Senator Larry Craig’s speech—of apology? of explanation? of excuse?—is a useful one for analyzing special occasion speaking. It’s in fact as good an example of crap as I’ve seen. It’s crap, in the sense that Neil Postman used the term in his Teaching as a Subversive Activity—a book that totally changed me as a teacher—and we, as educators, need to be crap detectors and call this speech what it is.
Craig said he did nothing wrong at the airport. If what he did was flirt or indicate his interest in another adult—in this case male—then he did in fact nothing wrong to my mind. After all, any reasonable and intelligent adult, upon being propositioned—if this was in fact what happened—would simply say “Thank you, but no thanks; I’m flattered, but I’m not interested.” Admittedly, the context for this “proposition” was not ideal but it seems no cause for alarm; after all, this was all probably done in private and without imposing on the sensibilities of any one else.
So, then, why is the speech crap? It’s crap because Craig is trying to cover up his stupidity, his poor judgment, and his real self. It assumes the listener is an idiot. Saying that he only confessed because he was being harassed by the Idaho Statement seems absurd. Craig is no teenager; he’s a person who has been a member of the power-elite for years (10 years in the House and 6 in the Senate). I seriously doubt that he would be so upset and so stupid as to admit he did something he didn’t.
Further, by repeatedly attesting to his heterosexuality—amid increasingly convincing evidence to the contrary--he shows himself to be a man who either doesn’t know himself or is trying to fool his “wife, family, friends, staff and Idaho.”
Perhaps most important is that this man—this man who is now convincingly (it seems to me) accused of homosexual solicitation (and this is not the only accusation; there have been others)—has voted to prohibit gay marriage and against including attacks on gay people under the definition of hate crimes. Is this the kind of man Idahoans want representing them? I’m sure not. Nor do I believe that his wife, Suzanne, who is currently standing dutifully by the Senator, doesn’t know what is going on and so, in my mind, is complicit in this crap business.
Craig is a perfect example of the usefulness of outing. Now that he’s been outed, he’s no longer in a position to continue attacking gay rights, unless, of course, people are still willing to listen to him.
Yes, viewing the public speaking critic as crap detector seems a useful perspective, especially in 2007.