Sex, Lies, and Videotapes

As the support for Senator Larry Craig (R–Idaho) continues to erode after his arrest in a Minneapolis airport, I wonder how we as Americans, who entrust these elected officials to set an example of virtues and honor for the country and the world, should respond. We all want forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong, but seem so set on denying it when others err.  There is no question that Senator Craig erred, where and how much may be more difficult to know.

Fortunately it is not up to us to condemn or forgive him for his questionable behavior in a bathroom stall and subsequent guilty plea, which he later said was a mistake. In the end all we can do is take a wait and see approach and, at the very least, remember not to condemn him as a person regardless of the outcome in court.  Despite the actions of many of his fellow Republican lawmakers and their desire to ‘throw him out with the bath water,’ as it were, we need to remember that we have all made mistakes.  I’m not really sure what my role as a voting citizen should be, but my faith indicates to me that I should be praying for Senator Craig and his family during this time.

It seems that every month another Republican elected official gets himself into trouble. Last year Mark Foley (R–Fla.) was forced to resign from the House of Representatives after he sent a string of racy online messages to former congressional pages. In the last year or so, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the homes of Senator Ted Stevens (R–AK), Representative John J. Doolittle (R–Calif.), Representative Rick Renzi (R–Ariz.) ,and the homes of Representative Curt Weldon’s (R–PA) daughter and her business partner. Besides all of this, we have seen former Representatives Duke Cunningham (R–Calif.) and Bob Ney (R–Ohio) go to prison for various reasons. Representative Don Young (R–Ak.) is under investigation for his ties to the oil company Veco, and Senator David Vitter (R–La.) nearly had to resign after reports surfaced recently about his involvement in a prostitution ring.

The laundry list of bad news for the Republicans continues. Representative Tom Feeney (R–Fla.) is under investigation for his involvement with Jack Abramoff, and the FBI is investigating Representative Gary Miller’s (R-Calif.) land deals. Senator Pete Domenici (R–NM) and Representative Heather Wilson (R–NM) are facing ethics committee investigations for their calls last October to former U.S. attorney David Iglesias about his office’s investigation of a state Democrat. Representative Jerry Lewis (R–Calif.) is apparently still under federal investigation from 2006, and Representative Ken Calvert’s (R–Calif.) land deals are also still receiving scrutiny. I only mention these to add perspective and demonstrate that the party as a whole is not blameless and could therefore be more understanding of Senator Craig’s plight.

Now obviously the Democrats have not been a bunch of do-gooders over the last year. From Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to Bill Jefferson in Louisiana, and John Murtha with ABSCAM and the questionable pork to his home district, the Democratic party has not exactly been a paragon of virtue.  Let’s not forget house majority leader Harry Reid with his gambling and boxing controversy, nor Allan Mollohan (D-WV) for his earmarking scandal.  But their behavior didn’t cost them the majority in Congress, as the Republicans’ behavior did, nor is it nearly as publicized. The Democrats, for all their faults, have figured out (for the most part) how to keep their noses clean, and let the Republicans’ trouble do the work for them. It’s clear that nobody but the Democratic Party benefits when these Republican lawmakers make mistakes, break the law, or sin. And boy, are the Democrats loving that the trouble continues to haunt the GOP.

It is not my desire to absolve anyone of guilt, but to show everyone for what they are: people.  It’s so easy to get caught up in looking at other’s problems and forgetting our own.  We need to remember that just as we are, our representatives are human.  It is up to God to judge them in the end; our duty is to try to find the people who, despite their flaws, can run this country well.  We are often quick to judge people for their actions, when we don’t know the whole story.  Lewd conduct is wrong, period, but it is impossible for us to know Senator Craig’s character based on this snapshot of his life.

That being said, as a citizen, it is absurd to let lawlessness rule the day.  Surely only chaos would ensue.  The main question is whether this is the kind of wrong that elicits removal from office.  Would Larry Craig be able to conduct his job despite this problem?  If the answer is no, then he needs to be removed from office, but if it’s yes, then another avenue needs to be followed.  There is no question something needs to be done, but the answer may not always be fines and jail time.

Having gone through ‘No Child Left Behind’ I know what it’s like to be under scrutiny and under fire.  Not a pleasant feeling, but after going through something like that, one’s life can be changed dramatically.  I learned my lesson, and through humility, introspection and prayer I found the patience and will to persist.  I was punished, though, let me be clear, and I believe the legal system should determine the outcome for Larry Craig. 

Senator Craig’s actions serve as a reminder that misconduct is rampant in Congress; we need, and have needed an overhaul in Congress.  Last time I checked there were more than two professions in this country (lawyer and businessman) and more than one class (wealthy).  I’d like to see a house of representatives that represents the country, is that such a novel concept? While Larry Craig may have made some bad decisions, if his misbehavior wakes us up to the misrepresentation that is Congress it may not have been all for naught.

As a citizen and fallen human being, my gut tells me to judge these people for their poor actions, and call for their removal. But my faith in Jesus Christ and deep held belief that forgiveness is best for everyone, leads me to call for patience and pardons. See, we all make mistakes. We all sin, error, and fall short of expectations. To judge and condemn others — even elected officials who should be held to the highest standard – usually just narrows our own heart and achieves nothing. That being said, I cannot sit idly by and allow my elected officials to go unpunished for these terrible deeds.

As voting citizens living in a Democracy, we must not only voice our opinions, but demand that our government works for us. If we allow elected officials like Larry Craig to get away with criminal behavior and continue serving as a United States Representative, we are not doing justice to the great system that was created for us over 200 years ago. Thus, as people of faith we must forgive these lawmakers for their actions, yet as voting citizens we must demand that they are punished or removed from office. Nothing less should be acceptable to our deities or founding fathers.