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Posts published in August 2007

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.

Megachurch by the branch

Sunday's recommended read is a profile in the Tacoma News Tribune of the leaders of the Christian Faith Center, the fast-expanding megachurch at SeaTac, Everett and - coming soon, on the move from SeaTac - Federal Way.

The opener of the Steve Maynard story give a sense of what we're talking about here:

The Rev. Casey Treat shuttles between his two churches in a helicopter. When he arrives at the helipad on the grounds of his SeaTac megachurch, a golf cart whisks him to the front door. Soon he’s standing before a rapt audience and bantering with his wife and co-pastor, Wendy, via video and audio feeds. She’s in Everett, having traveled by the same helicopter from SeaTac.

The couple leads simultaneous services 40 miles apart. Their ministry reaches 8,000 worshippers in their churches each week and many more on TV.

The new church at Federal Way opening at September will be, its web site notes, about 220,000 square feet in interior size (about the size of a Wal-Mart SuperCenter); the TNT reports that the project cost will run about $70 million. It is nothing if not ambitious; audio on the church's website says that with the new facility, the operation "will be stepping into a whole new level of influence."

Old dog, kennelled

Jim Clements

Jim Clements

Curtis King

Curtis King

We've been neglectful in failing to update on one of the more interesting contests in this week's Washington primary: The defeat of state Senator Jim Clements, by challenger Curtis King. What it means may take a while to sift out.

We've been following this one. Late last year Yakima-area Senator Alex Deccio resigned, opening the seat for appointment. Clements and King both applied, Clements getting the nod partly because not long previously he had won six terms in the House from the same district: Evidence of strong local support. And off he went to Olympia for this year's session.

King decided to challenge, basing his campaign partly on Clements' periodic compromises with the Democratic majority (Clements himself would be considered a conservative Republican), and partly on the basis that Clements seemed to take the seat, and his election, for granted. King proceeded to run exactly the right kind of campaign under the circumstances: Very high-energy, pulling lots of people and becoming highly visible. Only once it started to take off did Clements, the self-described "old porch dog," start moving into action. By July local news reports suggested the race was too close to call.

King won decisively with 55.7% of the vote. What that means may be up for grabs. To what extent does it reflect low turnout in a Republican primary, which tends to help more rigorously conservative candidates? To what extent does it reflect King's high-energy campaign? To what extent may it also reflect an anti-incumbent mood (see also Spokane)? We may return to this.

The Kropf show, 5-day

Jeff Kropf

Jeff Kropf

Forner state Representative Jeff Kropf, who left that post to move more deeply into Portland talk radio, is continuing to move more deeply into Portland tlk radio: He now has a consistent Monday-Friday talk show. To this point, he'd been mainly filling in, notably for Lars Larson on KXL; Kropf's take is conservative and Republican.

The show will be on KUIK-1360 AM, in the mornings. Some commentary and analysis - sympathetic but clear-eyed - shows up in the linked post on Oregon Catalyst.

First, some Iraq perspective

Washington Representative Brian Baird has scheduled a town hall meeting at Vancouver on Monday, and it stands to be one of the most notable such meetings on Iraq in the region this season. The reason is his change of tack on the subject. For quite some time basically anti-war, he has shifted course (probably less than 180 degrees, but substantially); his release today sums up his current view:

"The invasion of Iraq may be one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. As tragic and costly as that mistake has been, a precipitous or premature withdrawal of our forces now has the potential to turn the initial errors into an even greater problem just as success looks possible."

Hotter subjects have we none, and Baird's meeting is likely to be incendiary; at least one protest effort is already under plan. (Remember the the recent boiling point town halls of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who consistently has been nearly as anti-war as most of the people who attended.)

This is one of those subjects on which you're better off being up front about your perspective, so, while this is a regional and not a national news blog, here's ours: We thought in 2003, as the invasion was being launched, George Bush was absolutely correct on Iraq. George H.W. Bush, that is, in his calm, reasoned and intelligence/history-based analysis in 1991 (and later) on why American troops should not push on to Baghdad in the first Gulf War: The end result would far greater bloodshed, immense cost, a long-term American occupation of a large foreign country, regional instability, civil war and other demons by the host. He was right then, and right now, and day after day he is being proven prophetic.

Probably few minds will be changed at this point by either that last paragraph or much else anyone says: Opinions on Iraq seem to be hardening, if anything.

But - this being a Northwest blog - we would suggest a listen to an hour-long KUOW speaker's forum recording, of a talk by Washington Post military reporter Thomas Ricks, consistently one of the better reporters on Iraq, about the Big Picture over there, with some focus on where we're going.

In sum, he suggests the course seems almost locked for some time to come. He wouldn't argue with Baird that withdrawal of troops carries a big risk of violence and instability; but then, he said, any option before us carries that risk - there are no good options at all. Whether the level of violence or instability worsens or improves over the coming months, he said, our response will be the same: A year from now, we'll have half as many troops over there as we do now, because we won't be able to support any more. "This war rapidly is becming not a problem for [Bush] but for the next president" - and the next president probably wouldn't be able, whatever he or she wanted to do, to pulled troops and equipment out inside a year or two.

"I don't think this will end well," he said. We're in act three of a five-act Shakespeare tragedy, he said, and the fourth act will be bloody and the fifth "messy."

