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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Captain Ed on Sen Larry Craig's Arrest


Right at the beginning of the post, I'm going to state that I find Larry Craig's conduct in the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport reprehensible. I find his conduct during his arrest even more so, obviously trying to intimidate the arresting officer by giving him the Senate business card. Looking for sexual partners in public restrooms reflects very badly on Craig, and makes his political posturing on "family values" a joke.

All that said, I think we have to ask ourselves about the nature of the crime itself. After reading the complaint, it hardly makes for a good case for police intervention, let alone convictions on disorderly conduct.

****snip quotes from the complaint**************

Let's stipulate that all of these actions are a well-known prelude to sexual encounters, even encounters conducted in public restrooms. Even so, nothing Craig did should constitute a crime, with the possible extreme interpretation of battery by touching his foot to the undercover officer. A series of signals that consist of foot-tapping and hand-swiping harms no one but the reputation of the man using them.

Had Craig actually exposed his genitalia in a public manner for the purposes of sexual gratification, that would have been a crime. Had he offered to pay for the officer's sexual services, that would have been a crime. How does foot-tapping and hand-swiping amount to disorderly conduct?

Contrast this to a prostitution bust, for instance. People cannot be convicted or even arrested for signaling prostitutes for sexual services; an explicit offer of sex in exchange for money must take place. Tapping feet, hand signals, and brushing up against the toes of a prostitute on the street aren't enough to get someone arrested. In sting operations, police have to get that explicit offer before making an arrest.

What Craig did was monumentally stupid and deservedly should shut down his career in the Senate, but all it comprised (in itself) was an offer of consensual sex, and there is nothing inherently illegal in an offer of consensual sex. Anyone signaled in such a manner could just as well tell the signaller to get lost, just as they could in a bar or nightclub. No one was harmed, and no crime was committed, even though many view the behavior as distasteful and out of place. As long as no sexual act takes place in the public area, I'd say no crime takes place. That's why I think David Vitter should be seen as at least as culpable as Craig, and possibly more so.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council defended David Vitter. He'll probably not defend Craig.

The Senate Republicans are calling for an ethics investigation of Craig. They closed ranks around Vitter, even though they aren't happy with him.