Leaving aside what actually happened in the Minneapolis restroom (and other times in the past), Craig’s handling of the aftermath has been incredibly inept. It’s hard to imagine him winning reelection, and he shouldn’t try. For the good of his family, his state, and his party, he should announce that he won’t be seeking reelection.
What I want to dwell on is the claim--made here, for example--that one can’t without hypocrisy be a social conservative (favoring traditional marriage) and have a questionable private life. Why not? Can’t I be a sinner and still condemn sin? Must I, because I’m a sinner, be easy on myself and others? Must I, because I’m a sinner, refuse to recognize sin for what it is?
Of course, one could respond that the issue isn’t the condemnation of sin, it’s the refusal to admit one’s own guilt. A confessed philanderer could urge fidelity in marriage and chastity outside it (leaving the positions to stand on their own legs), without holding himself up as a paragon of virtue or an example to be imitated. The sin, then, is the hypocrisy, portraying oneself as an upholder of "family values," all the while--or at least episodically, lapses of judgment or self-control--violating the values one upholds in public. There is, it seems to me, a fine line here. Can’t I advocate a position without holding myself up as an examplary representative of it? Did Larry Craig ever explicitly say (I don’t know the answer to this question): "I’m the model everyone should be imitating; everyone should be like me"? Or did he just, in his public self-presentation, put his best foot forward? Don’t we all do that? Or should or must we begin every interaction with a comprehensive public confession of sin?
Perhaps in our relentlessly confessional age, where no one’s privacy is respected, such a preliminary admission--full disclosure, as opposed to the "limited hang-out"--might be good policy. Perhaps the model should be the repentant and penitent sinner, the one who recognizes and acknowledges how far short he’s fallen. But must this always be done in public, not to mention in all its technicolor gory details? It’s one thing to do this before one’s friends and family, or before one’s church, quite another to do it in public, where it borders on the unseemly, not to say prurient. And, of course, however free one might then be to advocate for a position, it’s not clear that one can hold and win office after such a confession. It may in the end be easier to keep one’s mouth shut about social issues--the fervent hope of libertartians and other advocates of sexual freedom--in an effort (perhaps vain) to keep one’s reputation and life intact.
I don’t mean in any of this to let "sinners" off the hook. And I think that people whose private lives can’t withstand close scrutiny ought to think twice before they become involved in public life. No one’s perfect. But it is in the end impossible to separate the message from the messenger. Those who take the former seriously ought to attend seriously to their own character as witnesses. Larry Craig shouldn’t have shut up. But he should have sought to be as beyond reproach as it’s possible for a fallible human being to be.