Writings and observations

In talking with several Idaho people today, journalists and others, there was a sense that the Washington crowd is landing harder on Idaho Senator Larry Craig than are his fellow Idahoans.

Maybe – but mainly as a matter of courtesy; you tend not to be cold and mean to someone you’ve known a long time. That’s not the same thing as approval.

Tomorrow, the Idaho Statesman becomes the third Idaho newspaper (after the Idaho Falls Post Register and the Coeur d’Alene Press) to explicitly call for Craig’s resignation. (At least three others, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the Twin Falls Times-News and the Lewiston Tribune, appear to be on a hair trigger to do likewise.)

From the Statesman: “Two days ago, we urged Idahoans not to rush to judgment, and give Craig a chance to explain himself. Unfortunately, we have seen and heard enough. Judging from his performance Tuesday, when he read a brief public statement, Craig seems more interested in hunkering down, operating from a defensive state of denial. This is his prerogative. But he should not compromise Idaho interests in the process.”

MAKE THAT FOUR The Pocatello Idaho State Journal calls for resignation as well. “Regardless of hat the ethics committee may recommend Craig should recognize that his standing and influence in Congress have been hopelessly eroded. He could salvage at least vestige of respect by resigning. Step down, senator.”

MAKE THAT FIVE Add the Ketchum Idaho Mountain Express, which opined, “Instead of persisting in his foolhardy, quixotic quest to reverse his guilty plea in that unseemly Minneapolis bathroom incident, Idaho’s Sen. Larry Craig should instead be submitting his resignation as a U.S. senator.”

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Not a bad rationale spun today by the Seattle Times, in suggesting Washington Senator – and, not to be forgotten, former state attorney general – Slade Gorton for the now-vacant national job of attorney general.

We wouldn’t particular go as far as they do. But there’s a case here. The man is a former AG, well enough regarded as such, with substantial legal background; he is a skilled politician and knows Capitol Hill and the players there; he is a loyal Republican but less ideological than many administration appointees; no apparent monsters lie in wait in his closet; confirmation by the Senate likely would be easy.

Not to say that’s whatPresident Bush will do – a Gorton appointment would in some ways run counter to his normal patterns – but it’s worth noting there’s a reasonable case there.

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And is this thing ever not over yet. We’d anticipate that Idaho Senator Larry Craig will be spending a few days in quietude, evaluating and processing and doubtless talking with selected people about what, exactly, needs to happen next, now that he’s had his public say (as he did yesterday afternoon, at Boise – see the post below). For the rest of us, yes, there remain some more things to say. More still may emerge later.

bullet This is a massive national story, and it will not end soon. In just the last two hours, we fielded calls from Associated Press radio (Washington), the Washington Post and the Boston Phoenix. Check out the Idaho Statesman‘s page containing links to its recent material on Craig; it’s a very long list.

bullet We have a Recommended Read: Today’s take by Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance, whose views on this may stand as a helpful bellwether on this for a substantial portion of Idahoans. Fischer long has been a supporter of Craig, and he obviously takes no joy from what has been happening; he also seemed willing (notably in his post before this one) to give Craig the benefit of any reasonable doubt. He writes here that he watched Craig’s statement Tuesday and watched it closely, but he could not find it exculpatory – it was “unconvincing and unpersuasive.” Craig, he said, has lost the ability to lead (especially on those issues of top concern to Fischer), and “the appropriate and right thing for the senator to do at this point is to step down.” Fischer does not sound bitter or angry; he does sound deeply saddened.

bullet He also notes this: “One significant feature of yesterday’s press conference is that there were virtually no Republican Party leaders in attendance, and, further, party leaders seem to have draped a blanket of silence over the entire party apparatus. Virtually no highly placed Idaho Republican has gone on record in support – wholehearted or otherwise – of the senator. The best that party leaders have been able to say so far is that they take the senator at his word and hope the public will not rush to judgment. This tepid support may be an indication that the senator’s GOP colleagues believe there is substance to the charges, and are finding it difficult to publicly affirm the senator or defend his behavior.”

He almost certainly right. Consider the web headline from today’s Statesman report: “Sen. Larry Craig asks forgiveness; GOP seeks ethics probe.” The White House says it is “disappointed in the matter.” Presidential candidate and Senate colleague John McCain remarked “It’s disgraceful,” on Jay Leno’s talk show, after Leno launched an extended round of gags on the incident. A least one Republican member of Congress has called for his resignation. Media talker Sean Hannity: “Senator Craig, if you have been engaged in this activity, resign.” Republican leadership has asked him to give up his committee assignments (the last step, ordinarily, before pushing for resignation – after all, what use is a senator without a role on committees?). Craig is getting no defense from his party; they’re throwing him overboard.

bullet Coincidentally, Democrat Larry LaRocco already had scheduled an open thread/live blogging session on Daily Kos today. Wisely, he steered well away from the Craig hurricane. Responding to another comment, he quoted Craig as saying he would announced his plans on running for another term next month. Then, “I have approached this race by trying to control what I can control and taking in stride what I can’t control. I can’t control the Idaho GOP and their nomination process. In the meantime, I wake up every day believing in myself and working hard.” There’s some earned wisdom in those remarks.

bullet One of the recurring questions this morning has been, to what extent are Idahoans sticking with Craig? The answer seems to be: Craig’s support has dropped fast. A quick Survey USA poll shows 55% favoring resignation, and 34% staying in office at least for now. We suspect that’s not far off. And his job approval fell from 60% late last year to 38% now (never mind that the current events had nothing to do with the performance of his job).

bullet Editorial in the Lewiston Tribune: “As it stands, however, he has deceived his constituents. The only question is how many times. And it’s impossible to see how he can remain long in office.” The Coeur d’Alene Press: “Our thoughts today go out to the many people Sen. Craig has let down. He should give them solace by exercising, in his final act as a public service, true leadership: resigning and letting someone else complete the remainder of his term.”

bullet In partial counterpoint, there’s also a substantial wave of reaction – more on the liberal side than conservative, but some of both – asking the question: What was it exactly that Craig did in the Minneapolis rest room that was, or should have been, illegal? Tapping one’s foot? What specific action crossed the line? (No sexual act occurred, and no words about sex were spoken.) Precisely how was law broken? There’s not an easy answer to that (we’d be interested in seeing such an analysis); a rundown of this is on a New York Times political page.

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