By Marie Cocco
WASHINGTON—I’d been enjoying a good chuckle at the YouTube video documenting Mitt Romney’s transformation from dedicated pro-choice advocate in Massachusetts to die-hard abortion foe on the Republican hustings when Larry Craig gave us that come-hither foot tap.
The dog days of August haven’t been livelier since we spent the summer of 2003 talking about Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum. He was, followers of the Republican war on gays might recall, a conservative senator from Pennsylvania who enlightened us with his thinking about sodomy by opposing what even the conservative Supreme Court has legalized, as well as speaking out against the right of consenting adults to commit adultery. Santorum threw into his definition of marriage—the interview centered on gay marriage—what matrimony is not: “It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog or whatever the case may be.”
Santorum’s doggie discourse was but one of the lamentable stumbles on his way to defeat last November. Since then, Republican sex-capades have taken on more of a freak-show quality. Who could have predicted that after Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., got caught sending lewd instant messages to young male congressional aides, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., would have his name turn up on the rolls of the D.C. madam? And there was no way—none at all—to predict that there would be not one but two Republicans—besides the disgraced Craig, there’s a Florida state senator previously affiliated with John McCain’s presidential campaign—who would get caught compromised in a men’s room stall?
As someone who does not believe gays are inherently immoral or deranged, and who finds Washington sex scandals enticing because they hold the potential for that bipartisan participation so elusive in the halls of Congress, I have but one wish: Don’t bring ‘em on.
I do not like seeing people humiliated, especially when wives and children must endure the mortification alongside the misbehaving men in their lives. I don’t take any joy in pointing out, again and again, the hypocrisy of closeted gay Republican politicians targeting homosexuals as political wedge issues, whether the cause is keeping openly gay people out of the military or keeping them from civil unions. I am repulsed by politicians who promote abstinence before marriage and then fail to abstain from sex outside their marriage.
Of course they are hypocrites. Worse, they deliberately hurt people for political gain, promoting legislation and constitutional amendments and making all sorts of offensive speeches for the sole purpose of pumping up “the base”—that inordinately small slice of the American electorate that really wants to dwell on this instead of, say, how to get out of Iraq.
But really, this hypocrisy story is getting pretty stale.
And so, with the knowledge that neither side in the great refighting of the sexual revolution is particularly happy with this solution, I offer this thought: Can we please stop talking about sex?
Stop attacking gay people. Stop using birth control policy as a weapon that harms women’s health. Accept that abortion is legal, and needs to be in order to prevent the greater tragedy of thousands of women who would otherwise die or harm themselves through illegal abortions. Besides being spared a few tawdry headlines (OK, there will always be some) we’d be done with the double-speak now heard on the Republican presidential campaign trail, as Romney and others explain just why they were for legal abortion before they were against it.
As far as I can tell, the only group of voters that wants to keep sexual voyeurism in our politics is the very group that indirectly leads so many Republican lawmakers down the well-trod path to the microphone to confess their sins and beg forgiveness: social conservatives.
If they’re as grossed out as the rest of us by the mere thought of an aging senator playing footsie with the vice squad in a bathroom stall, then they’ve got the power to set us free. Not that politicians should be free to abuse (as Foley did) or violate the law (as Craig has admitted). But they should be free to be openly gay or to mess up their marriages, just like everybody else.
So what if all politicians took a new pledge? Instead of promising to uphold “family values,” they could promise to value the right of Americans to live our personal lives with a measure of privacy, dignity and access to the healthcare needed to safeguard our well-being—and society’s.
Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)washpost.com.
© 2007, Washington Post Writers Group