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Posts published in “Day: August 27, 2007”

Insurgency at Vancouver

Brian Baird

Brian Baird at Fort Vancouver High School

Phil, an older man with wavy hair and background as a boat captain, had known Representative Brian Baird for years; he was a long-time friend and supporter, and ordinarily a question from him at a Baird town hall would be friendly and supportive.

Not tonight.

"You've done some amazing good work," he said, looking downward across the Fort Vancouver High auditorium, down toward the stage where Baird sat, looking up, a microphone in hand. "That being said, " Phil continued, "you've broken my heart."

When he paused, Baird replied, "I understand your broken heart. It was not an easy decision for me . . ." He paused. "And knowing all you folks would be mad." He suggested that coming to this meeting wasn't easy, either. But he was convinced he was right: "If you could meet with the people I've met in the region, maybe your heart will be less broken . . ."

No sale. Phil shot back that Baird had become the "poster boy" for the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, and "I don't like that at all."

"I don't like it, either," Baird said. (Both his talk and Q & A were peppered with zingers at the administration.)

Phil's arm shot out, his finger pointing angrily at Baird: "My friend, you have screwed up, and you have to change course." At that, the crowd erupted, cheering Phil . . .

And this was a crowd, to a big extent, of Baird's best in-district political friends. Or, those who used to be his friends. A few speakers before Phil, a woman who was a long-time supporter dressed him down by reminding him, "We are the ones who hit the ground to get you elected. . . . We were so so proud of you and the work you did." Now, she said: "I cannot believe your arrogance, Mr. Baird."

The audience atmosphere was a little Pentacostal: Cries of "impeach Bush" or "end the war" and similar calls punctuated questions, answers and everything else. In the two hours we were there, not one questioner - out of perhaps 20 - expressed anything other than disgust and outrage at Baird's new take on Iraq. To judge from audience reaction, a portion of the crowd of perhaps 400 to 500 (those that were inside - the room was filled solid and others couldn't get in) supported him, but that portion was surely less than 10%.

Shouted one person, midway through: "You think you're going to be re-elected?"

Baird: "It doesn't matter to me." Maybe, in the face of all that, it didn't.


The Craig report

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

We have been saying, consistently, for some time, that odds favor Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig seeking, as opposed to not seeking, re-election to the Senate next year. This afternoon, we're reversing that estimate. You might think that means something has changed; that something would be this, from the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call:

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call Monday afternoon.

Craig’s arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.

A thorough report recounting exactly what the police report said is on the Roll Call site (which at times was so busy this afternoon we had some difficulty breaking in; most of it is alternatively available at the Talking Points Memo blog). (We might also add, for those unfamiliar with it, that Roll Call is not scandal sheet, but a solid mainstream reporter of activity at Congress. Its reports are solidly and broadly credible.)

You may recall that last fall, a speaker on a national radio program declared that Craig was gay. If you're in Idaho, you may know that the biggest local open secret of the months since has been that Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey worked for monthly researching that question, though no reports from that research have yet surfaced. (We're betting something will appear shortly, though.) The Statesman's web site does have a post under the line, "Report: U.S. Sen. Craig arrested in June for lewd conduct in men's room." Obviously, the story has gone national. The Atlantic Monthly comments, "Needless to say, there will be a lot more to this story."

What Craig pleaded guilty to, to be clear, was disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor), which can encompass a range of bad behavior. But his plea of guilty still runs up against the staff description of the incident as (in words that may be regretted already) a “he said/he said misunderstanding.” You might think that if Craig thought the incident really could be explained away as a misunderstanding, on a matter of this kind of sensitivity, that he would have it fought it.

Craig's office indicated it would have another statement out later in the day. When we see it, we'll note it here.

None of this precludes Craig from running again. We do think it will make it less likely.