Republican Senator Larry Craig is not gay and never has been. That was his explanation to the media the day after pleading guilty to lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.

In fact, he hadn’t even rubbed feet with the man in the next stall. He just used “a wide stance when going to the bathroom”.

Why these Clintonesque apologetics? Why not simply tell the creepy toilet police to stop monitoring what consenting adults do in their own time?

He can’t because he’s built his own political career precisely out of lecturing consenting adults about how to behave. You can still find the Senator’s beaming face on the Idaho Values Alliance website –just above the article attacking the “homos-xual lifestyle”, its “emphasis on anonymous s-x and multiple s-xual partners” and the particular dangers posed by “airport restrooms”.

The list of American conservatives caught indulging in private in the practices they condemn in public seems to grow almost daily.

There’s Republican Congressman Mark Foley, given to pious speechifying about s-xual predators even as he texts sixteen-year-old “studs” inquiring as to whether their p-nises are erect.

There’s evangelist Ted Haggard, the anti-gay marriage campaigner fond of meth binges (oh, but he didn’t actually use the drug) with male pr-stitutes (but they were just for backrubs).

There’s Cpl. Matt Sanchez, famous as a special guest at the ultra-homophobic Conservative Public Action Conference – and as “Rod Majors”, the star of films such as Jawbreaker, Donkey D-ck, and Glory Holes Of Fame 3.

Then there’s Neal Horsley, in a category quite of his own. A militant anti-abortionist, Horsley thinks that homos-xuals should be incarcerated because of the revulsion they inspire in the populace.

His own fall from grace didn’t involve anything as pedestrian as cruising for men. Instead, in an interview in which he defended making public the names of abortion doctors (which in the USA sometimes gets them killed), the aptly-named Horsley let slip that he’d often had s-x with … well, mules, actually.

“When you grow up on a farm in Georgia,” he explained, “your first girlfriend is a mule.” Uh huh.

It’s easy to dismiss livestock-buggering fundamentalists as a peculiarly American phenomenon.

Yet the rampant hypocrisy in these cases surely reflects the kind of poll-driven politics we’ve become so familiar with here. If taking a stand of any kind on any issue is seen as recklessly inviting the other side to wedge, it’s no wonder candidates want to declare their personal proclivities to be precisely those of the mainstream.

You can see the process in Australia when it comes to religion. Many years ago, Bob Hawke loudly declared his atheism. Would an unbeliever be electable in Australia today? Possibly – but why take that chance? Most Australians nominally cast themselves as Christians, and so the front benches of both parties inevitably swell with braying God-botherers.

The less secure one feels with one’s public identity, the more the temptation to talk it up. If you are a gay American politician, you campaign for family values. If you come from the blokey Right-wing of the Labor Party, where everyone swears like troopers, you huff and puff about a sailor-mouthed unionist. With Rudd’s persona built around a saccharine piety, the strip-club revelations were almost an inevitability.

The tragedy is that it’s all so unnecessary. Politicians could simply say, “What you do with your private life is your business – and what I do is mine.” (Better still, they could declare themselves gay and proud).

But that would take a certain courage. Much safer to proclaim your adherence to whatever values are polling well – even as, in private, you sidle up to the mule.