It’s never good when Republicans become recognized as much for their sex scandals as for their family values. That’s why Republicans made it very clear last week that Senator Larry Craig had no choice but to resign his Senate seat, why Senator David Vitter offered up a humiliating public mea culpa, and Representative Mark Foley left Congress. No doubt it was too much to expect that the left would refrain from denouncing any of the three – but what’s been most revealing, perhaps, is what Foley, Vitter and Craig have been condemned for, and why.
There’s plenty to criticize about Foley’s suggestive emails to former Congressional pages, Vitter’s contacts with the “DC Madam,” and Larry Craig’s homosexual overtures in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. But in drawing partisan blood, Democrats have tended to focus less on the underlying activity than on the alleged “hypocrisy” of those engaging in it. Foley and Vitter were excoriated by liberals for paying lip service to the concept of “family values” while engaging in unsavory behavior; Craig, it has been repeatedly noted, is a conservative who supports a ban on gay marriage.
Such criticism plays into the worst aspects of Democratic identity politics. It assumes that every homosexual must, in his heart, support gay marriage and hate crimes legislation, and that any husband who is unfaithful to his wife cannot sincerely believe in the sanctity of wedding vows. It’s the newest incarnation of the feminist cri de coeur that the “personal is political” – on steroids. In the left-wing formulation, a politician is a “hypocrite” unless his personal behavior dictates all of his public policies.
For Democrats, the charge of “hypocrisy” has become a catch-all indictment, especially when it comes to sex. It allows them the luxury of condemnation without the responsibility of reaching a judgment about the morality of the underlying behavior. That is an enormous convenience for the party of Gerry Studds (who continued to serve in Congress after confessing to an affair with a 17 year old male Congressional page), Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy.
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