We tend not to be quite as pessimistic as Ricks. But his analysis is more clear and compelling that almost anything you'll hear at a town hall, as calmly and clearly thought out as H.W.'s, and it's recommended for some pre-meeting perspective.

Review: McClure of Idaho

McClure of Idaho, by William L. Smallwood, Caxton Press, Caldwell ID (2007).

reviewIn thinking back on James McClure, who was a senator from Idaho for 18 years through 1990 and a U.S. representative six years before that, you don't recall either an overwhelming personality or riotous controversy; the mental picture can seem a little blurred, some of the normal shorthand - that he was a "conservative Republican" - doesn't quite seem to cut it, especially for what the terms mean in this decade.

McClure bookThe new - release is set for September 1 - biography, McClure of Idaho, brings some focus. Get hold of two basic points and you have a fair sense of this guy who, improbably in some ways, has been one of Idaho's most successful politicians.

One is this: He never really left the small, socially conservative, rural town of Payette where he grew up and established himself professionally. Politicians like to say such things about themselves, but in McClure's case it seems generally true, generating the range of positives and negative you get from that background.

The other, less obvious to most of the public but clear to those who worked around or across from him, is implied by this passage: "You need to know that Jim McClure fancies himself as the consummate do-it-yourselfer. He did all the wiring and plumbing and heating installations in his Payette house during the years when it was undergoing remodeling, and he did the same thing in his cabin on Payette Lake outside of McCall. There isn't anything around a house that he thinks he can't install or repair." McClure was (is presumably), to a degree unusual for a legislator, a highly focused detail man, happier working on the precise language of legislation or on a stubborn electrical wiring job, than in blasting off on the ills of the world.

Put the two pieces together, and you have a basis for evaluating McClure. This book, too - in an analogous sense, it too has these qualities. It is very much an "authorized" biography, and its mood and attitude is suffused by McClure's and the community of family, friends and associates around him. But its 485 pages are also packed with loads of detail, and it's an easy recommended read for anyone interested in one of Idaho's leading political figures and the impact - considerable - he has had on the state.



Just a quick but striking quote here, from Oregon Senator Ron Wyden's review of his recent Iran-centered town hall meetings. This was on the subject of impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, which a number of people at those meetings (at Portland, Eugene and Medford) insisted upon.

I finished by saying that we should extend the same due process to President Bush that was extended to President Clinton, and that it shouldn't matter whether you are Independent, Democrat or Republican when it comes to due process. A significant chorus of "no" came from the audience, including cries of "he doesn't deserve it!" When passionate liberals argue in opposition to due process, you know that good and decent people have long ago exceeded their boiling point.

MacPherson’s in

Greg MacPherson

Greg MacPherson

Representative Greg MacPherson wasted no time - barely a day after incumbent Democratic Attorney General Hardy Myers said he would retire, fellow Democrat MacPherson formally said he's in the race. Not only that, his web site is already up - the man was prepared.

That may not be enough to scare off all primary competition; word still is that law professor John Kroger will join in shortly. But there is a sense here of hitting the ground running here.

For now, we'll make only the suggestion that MacPherson's campaign may be tied to some extent to the Measure 49 (the Measure 37 land use scaleback) ballot issue. His links to the issue run deep, not only in his own legislative career, but also that of his father, former state Senator Hector Macpherson, who was one of the creators of the land use law Measure 37 took on. And make the note that his Lake Oswego-based House seat, which has held solidly enough till now, may become hotly competitive next year - one of the few uplifting pieces of political news Oregon Republicans have gotten this year.

Salutary education

We more than you might expect with Bryan Fischer's latest argument on Idaho legal/education/sex policy. Let's open with excerpts from his Idaho Values Alliance blog:

In many states, including Idaho, sex outside marriage is against the law, and that includes consensual sex between teenagers. Sex outside marriage, whether “fornication” or “adultery” from a legal standpoint, is punishable by both a fine and imprisonment.
Yet educating teens about the legal risks they run if they become sexually active before marriage is a topic that is rarely if ever discussed in sex ed classes. I’m guessing educators show less restraint in making students aware of the legal risks of drunk driving or possession of drugs, but common sense dictates that making young adults aware that their behavior is not only dangerous but also illegal ought to be a part of a thorough education. . . .

Most teens and many parents in Idaho are most likely unaware that consensual teenage sex is a crime. Idaho lawmakers adjusted our sex offender statutes to include a “Romeo and Juliet” exception that keeps a young man who is a statutory rapist from being required to register as a sex offender, but when a male of any age – including a teenager - has sex with a girl under the age of 18 he is guilty of rape under Idaho law, whether the sex was consensual or not. Idaho law requires that he be sent to prison for no less than one year.

Fischer's point that sex outside marriage violates Idaho law is correct (see most specifically the law against fornication), also that the law is rarely enforced (there have been a few occasions) and he probably is right too that relatively few Idahoans know any of this.

We have strongly believed for a long time that a basic crash course in law - civil and criminal, law as it affects ordinary people moving through society - for a semester or two ought to be a basic component of public education at the high school level. The idea that we're supposedly educating a corps of citizens who derive most of what they know about the law from TV shows is appalling. We'd not argue at all with Fischer's suggestion that the law as it relates to sex might be a slice of that course.