Paul Greenberg

Can any aspect of the strange, sordid saga of Larry Craig offer the least satisfaction to any thinking observer of American politics and society?

After a week of the kind of tawdry soap opera that so often makes up the news of the day, a U.S. senator from Idaho announces that he plans to resign, having pled guilty to disorderly conduct. (Although he now says he wishes he hadn't.)

Yet other members of Congress have been less than orderly, and some have even pushed around police officers without feeling the need to submit their resignations. Why must he resign in disgrace? Because his real offense was being caught up in a sex sting in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport - a police operation set up to net homosexuals seeking assignations.

Yet the senator said he was resigning only because he "had little control over what people chose to believe" about his conduct - even though his resignation will surely be taken as a confession by those who will assume he did just what the arresting officer accused him of.

The whole story is as pathetic as it is murky. It says something sad about a senator and man who is unwilling to fight for his now professed innocence; about a society in which cops have to be assigned to duty in men's rooms as decoys; about the kind of politicians and commentators who have used the senator's troubles to tar his political party or maybe his political ideas in general; and about the general tendency even in this post-Freudian society to base a whole range of two-bit psychoanalysis on the most meager foundation of fact.

This is the kind of scandal du jour that should inspire a little more humility on the part of us professional kibitzers, and remind us that fashion can be as fickle in law and medicine as in any other human endeavor. For there was a time when the psychiatric establishment officially proclaimed homosexuality a mental illness; now we're told by an opposite but equally certain band of Advanced Thinkers that any human grouping and groping is the functional equivalent of the traditional family - despite millennia of history, myth, sacred ritual and human development to the contrary.

What fools these mortals still be. For there will always be those who think of the past as only something to outgrow, not learn from.

Torn between its puritanical roots and the latest libertine fashion, a society like ours can seem as confused and uncertain as Sen. Craig himself.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.