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How they see us: America's horror of gay politicians
From the magazine: The United States has treated us all to a sorry spectacle, said Anna Grau in Spain
T

he United States has treated us all to a sorry spectacle, said Anna Grau
in Spain’s Diario Montañes. Larry Craig, 62, the senior U.S. senator from Idaho, is being hounded out of office for soliciting gay sex. Craig, as the world now knows, was arrested in the men’s room of an airport when he tapped his toes and reached his hand under a neighboring stall, a signal cruisers use to solicit sex. “It was all very sordid.” Arguably more repugnant, though, was the behavior of his colleagues. Hardly
a member of his Republican Party encouraged him to keep his seat; instead they bayed for his blood even louder than the opposition Democrats. Had
the sexual indiscretion in question been straight, rather than gay, Craig would have kept his Senate seat. Just look at Sen. David Vitter, the Republican from Louisiana who was caught frequenting a call-girl ring, yet has been entirely absolved. Europeans can only regard such a double standard with bafflement and pity.

And maybe a bit of nostalgia, said Philip Hensher in Britain’s Independent. I found the scandal “pleasingly old-fashioned.” Only in a “fundamentalist nation” like the United States could a politician be destroyed by something
as irrelevant as his alleged homosexuality—which, by the way, he denies. In almost every European country a citizen can sleep with—and contract civil partnerships with—whomever he fancies. Yet the Americans are still conducting the toilet-stall sting. In Europe, it has been a very long time “since pretty policemen were dispatched to flutter their eyelids at lecherous homosexuals in public places.”

Even back when European cops did trawl for gays, said Philippe Gelie in France’s Le Figaro, they routinely released any prominent officials caught in the net, to spare them public disgrace. When poor Craig announced himself a senator, though, it only “reinforced the zeal of the arresting officers.” It’s all part of America’s strange puritanical streak. The same judgmentalism that sends Americans hunting for other people’s moral lapses fills them with outrage at any suggestion of leniency for hapless politicians like Craig. Still, it’s hard to have too much sympathy for Craig. It is his party, after all, that tries so hard to demonize homosexuals. And Craig himself was one of the most strident voices arguing against civil rights for all.

Let this be a lesson to Republicans, said Karin Deckenbach in Germany’s Die Tageszeitung. When you base your politics on a rigid definition of morality, you’ll have a tough time finding leaders who fit the bill. Thus, “even though Rudy Giuliani is the celebrated hero of 9/11,” because he’s been divorced two times, his party’s conservative base treats him like a pariah. And Mitt Romney fares little better, not because he’s a Mormon but because he was once pro-choice on abortion. “Sen. Craig won’t be the last Republican to be caught by his party’s own trap.”

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