The time when politicians can stand with one foot on the platform of homophobia and the other in the closet has come to an end.
Over three years ago -- within a month of the launch of my site, BlogActive.com - the following landed in the inbox:
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 12:30 PM
To: Mike Rogers
I've hooked up with Craig... why not out some actual members and not their staffers?
That one line note started an odyssey that included trips to places like Boise, Seattle and Columbus. Now, twenty-two months later, the effects of that work are reverberating throughout Washington and the nation. People are finally getting that gay Americans have had enough.
Setting aside the number of late-night television talk show jokes and homemade YouTube videos, this is serious business about serious issues.
Unfortunately, when he resigned (and trust me, regardless of yesterday's messaging, he's leaving the Senate), Larry Craig apologized to everyone except the people he has most harmed by his actions -- gay and lesbian Americans. His legacy will include his career-long work in opposing basic civil rights for all, creating an atmosphere where it is unsafe for many to be honest about their lives.
Those in American politics who use anti-gay sentiments for political purposes would be wise to stop using my community as a political punching bag. Politicians like Larry Craig, David Dreier (R-CA), James McCreary (R-LA), and Former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman have helped to create a society that drives many men and women into the closet. Craig's arrest when coupled with the hypocrisy of his seeking sexual encounters from the very men he actively legislates against, becomes merely the catalyst to expose the dishonesty and secrecy of anti-gay politicians who expect a community to harbor its own.
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In the wake of this story, maybe we will hear a lot less frequently that blogs don't impact the mainstream media.
If you look at Howard Kurtz's coverage of my initial reporting on Craig last October you'll notice he couldn't even bear to mention which blog had done the story. And when Brian Ross acknowledged that I served as a source of information for ABC News on Foley and Craig on Kurtz's Unreliable Sources, neither of them would speak my name. Now, just ten months later, Kurtz acknowledges my work in The Washington Post and on air at CNN. In a way it's refreshing. For once, the mainstream media have been obsessing about a sex story with an appropriate impact on politics. At the end of the day another dent has been made in the conservative family values armor. (Notice the silence of the right-wing fanatic, anti-gay crowd. Has anyone heard from Dobson, Robertson, or Sheldon? If they've put out stuff, they sure have not pushed it very hard.)
The time when politicians can stand with one foot on the platform of homophobia and the other in the closet has come to an end. During the '08 election, images of Craig, Foley, David Vitter, Bob Allen and a host of others will remind the "family values" crowd that these guys are not so family friendly.
Whenever I begin to feel sorry for Craig, his wife and her three children from her previous marriage (and how can you not have some sympathy for them?), I recall what Nick Langewis, associate editor of PageOneQ, noted in the midst of Craig's repeated denials:
Had Craig been active duty and plead not guilty he could have been charged and tried in two separate courts (military and civilian and that one encounter likely would have swiftly stripped him of his years of service, health care and pension.
There's no doubt Craig's being coldly and hastily abandoned by his party, much like an openly gay service member by one's country. Compared to the soldiers he helped sell out, though, he's getting off easy; he'll at least get out with his shirt, American flag lapel pin firmly attached.
On August 17th, just two weeks after his guilty plea, Larry Craig wrote to a constituent:
It is unacceptable to risk the lives of American soldiers and sailors merely to accommodate the sexual lifestyles of certain individuals.