Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Restroom Archipelago

Ben Stein steps up to excoriate the "Stalinist" police tactics that snared one toe-tapping U.S. Senator. Ordinarily you'd just chalk this up to either brainless polemicism or a ham-fisted attempt at irony. I prefer to give Stein the benefit of the doubt and assume he's being refreshingly naïve, instead of charmlessly disingenuous.

Senator Craig has been the innocent victim of a set-up by the evil-minded police of Minneapolis-St. Paul that Stalin would have admired.

Here's the deal: Senator Craig went into a men's room at the Twin Cities airport. He entered a lavatory stall. He tapped his foot. He may or may not have reached his hand down under the lavatory partition to pick up a piece of paper or to make a signal.

That's it. That's the whole thing. There was no sex act of any kind.

So the policeman who happened to be in the next stall walks Senator Craig off, starts bullying him, accusing him of lying and, implicitly, threatens to ruin Senator Craig's career.


This is insane.

If a police officer can wreck a man's career over this trifle, then we might as well not have a Constitution or a Bill of Rights.

Oh my. Yes, let's just call it a day as a constitutional republic because poor ol' Larry Craig got caught cruising an airport bathroom. Especially considering all the Fourth Amendment rights that have been eviscerated or disappeared just from the War on Some Drugs, the fact that the U.K. (and soon enough the U.S.) has built a post-9/11 surveillance society, chock-full of behavior-enforcing cameras and such, this is questionably reductive on Stein's part. All the constitutional abuses we've endured as of late, and this is the last straw?

Let's look at the facts. All reports stemming from this incident have stipulated that the sting operation had been initiated by a string of civilian complaints, and that several dozen men prior to Craig had been busted under similar circumstances in this same restroom. This is neither coincidence, nor an isolated incident, nor an unfair application of behavioral standards.

There was no "he may or may not" ambiguity over whether or not Craig swept his hand across the underside of the stall divider, in an apparently standard usage of [rolls eyes] "tearoom etiquette". The police officer has been similarly clear that there was no "piece of paper" for Craig to attempt to pick up. Any such piece of paper would have to have been Craig's own, unless he is in the habit of picking up stray scraps in public restrooms, and he never did produce nor even describe this mythical swatch. Bottom line -- either Craig's lying or the cop is. Who has more reason to lie here, by several orders of magnitude?

Here is where Stein gets a bit credulous on how and why things happen:

Look, I spend a lot of time in Idaho. These are good people. I can readily see why a Senator from there would quietly plead guilty to a small charge rather than risk a public fight - even though the police seem to have wrecked Craig's career anyway.

What I don't understand is why the GOP is tossing Senator Craig overboard as if he were a terrorist.

Maybe you should ask them, Ben. Seriously. And while you're at it, find out why Diaper Dave Vitter has gotten a complete pass, from his own party, from the media, across the board. I agree that Craig's pillorying for a (even if true) relatively minor offense was swift and merciless. But he pled guilty to it, banking that it would go away.

I think there's a story there too -- the story took three weeks to break after the plea adjudication, which itself was seven weeks after the violation and arrest in the first place. I bet there's a hell of a story behind that, if any of our insipid intrepid media souls wish to dig into it before another shiny object appears over the horizon.

Even if it turns Senator Craig is gay, so what? Barney Frank is gay and he's one of the best members of the Congress. There are lots of fine gay public servants.

Senator Craig has been the victim of a police lynching. A party that believes in individual rights should be rallying to his defense, not making him walk the plank.

I couldn't agree more, and Stein deserves credit for staking his points unequivocally. But again, Ben, why do you think this is? Could it be a natural consequence of a party inextricably tethering itself to small but noisy moralistic claque? And really, haven't Republicans compromised and abdicated the principles of "individual rights" just as readily as any big-gubmint red-diaper-baby dhimmicrat?

Isn't it about paying fealty to the multinational merchant princes that really run the country, about preserving order and hyperconsumerism at whatever cost, so that the modern East India Trading Companies can retain and expand their natural places at the top of the pyramid? Let's face it, without tapping into those limbic "values" sentiments "modern" Republicanism has exploited so well, they'd have a much tougher time bamboozling people into voting against their own rational self-interest.

A party that truly valued the rights and primacy of the individual would not go batshit over ridiculous fambly-valyews head-fakes, or wish to hand "unitary executive" powers over to errant reprobates like Bush and Cheney. And they sure as hell wouldn't have thrown a long-serving loyal party member under the bus in the space of a week, and a vacation week at that. We've all had plenty of fun with Craig, but Stein's right that this precipitous intra-party lynching is not something for Republicans to be proud of, especially given their visible hypocrisy on matters sexual and not.

And if any of that actually makes Stein change his mind about what his party has to offer next year at the ballot box, I'll be astonished.


Anonymous said...

Here's a suggestion:

Ben Stein doesn't care why you think he's wrong. You should care whether you're smarter than Ben Stein, or less of a partisan, or whatever.

Just point and laugh. These are madcap times. Ben Stein is making a fool of himself, coming to the aid of people who want to have sex in public washrooms.

And please: If you want to go on for a page and a half about it, at least be amusing.

Heywood J. said...

You're a newcomer, aren't you?

woodguy said...


Here's a suggestion:

If you are looking for comedy, try Comedy Central on cable TV, or tune into Shrub's next stammering and bumbling of someone else's words (speech).