One of the things which has struck me about is how the media has become saturated with sensationalistic* stories of Senator Craig. When I e-mailed my Pajamas piece on the Senator’s lack of judgment to my Mom, she wrote back, praising my piece and noting how “sick” she was of “hearing about Larry Craig. . . it was all over NBC New followed by CNN.” While working out at my gym, it seemed every time I looked up at a television news channel, it was either reporting on the Senator’s indiscretions or running some report in the scroll at the bottom of the screen.
The story headlined the news on Yahoo! as well as AOL. I’m sure it made the front page of many papers.
I wonder if the saga of former New Jersey Governor Jim Greevey saturated the news media as this story has. Unlike the latest sensationalistic story of gay sex and politics, that story, as Scheie noted, also included a “financial scandal.” The Garden State Democrat used state money to pay off a lover (or as that alleged beloved contends, a man the Governor wished were his lover) (Via Instapundit).
Perhaps this story has generated more coverage because Craig has denied being gay while McGreevey came out as a “gay American.” Or because Craig is a Republican and McGreevey a Democrat.
I mean, it’s generated far less coverage than did the assault and battery charge against Democratic Congressman Bob Filner of California.
Perhaps, if Filner were a Republican, the media might pay more attention to his airport antics. But, then, the media didn’t entirely ignore McGreevey despite being a member of the press’s preferred politcal party.
I think we have seen saturation coverage of the Craig affair for a variety of reasons, one of which it that it allows the MSM to downplay stories of success in Iraq. But, let’s face it, the real reason is that sex sells.** The media’s been ever eager to explore the private lives of politicians, particularly if they’re Republicans.
But, this story has an added wrinkle which makes today’s media increasingly interested. It’s a story they want to tell, exposing the supposed hypocrisy of social conservatives. At least since the publication of Elmer Gantry eighty years ago, the chattering classes seem to believe that those who preach traditional values use their faith as window dressing to cover their own sexual indiscretions. Members of the media (and cultural) elite seek to dismiss the social conservatives’ defense of such values as mere subterfuge, concealing a sinister agenda to subjugate the non-believers. Or some such nonsense.
As Dale Carpenter puts it (in an excellent piece on gays in the GOP), “Critics love to charge Republicans with hypocrisy – preaching traditional family values to the rest of us by day while trolling bathrooms and pressing sweaty palms to computer keyboards by night.”
This scandal is thus ready made to fit into the media narrative. But, Larry Craig is just one of many social conservatives. Most do not struggle with the issues with which he has had to wrestle. Nor behave as irrresponsibly as he has behaved.
I believe that those who focus on the hypocrisy angle do so in order to promote their own agenda, rather than to see this story for what it is. As I said in my Pajamas piece, it’s not so much a story of “hypocrisy as it is absence of judgment.” It’s the tale of a man who thought that by pleading guilty to these charges, he could brush his indiscretion under the rug and not subject his private life to public scrutiny. Instead, he has been subject to what Scheie has called “media feeding frenzy.”
Knowing the way the world works today, Mr. Craig is, in very large measure, responsible for that frenzy.
There is a story here, but it’s only partially the one the media is telling.
*Yes, even our blog has been saturated with stories on the Senator’s indiscretions.
**Hey, since we started blogging on this, our numbers have spiked, garnering us a record number of hits today.