David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Sen. Larry Craig comes out swinging. In a public appearance in Boise, Craig says he is not and never has been gay, and blames the Idaho Statesman for what he called vicious attacks against him, referring to the long investigation by the paper of rumors that Craig was gay, for his decision to plead guilty. Of course the paper didn't publish the results of that investigation until today--after news of Craig's June arrest and August guilty plea broke.

After spending the afternoon on a slew of emails about the Larry Craig bathroom incident--was it a crime? should it have been a crime? do I want people reaching under my bathroom stall?*--let's wrap this up on a lighter note. Elaine can only be glad that she was not in the Minneapolis airport in this scene (although that only postponed jail for her). Thanks to TPM Reader DM for the link.


Jack Goldsmith, the former head of Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, will testify before Congress after the summer recess about the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. This could get interesting.

Video of former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami apparently shaking a woman's hand--horrors--is roiling politics there. Khatami claims the video is a fake.

Spencer Ackerman has more on the status of U.S. lobbying efforts by various Iraqi political factions.

We've had lots of back and forth discussion here internally about what conduct by Sen. Craig in that Minneapolis airport restroom was actually illegal. We've posted the arrest report, so take a look and reach your own conclusions.

Leering stares, foot tapping, a lingering presence. Are any of those, even taken together, what most reasonable people would call criminal? Is it because they happened in a bathroom? God knows they happen every night in bars and other public spaces, among gays and straights.

TPM Reader LA refines the point:

Sure, he's a hypocrite, sure he's probably gay or bi or whatever, and sure, I despise his politics. The problem is, I'm torn between the schadenfreude of watching another one of the Family Values crowd being shown up, and feeling really bad for the guy, because he didn't do anything.

Look at the police report. Did he directly ask a cop for sex? No. Did he expose himself lewdly (as opposed to exposing himself to use the facilities)? No. Did he do anything that was unambiguously sexual? No.

All he did was tap his foot, reach down (possibly to pick up a piece of TP), wiggle his fingers, and put his bag in front of him when he sat down. Oh, and he waited in front of an occupied stall. Even if he did everything the cop said he did, where was the lewd conduct? No actual sex happened. No actual sex was discussed. And if it wasn't for the sheer embarrassment of the situation, you'd be writing about the overzealous cop who arrested a sitting US Senator for no apparent reason.

If Craig was looking for sex, I hope that he can look into his heart and realize that it's 2007, and gay people are allowed to be out, and even get involved in meaningful relationships that don't begin and end in a squalid men's room. I'd hope that he'd recognize that there are even gay Republicans out there (look at former Rep. Kolbe, for one), and that a lot of the stigma and fear that still exists about homosexuality in this society has to do with the behavior of people who are in the closet.

But that, to me, is another issue entirely. The issue here is, why is the Minneapolis Airport PD arresting people for such flimsy reasons? Why do judges and prosecutors still accept these cases? Why, in 2007, 43 years after LBJ's chief of staff, Walter Jenkins, got busted in the men's room YMCA in DC, have we apparently moved no further in our analysis of these situations?

I think that's about right. Look, I wouldn't want to bring my 4-year-old son into the airport bathroom and stumble across two people having sex, gay or straight. It's tough enough getting in and out of the john without him touching every dirty surface or contributing to the mess with an errant aim. But sex didn't happen here. Even the propositioning is murky at best. And short of a proposition involving sex for money, what is illegal about inquiring about sex? Tactless, maybe. But criminal?

The hypocrisy angle--conservative U.S. senator with a voting record antagonistic to gay rights--is the one just about everyone can hang their hats on here. Paying a political price for that hypocrisy seems reasonable. But clearly the hypocrisy is not just political; it's deeply personal. The fractures and fault lines in Craig's psyche must be something to behold. It's hard not to feel some sympathy for the guy. But hypocrisy, thank god for all of us, is not a crime. Being gay shouldn't be either.