Ben Stein on Larry Craig

03 September 2007

Back in the early 1980s, during the Congressional page sex scandal, there had been rumors that some members of Congress had engaged in sexual acts with certain underage male pages. Before anybody came forward and accused him of doing anything improper whatsoever, closeted homosexual Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) issued a public statement declaring that he personally was not involved in this particular incident. Craig said that he felt the need to come forward pre-emptively because he was "unmarried" and therefore might be targeted with false accusations in the future for some reason.

Lo and behold, Craig recently pleaded guilty to soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a public restroom (the officer had been inside that particular restroom at that particular time due to recent reports of lewd behavior). At 12:13 p.m., Craig had entered the public restroom and anxiously peered into the undercover officer's bathroom stall. The Senator then waited for the stall next to this officer to become vacant, and immediately occupied the space himself. Craig tapped his foot, inching it closer and closer until it was rubbing against the officer's. Craig then made a stroking motion underneath the stall that was clearly visible to the officer (Craig later said he was just picking up a piece of paper from the floor of an airport bathroom stall, but the arresting officer says there was no paper there). This is, apart from being something really creepy to see while taking care of your own business, a telltale signal that one desires to get it on in a public men's room. The police officer recognized this signal and displayed his badge underneath the stall. Once he saw the badge appear under his stall, Craig shouted "NO!" and left the stall without flushing the toilet (he apparently hadn't gone to the bathroom at all this entire time). He'd been caught.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with homosexual behavior. However, soliciting sex in a public restroom, and playing footsie with a complete stranger while he attempts to take a dump, is supremely weird and creepy. The state of Minnesota even takes this a step further, and considers such behavior to be "disorderly conduct." Larry Craig pleaded guilty to exactly this:

Minn Stat. Sec. 609.72
Whoever does any of the following in a public or private place, including on a school bus, knowing, or having reasonable grounds to know that it will, or will tend to, alarm, anger or disturb others or provoke an assault or breach of the peace, is guilty of disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor: ...
Engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.

Ever in denial, the closeted Craig came forward (as soon as the matter became public), and defiantly declared "I am not gay." He insists that he will "fight" the charge to which he has already pleaded guilty.

This is all a very sad story. It's sad that Larry Craig is so ashamed of himself that he is reduced to soliciting sex from strangers in airport restrooms, and possibly from Congressional pages (although there is nothing to substantiate this, you have to admit that it's strange how defensive Craig became immediately after that story broke). It's sad that Craig's wife and children have to hear about all this on the news. Overall, it's a very embarassing story for everyone involved. However, it's also hard to be sympathetic towards a man who, in the face of damning evidence, insists that an apparently honest police officer is actually a bald-faced liar.

Nonetheless, political hack Ben Stein felt the need to step forward and take the opportunity to get in some gratuitous jabs at the arresting officer.

First, Stein invokes Al Qaeda and acts as if doing any other kind of police work amounts to enabling terrorism:
"It's an airport, hello? There are security problems at airports. Al Qaeda are you listening? Our security people are entrapping perfectly honest U.S. senators in lavatory stalls instead of looking for you terrorists."
The man was investigating previously reported incidents of lewd behavior in that exact same bathroom. This is something that the airport has an obvious interest in ending. They're not going to just drop everything else because Al Qaeda exists.

Next, Stein recounts the event while omitting pretty much everything significant:
"This guy went in there, as far as we know, all he did was tap his foot or listen to somebody else tap his foot."
Actually, we also have a police officer's testimony that the man peered into his bathroom stall, rubbed his foot against the officer's, made the telltale stroking motion, and shouted "NO!" when he knew he'd been caught. It's not like this officer just has a grudge against people who tap their feet, and to suggest so is absurd.

Stein then makes the same mistake and simultaneously invokes Godwin's law:
"But he didn't do anything. He tapped his foot. And I don't like the idea that people are sitting in the next stall from you at a public bathroom listening to whether or not you tap your foot. This is, as I said, Gestapo tactics, Gestapo, Gestapo, Gestapo. It's not America."
GESTAPO, GESTAPO, GESTAPO! Not everything is comparable to Nazi tactics, Ben. This incident in particular is a very far cry from the Nazi Gestapo.

Red herring:
"What did he do wrong? Suppose, he was soliciting for gay sex. Gay sex is not illegal in the United States, the Supreme Court has said that."
You're right. Gay sex is not illegal. But that's not the question. Disorderly conduct is illegal. And when you solicit sex in a public restroom by rubbing your foot against a complete stranger and stroking your hand underneath his bathroom stall while he tries to take a dump, that is illegal. Oh, and he pleaded guilty to an illegal act.

This is not about homosexuality. Of course, that's the punchline given Craig's previous voting record, but it is not at all anti-homosexual to say that this behavior is of a kind that we should discourage.

Furthermore, I'd just like to point out what Ben Stein thinks of homosexuals, himself:
"I hope it won't come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys."

But it's apparently okay for him to say that, since he knows gay people.

BONUS: Video!

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