Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Men's Room Club

Senator Larry E. Craig's (R-Idaho) arrest and guilty plea after soliciting sex from a cop in a men's room in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport last June brings to mind, as many have pointed out, numerous like incidents in the recent past particularly among Republicans. While I deplore hypocrisy--Craig was a typical "family values" guy, opposed to any type of equal rights for gays--I can't help but feel sad at a world in which these poor shlubs, wearing their American flag lapel pins, are driven underground and into the steely hands of undercover thugs. Craig had been Idaho's Republican state chairperson and liaison with the Romney campaign and Mitt's comments on the incident only prove him, once again, to be the creepiest candidate out there, somewhere right up there with two-time Republican presidential nominee Thomas Dewey in slick meanness.
Historians of dirty tricks will recall another incident in a men's room way back in the contentious Barry Goldwater-Lyndon Johnson contest of 1964. In October of that year, Johnson's top aide, 46-year-old Walter Jenkins, married with five children, attended a Washington party, drank five martinis, and then repaired around the corner to the basement men's room of a YMCA, where he was in the midst of having sex with another man when they were surprised by a plainclothes cop and arrested.
Johnson tried to claim Jenkins was framed by the Republicans, but when it turned out his aide had been arrested on the same charge--and in the same men's room--some five years earlier, he cut him loose. Jenkins spent time in an institution and then went back to Texas where he worked as a CPA, doing Johnson's tax returns year after year, but never again returning to Washington in any position of power--something bemoaned by many, who felt that without Jenkins's leavening influence, Johnson began to take the country deeper into the Vietnam War.
Barry Goldwater's comment on the whole affair--delivered way-off-the-record on his campaign plane--was: "What a way to win an election, communists and cocksuckers!"
In a tragicomic epilogue, routine White House tape recordings later released under the Freedom of Information Act caught LBJ ruminating over Jenkins with none other than J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director.
"I guess you're gonna have to teach me about this stuff," Johnson said to Hoover. "I swear I can never recognize [gay people]."
To which Hoover, long rumored to be gay himself, as Johnson must certainly have known, replied reassuringly: "There are some people who walk kind of funny that you might think may be queer. But there was no indication of that in Jenkins's case."

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