America's Craig-Like Credibility Gap

Article excerpt

The lack of political credibility that delineates the rapid fall from grace of Idaho's senior senator is analogous to that facing America's diminished role as global leader in 2007. At first glance, the gay-sex scandal involving Republican Larry Craig may seem to have little to do with the ability to explain America's weak standing in the global community. But hard lessons often emerge from the strangest of places.

Political scandals in the United States are usually defined by two fundamental elements. First, "the act" - when an individual perpetrates some sort of moral, legal, or ethical transgression that offends the country's cultural traditions, breaks its laws, or crosses some red line in its accepted codes of conduct. "The act" is usually made worse when the person responsible tries to deceive, deny, or obfuscate its existence. This second element, sometimes known as the "coverup," is usually the fatal blow to a perpetrator's already damaged credibility.

History is full of examples. Richard Nixon fell from the highest office both for ordering the Watergate break-in and for illegally sending US troops into Cambodia, but he sullied his reputation even further by conspiring to cover up these crimes. "The act" of having oral sex with a young intern in the Oval Office nearly ruined Bill Clinton, but it was lying under oath in the Paula Jones civil suit that got him impeached on a charge of perjury. He may have survived his painful trip to the Senate's politically charged docket, but his presidency was profoundly diminished by the whole grimy affair.

The same holds true for Larry Craig. Soliciting gay sex in an airport bathroom is a behavior that even the most cynical left-wing activist Democrat doesn't instinctively associate with Republican in- iquity. Having gut-shot himself with this act of sordid impudence, Craig's subsequent retractions, denials, and increasingly lame attempts to "explain" the situation by blaming the press and the police equate to metaphorically blasting away at his remaining political toes with a 12-gauge autoloader. His tale is simply not credible, and we all know that.

What most Americans often don't seem to realize is that a Craig- like credibility gap characterizes how the US is perceived by much of the outside world. Indeed, it is safe to say that America's various "acts of goodness" are perceived by many Muslims as promoting gross injustices in the Middle East. Despite the wide array of religious opinions among Islam's various sects, there is a single viewpoint that is shared by Shiites, Sunnis, Sufis, and others. …


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