Monday, August 27, 2007

The Senior Senator from Idaho

It is all over the Idaho blogosphere, all over the local news, and intertwined in the mainstream media with news of Gonzales' resignation and Vick's guilty plea--the Craig incident.

Senator Larry Craig has, albeit unsuccessfully, defended his actions and completely denied any lewd conduct that Americans might be believing him capable of, but this one isn't going away. Craig can't claim he dropped a piece of paper and reached down to pick it up to easily explain this away. His "wide stance," however graphic and disgusting that thought is may be, is no excuse or defense, either.

The telling signs of guilt: 1) Craig did not let his staff in on the details of the event in question until it was reported by Roll Call this afternoon; 2) Craig claims he did not speak with legal counsel as how to proceed after being charged with lewd conduct; 3) Craig quickly took away the negative attention he might bring to the campaign of Mitt Romney by stepping out of his role there; and, 4) He isn't publicly speaking on this issue.

Sure, Craig doesn't have to speak out at this point. A well timed press release would do the trick, but a press release in the form of cold, hard ink in the papers, on the blogs, all over the news, doesn't quite do what a public press conference with a loving wife and proud children behind him would do. Makes you wonder whether his family knew about the event.

He certainly didn't have to step away from his role in the Romney campaign, it was the nice thing to do. However, by stepping away he's not admitting his guilt per say, but is admitting that there is fuel to this fire and a story to tell that will ultimately detract from the Romney campaign in the West.

As for speaking with legal counsel? I have a hard time believing a bright man like Craig would allow nearly three months to pass knowing he would have to submit a plea for a crime without speaking to a lawyer. He surely has one on staff or one readily available to him. Not an excuse in my book for pleading guilty and paying a fine for a crime you supposedly did not commit.

Now on to the staff. If we have learned anything from recent events in the Bush administration it is that your staffers, advisers, etc., are your lifeline. You depend on them to feed you good advice, good intelligence, good news, and even depend on them to defend you in the darkest of times. It amazes me that Senator Craig's staff was left out of the loop on the event in June when Craig was arrested. They certainly can't be oblivious to Craig's sexuality and undoubtedly have heard the rumors. If I were a congressman I would tell my staff everything they needed to know to protect me. Not telling them seems to me a sign of guilt. Craig seems to have been looking for a way to fix the problem fast with as few people knowing as possible.

One of the bigger questions being asked tonight is why if this occurred in June we are learning about it in August, even after the guilty plea and payment of fines. Some are questioning the credibility of the officer in the Minnesota airport where Craig was arrested and quickly handed the officer a business card touting his position in the U.S. Senate. Wouldn't the officer immediately say something to the press or at the very least his wife who might then tell all her friends? My take on the officer is that if he were trying to get Craig in trouble and staged this unfortunate event in the airport bathroom stall, he wouldn't have kept his mouth shut all this time. I'm going to take the cop's word on this and believe the language of the police report.

Throughout the day I've thought a great deal about the men of this story. From the cop who must be feeling on edge with his name on the 24/7 news cycle to Craig himself. Craig's actions are unusual at the very least, criminal as his plea suggests, and worthy of ruining his political career. It's unfortunate for Craig and his family. I was reminded of this tonight on the ten o'clock news when they interviewed former Idaho Congressman and current Chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party Richard Stallings. Despite the opening this unfortunate incident may have created for the Dems in 2008, Stallings did not gloat nor pass judgement. He offered his concern for Craig's family and said kind words about Craig, whom he served with while they were both in the U.S. House. The only man in this unbelievable story I can't find a good thing to say about is Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman. Sure, he may have held his story out of respect for Craig if he was planning a retirement announcement, but once this came out today you would think Popkey would feel responsible to say something about where the hell he was for four months while he was "tracking" Senator Craig. Dan, Idaho deserves better.

In so many ways Idaho deserves better. We deserve a press that will tell us the truth (in a speedy fashion) about our elected representatives. We deserve a senior senator who pushes policies that are not hypocritical. We certainly deserve the opportunity to accept a legislator regardless of their sexuality as long as they are open with us out of the gate. And we absolutely don't need leaders of the Idaho GOP keeping hidden the truth they all know, but choose to ignore as long as their esteemed Senator does not force his sexuality and personal life in their faces. What I find most unfortunate about this entire ordeal is that Larry Craig has spent his entire career forcing himself to take positions contrary to his true self. What's worse is he has spent his entire career pretending to someone he's not and for most of that career many Idahoans have blindly gone along.

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