The problem is not his apparent interest in men, but the hypocrisy of supporting legislation to limit gay rights while cruising for gay sex in restroom stalls.
“I am not gay. I never have been gay,” says Craig, an Idaho Republican.
Two points on this absurd denial. Sexual orientation is not a matter of past tense, only present. He's either been gay all his life, or he hasn't been.
On this point, the truth seems pretty clear. He pleaded guilty to using Morse code foot taps to set up a tryst with an undercover male cop in an airport. Straight guys don't do this.
So, just how big of a hypocrite is Craig?
To find out, I reviewed years of Craig's votes on gay-rights issues, and statements he made on that topic on the campaign trail and on the Senate floor.
Given the tenor of the coverage that chronicled his fall from grace, I expected to find a torrent of anti-gay tirades, footnoted with Bible verses and peppered with words like “deviant,” “abhorrent” and “unnatural.”
The record shows otherwise.
Yes, like most of his Republican colleagues, he voted for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposed protection for homosexuals from discrimination and did not want gays to serve in the military or adopt children.
Despite these votes, his record suggests he does not belong in the same league as some of his extremely homophobic colleagues, like former Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. At times, he was on the Senate floor as Helms and others railed against homosexuality. One wonders what sort of psychological torture this inflicted on Craig.
When some of his colleagues took to the floor to rail against President Bill Clinton's appointees for their “permissive” views on homosexuality, Craig chose instead to attack their views on abortion.
On an education bill, when one of his colleagues offered an amendment to prevent public schools from discussing homosexuality in a positive light, Craig chose to offer an amendment aimed at preventing taxpayer dollars from being wasted in school construction.
In 1994, Craig - along with many GOP politicians in Idaho - opposed state legislation that would have prevented public-school teachers from portraying homosexuality as acceptable behavior, and limit access to library materials discussing homosexuality, according to Idaho newspapers.
Though he opposed gay marriage, he told Idaho newspapers in 2004 he supported civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, something many of his Republican colleagues oppose.
“I do believe there is room in our culture for a civil relationship between other kinds of unions,” he said.
Those aren't exactly the words of an anti-gay fire-breather.
The question at hand is whether his words - or, rather, his avoidance of the anti-gay tirades some of his colleagues employed - deserve more import than his deeds - his votes against gay rights - when determining the extent of his hypocrisy.
It's not a simple question. Some of his actions had no practical meaning, like the vote on a constitutional ban on gay marriage. It had no hope of passing, and was little more than a tool to excite conservative voters.
But the votes on anti-discrimination laws and gays in the military had real impact on people's lives.
Politicians generally choose to be hypocritical because it benefits them. A lawmaker blasts wasteful government spending while pushing for pointless pork projects for his home district, because those projects get him re-elected.
Another attacks the influence of special interests while taking thousands of dollars from lobbyists, because that money gets him re-elected.
In Craig's case, the hypocrisy helped him, but it also probably hurt.
He probably had to vote against pro-gay issues to win re-election in conservative Idaho and to maintain his position in the party leadership.
Yet those same votes helped reinforce negative societal views of gays in the face of growing mainstream acceptance of homosexuality.
Those views keep many gay men in the closet, forcing some into airport restroom stalls to act on sexual urges.
What's more, the continued demonization by lawmakers helps ensure the continued use of undercover bathroom stings aimed at entrapping and embarrassing gay men.
The kind, of course, that snared a hypocrite like Craig.
- Sean Mussenden