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Posts published in “Day: September 24, 2007”

Craig in review 3: The nature of the offense

On Wednesday, Idaho Senator Larry Craig's disorderly conduct case will return to a Minnesota courtroom; there, he is attempting to withdraw his plea of guilty, and service of his sentence, on the charge. Within a few days after that, the Northwest's senior senator (and its second most senior member of Congress) may - or may not - resign from the Senate. This the third of four essays considering the case, its causes and its effects.

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

You'll see the question posted quite a bit, sometimes in the most unexpected place: What, exactly, was the offense here? What was it that Larry Craig did that was so horrifically wrong as to generate the kind of ferocious reaction, the nearly instant calls for resignation, that it has? And are they justified? What kind of response from Craig is warranted?

Don't jump to a conclusion. This is more complicated than it seems, and not only because so many people - when you pin them down - give so many different answers. It's because some of the answers may lie in the recesses of our souls, back in places few of us like to visit or even contemplate.

And some of the reasons have a good deal of validity, too.

One that makes no sense:

bullet Being convicted of a misdemeanor. There's a reason you got your felonies and you got your misdemeanors: One is considerably more serious than the other, and one is taken as an indicator of a person really not to be trusted, while the other is simply a significant mistake. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell used Craig's misdemeanor conviction in Minnesota as rationale for why he should resign from the Senate. This is a complete crock: By that standard, the nation's president and vice president should be gone too. (Which many people might say should happen anyway, but not for that reason.) Get convicted of a felony, and you're out of the Senate, all right, but lesser offenses aren't, in and of themselves, quite so weighty.

bullet But he pleaded guilty to a crime. Under the law, pleading guilty to a crime and then being convicted is really no different than pleading not guilty and being convicted anyway: Either way, you are formally determined by the law of the land to be guilty. There seems to be considerable difference between the two in the minds of some people, though why exactly is less clear. Is it that the guilty plea more or less removes all doubt that he actually did it? Except, of course, that he now is denying it anyway.

There's also a real question about the seriousness, though, of exactly what Craig did. If you point a gun at someone and demand their money, there's no question what were the specific things you did that violated the law. But tapping a foot on the floor - what's that? Is that a crime? Should it, could it be? What sort of innocent behavior might be snared into something like this? Who knows what's criminal?


A Clark compromise?

Clark plan

Clark plan

Traveling around Clark County weekend before last we were struck again by the wild growth in unincorporated suburbia - subdivisions all the way from the old riverfront of Vancouver to the outskirts of Battle Ground and La Center. It's visual confirmation of the census and other numbers: Clark County has been growing fast. And the governmental and political backdrop for all this has been the war over planning between the city of Vancouver (which wants massive annexation) and the county government (which would rather not).

Some of this will probably inevitably fall into place over time. For now, there seems to be the root of a compromise between the two governments. Maybe. Tomorrow morning, Clark County will consider adopting a revised land management plan, developed in part with city officials - there are elements of compromise. But city officials are not necessarily convinced; there is some talk of suing to overturn.

We may be coming toward a turning point - things are pressing into collision, or cooperation.


There's been some perplexed talk among Idaho Republicans about a string of decisions and initiatives on the part of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter , a man long known as a lower-case libertarian - a person strongly disinclined to have government to anything that a private person or entity prospectively could do. And to oppose, as a general principle, anything like an expansion of government.

So what to make of many of Otter's recent decisions? There's the support for a new Ada-Canyon community college. Support for pursuing some kind of medical school for the state, prospectively a big investment. Support for public transportation initiatives. And some of these things quietly done.

Now comes the report that Otter is setting up a state Office of Energy Resources. Which may only add to libertarian wonderment . . .