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

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.

After a blog purported to out Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) last October, the leading newspaper in Craig's home state did an exhaustive investigation of the rumors that Craig was a closeted gay man. "During its investigation, the Statesman interviewed 300 people, visited the ranch where Craig grew up, and made two trips to Washington, D.C.," the paper reports today. The investigation culminated with a May interview of Craig, with his wife present, during which Craig denied the allegations.

In the end, the Statesman was unable to verify to its satisfaction the various rumors about Craig, including an alleged first-person account of sexual contact with Craig in a restroom in D.C.'s Union Station:

Until Monday, the Statesman had declined to run a story about Craig's sex life, because the paper didn't have enough corroborating evidence and because of the senator's steadfast denial.

In the hourlong May 14 interview, Craig was accompanied by his wife, Suzanne. He specifically and generally denied ever engaging in any homosexual conduct.

During that interview, the Statesman played Craig an audiotape of the man claiming that he and Craig had sex in the Union Station restroom. Like the Minnesota airport restroom, the Union Station restroom is known as a place where men can find anonymous sex.

Craig denied the man's account and said, "I am not gay and I have never been in a restroom in Union Station having sex with anybody.

"There's a very clear bottom line here," Craig said. "I don't do that kind of thing. I am not gay, and I never have been."

Craig was arrested in the Minneapolis airport incident less than a month after his interview with the Statesman.

Sen. Craig says he should not have pleaded guilty in the lewd conduct case. Apparently, he did not consult legal counsel.

A reader pointed me to this portion of the Roll Call report on the arrest of Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig (R-ID), as recounted by the arresting officer:

In a recorded interview after his arrest, Craig “either disagreed with me or ‘didn’t recall’ the events as they happened,” the report states.

Craig stated “that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine,” the report states. Craig also told the arresting officer that he reached down with his right hand to pick up a piece of paper that was on the floor.

I should point out--though I really don't want to--that Craig was seated on the toilet at the time, according to the report.

The AP follows up on Roll Call's report on Sen. Larry Craig's Minneapolis airport restroom tryst, or attempted tryst:

A Hennepin County court docket showed Craig pleading guilty to the disorderly conduct charge Aug. 8, with the court dismissing a charge of gross misdemeanor interference to privacy.

The court docket said the Republican senator was fined $1,000, plus $575 in fees. He was put on unsupervised probation for a year. A sentence of 10 days in the county workhouse was stayed.

Would Senate rules require Craig to report this misdemeanor conviction to the Senate Ethics Committee?

The Idaho Values Alliance--"Making Idaho the Friendliest Place in the World to Raise a Family"--is going to have a hard time swallowing the latest news about its beloved Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for lewd conduct in an airport restroom.

Here's one page of the group's site, a news update where it praises Craig for his "pro-life" vote on stem cell research, followed by a "Bonus Byte" on the perils of homosexuality and airport restrooms:

One of the tragic characteristics of the homosexual lifestyle is its emphasis on anonymous sex and multiple sexual partners. It is a little-acknowledged secret that many active homosexuals will have more than 1,000 sex partners over the course of a lifetime (the average among heterosexuals is seven – still six more than we were designed for). This sordid fact of homosexual life surfaced yesterday in an AP article yesterday that reports on the number of arrests police have made for indecent exposure and public sex acts in the restrooms at Atlanta’s airport, the busiest in the world. The increased restroom patrols, begun to apprehend luggage thieves, instead uncovered a rash of sex crimes. Airport restrooms have become so popular that men looking for anonymous sexual trysts with other men have advertised their airport availability on Craigslist. One such ad was from a man saying he was stuck at the airport for three hours and was looking for “discreet, quick action.”

What are the odds of a piece on airport restroom trysts appearing below a picture of Larry Craig in a conservative group's newsletter, not to mention the reference to Craigslist? It's all too much.

It's a pretty short list of headlines that could knock Alberto Gonzales' resignation to second tier status. But the arrest--and guilty plea--of a firebrand conservative U.S. senator for lewd homosexual conduct in a public restroom definitely makes the list.

Roll Call has all the sordid details about Sen. Larry Craig's conviction (although traffic to the site is heavy at the moment). While the ins and outs of public restroom trysts, with an apparent language and protocol all its own, may be titillating, this detail about old run-of-the-mill abuse of power caught my eye:

At one point during the interview, Craig handed the plainclothes sergeant who arrested him a business card that identified him as a U.S. Senator and said, “What do you think about that?” the report states.

Nice touch. Bet that made quite an impression.