A little more on Craig

I really don't want to spend too much time piling on Larry Craig.  It's got to be bad enough simply trying so hard to pretend you are not gay while a U.S. Senator.  What is really striking and pathetic is how other Republican Senators have completely thrown him to the wolves by stripping him of committee assignments, calling for his resignation, etc.  When it was recently revealed that Louisiana Senator Vitter's name was found in a DC Madam's book and he had frequently used her services, there was not nearly the uproar.  Vitter is quietly back at work now.  Vitter repeatedly engaged in activities with prostitutes whereas, regardless of his intentions, all Craig did was tap his foot in a bathroom stall.  So, it seems that as far as Republican Senators are concerned the equations are: heterosexual sex with prostitutes = not so bad; intended gay sex (admittedly, in a public place) = lose your job.

I was just about to post this, and discovered that Glenn Greenwald has already addressed the topic much better than me:

When Hugh Hewitt admitted
that he wants Larry Craig to resign but does not want the adulterous,
serial-prostitute-hiring David Vitter to do so, he was subjected to
ridicule and scorn from many different corners — on the ground that this inconsistency is obviously attributable both to anti-gay animus and rank political self-interest
(Vitter's replacement would be chosen by a Democratic Governor, whereas
Craig's would be chosen by a right-wing GOP Governor). Even some right-wing blogs noted the absurdity of that position: “Hugh Hewitt wants Craig to resign immediately but David Vitter to stay on. Huh?”

Yet that contradictory and nakedly unprincipled posture has now become the official position of the GOP leadership,
led by its pious “moral values” wing. A whole slew of very upstanding
Family Values Senators are parading around making a flamboyant showing
of pressuring Larry Craig to resign (knowing that it will entail no political cost), all while remaining completely silent about David Vitter's at least equally “undignified” and confessed adultery and lawbreaking (acts which, just like Craig, he concealed from his family and colleagues in the Senate until he had no choice).

How Bush scares people

John Judis had a fascinating article in The New Republic last week that laid out a very persuasive case for how President Bush has used humans' innate fear of death for political gain.  No anecdotal speculation, Judis relies on mainstream, experimental psychological research to demonstrate just how Bush's fear appeals can be politically effective.  Highlights:

Bush carried West Virginia and won the
election partly because he ran a better campaign than John Kerry. But
that wasn't the only reason. There was something odd about
the support for Bush in places like West Virginia. Unlike
voters in New York City, voters in Martinsburg had little to fear from
terrorist attacks; yet they backed Bush, while New Yorkers voted for
Kerry. If gay marriage were legalized, Martinsburg would be unlikely to
host massive numbers of same-sex weddings; yet voters I talked to were
haunted by the specter of gay marriage…

There is, however, one group of
scholars–members of the relatively new field of political
psychology [me!]–who are trying to explain voter preferences that can't be
easily quantified. The best general introduction to this field is Drew
Westen's recent book, The Political Brain, but the research
that is perhaps most relevant to the 2004 election has been conducted
by psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski.
In the early 1980s, they developed what they clumsily called “terror
management theory.” Their idea was not about how to clear the subways
in the event of an attack, but about how people cope with the
terrifying and potentially paralyzing realization that, as human
beings, we are destined to die. Their experiments showed that the mere
thought of one's mortality can trigger a range of emotions–from
disdain for other races, religions, and nations, to a preference for
charismatic over pragmatic leaders, to a heightened attraction to
traditional mores. Initially, the three scholars didn't attempt to
apply their theory to elections. But, after September 11, they
conducted experiments designed to do exactly that. What they found
sheds new light on the role that fear of death plays in contemporary
politics–and, arguably, goes a long way toward unraveling the mystery
of Martinsburg.

Judis goes on to describe a fascinating series of experiments in which awareness of one's mortality has a massive influence on one's actions:

Their first experiment was published in
1989. To test the hypothesis that recognition of mortality evokes
“worldview defense”–their term for the range of emotions, from
intolerance to religi-
osity to a preference for law and order, that they believe thoughts of
death can trigger–they assembled 22 Tucson municipal court judges.
They told the judges they wanted to test the relationship between
personality traits and bail decisions, but, for one group, they
inserted in the middle of the personality questionnaire two exercises
meant to evoke awareness of their mortality. One asked the judges to
“briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death
arouses in you”; the other required them to “jot down, as specifically
as you
can, what you think will happen to you physically as you die and once
you are physically dead.” They then asked the judges to set bail in the
hypothetical case of a prostitute whom the prosecutor claimed was a
flight risk. The judges who did the mortality exercises set an average
bail of $455. The control group that did not do the exercises set it at
an average of $50. The psychologists knew they were onto something.

The relationship to Bush and 9/11 should not be hard to see:

Then, in late September 2004, the
psychologists, along with two colleagues from Rutgers, tested whether
mortality exercises influenced whom voters would support in the
upcoming presidential election. They conducted the study among 131
Rutgers undergraduates who said they were registered and planned to
vote in November. The control group that completed a personality
survey, but did not do the mortality exercises, predictably favored
Kerry by four to one. But the students who did the mortality exercises
favored Bush by more than two to one. This strongly suggested that
Bush's popularity was sustained by mortality reminders. The
psychologists concluded in a paper published after the election that
the government terror warnings, the release of Osama bin Laden's video
on October 29, and the Bush campaign's reiteration of the terrorist
threat (Cheney on election eve: “If we make the wrong choice, then the
danger is that we'll get hit again”) were integral to Bush's victory
over Kerry. “From a terror management perspective,” they wrote, “the
United States' electorate was exposed to a wide-ranging
multidimensional mortality salience induction.”

