Dark Cloud Over Idaho

Posted: Aug 30, 2007 12:01 AM
Dark Cloud Over Idaho

"I am not gay. I never have been gay," Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, announced at a press conference in Boise. He also apologized for "the cloud placed over Idaho," following his guilty plea to disorderly conduct after an encounter with a police officer in a Minneapolis airport men's bathroom on June 11.

Cloud over Idaho? People of Idaho -- demand that this lout resign.

When the story came out Monday, life had granted Craig one chance to redeem himself by resigning. That one act would have shown that, despite his personal demons, Craig knew when to put the Senate, his family, his state and the GOP before his own selfish desires. That one act would have shown that Craig is not without decency.

Instead, Craig dragged his poor wife Suzanne before the cameras to issue a statement that no thinking person can believe.

It is possible Craig isn't gay. Maybe he's bisexual. Who cares? He is guilty of harassing a stranger in a public restroom used by men and boys.

The senator's behavior screams "guilty."

Start with the guilty plea, in which Craig -- a U.S. senator -- asserted, "I now make no claim that I am innocent" of the charge.

Craig explained that the guilty plea was "a mistake," for which be blamed a "state of mind" that was distorted because he had been "viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman."

To the contrary, while the Idaho newspaper investigated widely spread rumors, it refused to print stories about Craig's reputed restroom conduct -- until news of the June 11 incident broke -- because they could not be corroborated.

And for those true-believers who want to find some way to justify Craig's guilty plea -- I know you're out there -- the only credible explanation for Craig's behavior is that he pleaded guilty because he wanted to sweep the incident under the rug -- because it was true.

Senate Republican leaders had the good sense to recommend that the Senate Ethics Committee review the June 11 incident. That's a good first step -- that put Craig on notice that he can't count on party biggies to bolster his version of events.

In the meantime, outgoing Bush political guru Karl Rove should work with party leaders to clean out the rot in Washington. It's the right thing to do and might prevent the sort of voter backlash that followed reports of Florida Rep. Mark Foley's e-mails to congressional pages. Conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt has called for a "ruthless purge" of Republican pols with ethical baggage. He wants the party to pressure those who earn indictments or plead guilty to serious crimes to resign.

Great idea. I would add Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif. -- whose Virginia home was raided by FBI agents investigating now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- high on the list. Doolittle's office has denied any wrongdoing, but his judgment and ties with Abramoff fall below the standards that voters should expect.

Many will argue that Craig's behavior is especially egregious in light of his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions, or because he is a Republican. But I don't think the behavior of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevy was becoming in a Democrat. McGreevey, you may recall, resigned with his wife by his side in 2004 amid the news that he hired the male object of his affections as the state's $110,000 homeland security adviser, even though Golan Cipel didn't qualify for a security clearance.

At least McGreevey resigned. My guess is Craig will, too. But he'll go too late. If Craig had come forward sooner, if he had resigned Monday, many in Washington might have sympathy for a man with feet of clay who took responsibility for his actions.

But in clinging to his Senate seat, when his presence in that body only hurts the reputation of the Senate and his party, Craig now is the cloud over Idaho.