is really the crux of the matter. It's fine for Republicans to display moral outrage against Larry Craig, and demand that he quit, because they know that the Republican governor of Idaho will merely tap another Republican as a replacement, and that therefore the Republican Senate tally will remain at 49. But if they were to bail out on David Vitter, and force him to quit, they would pay a political price. The Democratic governor of Louisiana would tap a Democrat as a replacement, and thus enhance the Democrats' slim Senate majority.

Which prompts a serious question: If Republican Larry Craig was representing a blue or purple state, with a Democratic governor at the helm, would his colleagues be waxing indignant and demanding his resignation?

Or is the current display of umbrage merely an exercise in no-risk rectitude?