Jim Hormel is the kind of guy who needs a bigger job than being ambassador to Luxembourg. Right now he has one.

Just by sitting and waiting for Senate confirmation, he's helping the Republican Party destroy itself.That probably is the last thing Hormel would want. He's a true gentleman from an old Republican family, not a man who would find pleasure in watching the party of Lincoln be embarrassed by stupid comments from the likes of Trent Lott, Dick Armey and Don Nickles about the nature of sexuality and sin.

Yes, politicians lectured the American people on sexuality and sin while killing major tobacco legislation and who knows how many teenagers.

It's nice to get some expert opinion on sin from America's only native criminal class, as Mark Twain described Congress.

Homophobia was a plague upon both houses of Congress last week.

First, Lott, the Senate majority leader who has been holding up Hormel's confirmation, said homosexuality is a sin but a treatable one, like kleptomania, of all things to spring into a politician's mind.

Next, Armey, the House majority leader who once called Rep. Barney Frank "Barney Fag," quoted biblical verses that he said showed homosexuality is a sin.

He ignored verses defining remarriage after divorce as a sin - a sin committed by many Republicans, including Ronald Reagan.

On Sunday, Nickles, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, said Hormel was unfit to be an ambassador because those who promote "immoral behavior" shouldn't represent the United States.

Yes, this has been a perfectly moral country from the very beginning, when we stole it from the Indians we killed.

Let me tell you about the first time I met Jim Hormel vs. the first time I met Trent Lott, and then you tell me who you want representing your country.

I met Trent Lott at the 1996 Republican Convention in San Diego, when he rode in on a Harley with a not-so-wild bunch of Republican bikers.

There's nothing wrong with riding a Harley. However, sin of all Harley sins, Lott was a wannabe biker. I wouldn't compare it to kleptomania, but Lott was breaking the law. He wasn't wearing a helmet - not even his usual helmet hair.

He wore a leather hat with a fake ponytail hanging out the back. It wasn't quite as goofy as his so-called real hair, but you hate to see this kind of transfollicular behavior from a senator.

Whenever I see Lott on television, I think of him cross-dressing as a biker and wonder if Trent mouth is a treatable disorder.

His black-leather act was kind of funny. He may be the worst kind of gay-hater, one who really doesn't hate gays, but pretends to hate gays, and for what he thinks is his political advantage.

The first time I met Jim Hormel was 13 years ago. San Francisco was in the early stages of the desperate struggle against AIDS, a fight which Hormel hasn't quit.

There was no "agenda" at that lunch, to use a favorite word of politicians who have an agenda against gays. It was just a way to introduce some San Franciscans who were trying to save lives to the new columnist in town. It was like an ambassadorial function.

At the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta, Hormel introduced me to everyone he knew. Again there was only an ambassadorial agenda - to connect a newspaperman from his town to important members of his party.

In all the years I've known Hormel, he has been unfailingly kind, discreet, honest and generous. He has contributed money to causes of all kinds, not just to gay causes.

I don't know what this "gay agenda" is that Republicans say he will push in Europe, a continent that even Lott's fellow Mississippians know already has plenty of gays.

What's the Republican agenda? The purpose of all this can't be just to keep one wealthy Democratic contributor from serving as ambassador to a small country that was overrun by the Nazis and knows what intolerance tastes like.

Lott, Armey and Nickles are simply using Hormel for fire-and-brimstone target practice. The Republicans don't have a program besides getting Bill Clinton, and the only thing they can get him on is the sin issue.

You have to wonder how a party can win elections by promising a gay pushed back in every closet, a Clinton in every clink and an abortion in every back alley, but that's what conservative Republicans are trying to do.

If all those without sin cast their votes for the party of Lott, Armey and Nickles, the party will sink like a stone.

And Jim Hormel goes on quietly and diplomatically doing his philanthropic work, while the Republicans self-destruct.