We Apparently Need Another Sign at the Airport*

signs-signs-everywhere-a-sign.jpgIn re: Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig, who, in case you didn’t know, got involved in a little disturbance of the peace in a men’s room at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport:

Here’s one question I have not seen asked or answered anywhere. Are there big signs in the Minneapolis Airport’s restrooms saying “NO GAY SEX” or “NO OBSCURE GAY COME-ONS?”

There are lots of signs all over airports prohibiting various activities. No smoking. Do Not Enter. Do Not Leave Bags Unattended. The White Zone is for Loading and Unloading Passengers Only. I happen to know that the Minneapolis airport was one of the first to ban smoking, because my mother tried to light up during a trip to visit her sister and was escorted outside. I think she was puffing away in a phone booth when she called to tell me of this outrage.

So why not one more sign? Craig’s arrest didn’t take place in a bathroom in a public park that had become a notorious meeting place. One could argue an undercover cop might belong in there to address a widely-known problem. But many people arriving at the airport in Minneapolis aren’t from Minneapolis. How are they supposed to know that particular restroom is a focus of investigation?

Instead of making some poor cop sit on the can for 20 minutes waiting for some odd toe-tapping to begin, why don’t they station him outside, in uniform? As we filed in, he could say, “If I hear any hubba-hubba from you gents, I’m busting down the door.” Wouldn’t that be a more effective deterrent?

We prohibit sex in airport restrooms primarily to make people like me feel safe going there to conduct the usual #1 and #2. If I was concerned about bumping into a couple of guys doing each other, I think I’d feel much safer with the uniformed cop outside the door. That would represent an explicit statement of community standards.

The whole point of using an undercover cop is that he not be noticed. He’s not trying to deter the activity, but instead to make sure the potential violator feels comfortable preparing to commit the crime, the better to entrap him.

Basically, sex in airport restrooms is an environmental crime, like smoking, playing the radio too loud, or acting weird in general. Do they use undercover cops to bust smokers? The one who nabbed my mother was pretty open about it.

louis-renault-is-shocked-shocked-just-like-mitt-romney.jpgAnother, more political question: Who does presidential candidate Mitt Romney think he’s kidding? Sen. Craig was until yesterday a co-chair of Romney’s campaign.

In his interview on CNBC’s Kudlow & Company (which will air later this afternoon), Mitt Romney had some sharp words for Sen. Larry Craig, who had endorsed the former Massachusetts governor’s presidential campaign and was his Idaho chairman. “Once again, we’ve found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence. Very disappointing. He’s no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine… I’m sorry to see that he has fallen short.”

Romney wants us to believe Craig’s sexual issues came as a surprise to him? It is my understanding that Craig’s sexuality was a more or less open secret in Idaho political circles. He was outed by a left-wing gay activist last year, although proof was lacking. As conservative a state as Idaho might be, the GOP leadership in that state was content to be represented for three terms by a man whose closeted gay status was, at minimum, the subject of authoritative speculation. This happened because most Republicans are two-faced on the issue of gay rights: Against them when trolling for votes, but more than tolerant of their friends, colleagues and contributors who are in or out homosexuals. That was certainly the situation with Craig.

I don’t like outing, but perhaps the Idaho GOP needs to be outed — for hypocrisy. Did none of them think to warn Romney that he was tying his campaign to a gay time bomb? Surely not — because they are used to the double standard, and were so used to Craig’s successful navigation of a double-life, they thought it was perfectly safe. So I hope someone asks Romney in an upcoming debate what he knew and when he knew it. This is evidently an important issue to Romney, seeing as how he told the Log Cabin Republicans in 1994 that

“For some voters, it might be enough to simply match my opponent’s (Ted Kennedy) record in this area,” he said. “But I believe we can and must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.”

Now, Romney is taking pains to persuade social conservatives that this letter didn’t mean what he says it meant. The Family Research Council is on his case, with its president saying of the Log Cabin letter,

“This is quite disturbing,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who had praised Mr. Romney as a champion of traditional values at the group’s conference in late September. “This type of information is going to create a lot of problems for Governor Romney. He is going to have a hard time overcoming this.”

I guess Senator Craig gets to play the villain in a morality play, by which Romney hopes to convince people like Perkins that he’s just as bigoted as they are.

(Some of this was based on a comment I posted on Althouse.)

*Update, 8/29.  This post, by law professor Dale Carpenter, fleshes out Republican hypocrisy on gays in their midst, except his term for it is “ideological schizophrenia.”

The big, open secret in Republican politics is that everyone knows someone gay these days and very few people – excepting some committed anti-gay activists – really care. It’s one of the things that drives religious conservatives crazy because it makes the party look like it’s not really committed to traditional sexual morality.

So to keep religious conservatives happy the party has done two things. First, it has steadfastly resisted efforts to ease anti-gay discrimination in public policy, even when Republican politicians know better. I can’t tell you how many Republican staffers told me, for example, that their bosses privately opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment but would be voting for it anyway.

Second, to keep the talent it needs and simply to be as humane and decent as politically possible toward particular individuals, the party has come up with its own unwritten common-law code: you can be gay and work here, we don’t care, but don’t talk about it openly and don’t do anything to make it known publicly in the sense that either the media or the party’s religious base might learn of it. It’s the GOP’s own internal version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

This uneasy mix of the public and the private is not exactly what I’d call hypocrisy. It’s perhaps better described as a form of ideological schizophrenia: private acceptance welded to public rejection. It’s a very unstable alloy.

2 thoughts on “We Apparently Need Another Sign at the Airport*

  1. Yeah, the poor cop. I don’t think he’d want to sit in the stall in wait like that and come up empty-handed, so to speak. He got his man.
    They could also install surveillance cameras, or sensors that detect “inconsistent” sounds coming from the stalls. Do we have a Constitutional right to poop in private? Has that ever gone to the Supreme Court?
    Romney….I thought I would like him but he seems more and more like one of those things floating in the toilet that are produced by activities consistent with legal behavior in a bathroom stall. A slick, mean guy. Why would anybody want to work for him? He’ll drop you — he’ll vilify you — in a millisecond.

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