These experiments seem to make a pretty compelling case.  I also have to admit that I'd never read about this “worldview defense” before.  Pretty fascinating stuff.  I wonder what would happen to my students tests grades if I remind them of their mortality at test time– now there's an experiment!

Watch your feet in the public restroom

This lede says it all:

Sen. Larry
Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a
plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a
men?s public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll
Call Monday afternoon.

arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul
International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor
disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more
than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He
also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug.

spokesman for Craig described the incident as a ?he said/he said
misunderstanding,? and said the office would release a fuller statement
later Monday afternoon.

I had actually noticed a few references to this in headlines on-line yesterday at the Post and such, but never really bothered to read it as they made it sound fairly innocuous.  This lede from the Post, for example, is much more family friendly:

Sen. Larry E. Craig
pleaded guilty earlier this month to misdemeanor disorderly-conduct
charges stemming from his June arrest by an undercover police officer
in a men's restroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a
court spokeswoman and the senator's office said yesterday.

Anyway, what actually struck me as quite interesting was when I read the details in the Roll Call story.  Basically the evidence is that Craig blocked the view into his stall with luggage, touched the foot of the undercover officer in the neighboring stall, and passed his hand underneath the stall divider.  Whatever Craig's intentions were, and I do suspect they were not so good, it seems crazy that you would be able to charge someone for “lewd conduct” or “disorderly conduct” based on this decription of the alleged crime:

?At 1216
hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used
by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes
several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up
and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my
right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the
restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The
presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right
foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my
stall area,? the report states.

then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times,
and Karsnia noted in his report that ?I could … see Craig had a gold
ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall

Karsnia then held his police identification down by the floor so that Craig could see it.

Seems to me that you would need some sort of verbal exchange to show a criminal intent.  For now, I guess I'll just watch myself if I'm ever in the Minneapolis airport. 

What was Alberto waiting for?

Thank God Alberto Gonzalez has finally seen fit to resign.  What on earth was this man waiting for?  It was obvious to anybody, Democrat and Republican, with an IQ on the good side of 80 that the man is a liar and flamingingly incompetent.  Alas, he's just sat there somehow convincing himself that he could lead DoJ while the evidence of his incompetence and utter lack of integrity just keep piling up.  From what I've read so far, Slate's John Dickerson has my favorite take that really gets at so much of what is wrong with the Bush Presidency:

Like the pope, the president doesn't admit error. This was an early
governing principle in the Bush White House. Policies could “evolve.”
Talking points could be replaced by new ones that contradicted the
earlier ones…

Nowhere has this approach sapped Bush's credibility more than with
his personnel goofs. As Alberto Gonzales resigns today, he joins Donald
Rumsfeld, Harriet Miers, and Michael Brown?animated failures who could
not be controlled or improved with good public relations. The pattern
has been consistent: The president resists and resists calls for a
change. Then he gives in. In Gonzales' case, it's almost as if Bush
were perfecting this failed approach, wringing out of his embattled old
friend so many embarrassing gaffes that he couldn't be hurt anymore.
Then he let him go.

The more radioactive his aides become, the more Bush embraces them…

As a broader management practice, though, Bush has made a fetish of loyalty even when unaccompanied by ability…

When it came to personnel decisions, his personal sense of loyalty, his
hostility to the Beltway establishment, and his stubbornness all
clouded his judgment. Tolerating incompetence has harmed Bush in any
number of ways. The worst of these is locking in the idea that he's
oblivious to reality.

How this blog is like the Iraqi Paliament

That's right– we both basically took the month of August off.  Unlike the Iraq Parliament, here I am back in action before the much-anticipated September report on “The Surge.”  I never meant to take August off, it just kind of happened.  But, as one cannot expect Iraqi Parliamentarians to work in the Baghdad heat, we've had record-breaking heat here in central, NC.  The highest previous mean temperature for August was 80, and this year it's been 84.  We've set or tied half a dozen records.  Even with Karl Rove retiring, it's hard to blog in weather like that (nobody mention the whole air conditioning thing).  So, my plan is to be back in the metaphorical saddle.  I guess we'll see.

Ending the blog slump with a little humor

Well, I've obviously been in a bit of a blog slump (partially explained by a lot of vacation lately).  Anyway, let's break out with a bit of humor that will be especially appreciated by Sopranos fans.  McSweeney's has a fun little quiz in which you can try and guess whether various quotes are from Dick Cheney or the NYC mob boss from the Sopranos, Phil Leotardo (and note, some of Dick Cheney's language is not appropriate for the faint of heart).

1. “Except for the occasional heart attack, I never felt better.”

2. “You sound like a damn politician with all these excuses.”

3. “What can you do?throw money at the problem?”

4. “He's never won anything, as best I can tell.”

5. “Next time, there won't be a next time.”

6. “You couldn't fuckin' retire?”

7. “Principle is OK up to a certain point, but principle doesn't do any good if you lose.”

8. “First off, it wasn't an offer. It's my position.”

9. “Everyone knows that you're not really a man unless you own a gun.”

10. “I'll take that Discman and I'll ram it up your box.”

11. “You want compromise?”

12. “Go fuck yourself.”

– – – –

Dick Cheney: 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 12

Phil Leotardo: 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11

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