Every August, it seems, something comes up which captures the attention of the national press corps and becomes THE STORY.
In August 1998 the mother of all August stories was Bill Clinton’s more-or-less admission he had lied to everyone – including Hillary – about his activities with Monica Lewinsky.
In 2001 it was the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy story in which the California Congressman admitted to having had an affair with his intern whose body was subsequently found along the Rock Creek Parkway.
In 2002 WorldCom had announced it had somehow misplaced about $3.3 Billion in previously reported earning which, on top of the Enron and Adelphia accounting scandals led to very wealthy people being charged with very big crimes and being sentenced to very long terms in jail.
In 2004 New Jersey Governor James McGreevy announced he was gay and had hired his gay lover as New Jersey’s Homeland Security chief.
You get the idea.
There was no small amount of grumbling among senior members of the popular press – many of whom have spent much of the month contemplating great truths while sitting in the elegant lobbies of chain motels in Waco, Texas in case news happened at President George W. Bush’s ranch in nearby Crawford – about the lack of really juicy stuff this August.
The resignations of Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales, while filled with unproved allegations of official skullduggery, generate none of the salacious interest of a good sex scandal.
Happily for all of us, Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) tap danced in during the last week of the month and gave us the story we’ve all been waiting for.
According to the Spokesman-Review newspaper: Craig was arrested in June in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, after an undercover vice detective said he made inappropriate gestures that suggested he wanted to engage in sex in a restroom stall.
Craig told the officer his actions, which involved tapping his foot and moving it next to the detective’s foot in the adjoining stall then reaching under the stall’s partition – were misinterpreted. On Aug. 8, however, he pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct while another charge of “interfering with privacy” was dropped.
He says he entered the plea to put the episode behind him even though he believed he had done nothing wrong.
Larry Craig since was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1980. He has been a Member of the Senate since 1990 making him a 27-year veteran of the Congressional wars.
Nevertheless, Republicans in the Senate and House – remembering, perhaps, the horrors which befell them when Florida Congressman Mark Foley’s penchant for writing inappropriate text messages to Congressional Pages became public shortly before the 2006 elections – ran for the hills before Craig even uttered his first public statement.
Not 24 hours later, according to the NY Times, Craig had decided “to comply with a request [by Republican Senate leaders] to step down as the top Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, and the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests.”
Republican Senators John McCain (candidate for President) and Norm Coleman (candidate for re-election in Minnesota) called for him to resign.
Former Republican Governor Mitt Romney (candidate for President) for whom Larry Craig served as co-chairman in the Senate, according to the Boston Globe, called the whole thing "disgusting" and compared it to past Washington sex scandals involving former Florida congressman Mark Foley and former President Bill Clinton.
This is a huge problem for Larry Craig, but is not much of a problem for Senate Republicans. Idaho is a heavily Republican state; Senator Mike Crapo, Reps. Bill Sali and Mike Simpson and Governor Butch Otter are all members of the GOP.
Should Craig decide to resign, a Republican Governor will appoint a Republican replacement. Should he refuse to resign, it is likely Craig will be challenged in a primary which he would probably lose.
All of that means the current split between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate will not change.
Larry Craig’s long and worthy career will no doubt end with this scandal. But, too many other Republicans, in their zeal to throw him under the bus, have done little to cover themselves in glory.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The text of Clinton’s mea culpa speech about Monica, and a snapshot bio of Larry Craig. Also an amusing Mullfoto from the Minnesota State Fair and a Catchy Caption of the Day.