Mike Crapo/Alexander VA police
Becoming Idaho's senior senator has started turning into a bad-headline situation: There was the internationally-famous Larry Craig incident from about five years ago, and now the DUI arrest of Mike Crapo.
One difference between the two is that while a long-running rumor circuit made the Craig arrest a surprise but not a complete shock, it's probably safe to say not many people saw a DUI arrest in Crapo's future. Crapo has always appeared to be a totally observant, teetotaling Mormon; he has specifically said that he doesn't drink, and he seems to have given no reason till now to doubt that. His name never has shown up - as far as I know - on any informal list of quiet occasional drinkers among the politically active faithful, at least outside his circle of closest friends and relatives.
Crapo was arrested early Sunday morning, and police in Alexandria, Virginia, reported he had a .11 blood alcohol level, substantially above the .08 line for DUI (in Virginia as well as in Idaho). That BAC level is ordinarily an indicator of being not just tipsy, not close to borderline sober, but being seriously sloshed.
The senator's first statement out of this was appropriate enough: "I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance. I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter."
He isn't, evidently, trying to dodge, prevaricate or avoid, which is a good sign.
Two other points are worth making before more plays out.
One is that Crapo has no cause - no external reason, apart from whatever his own preferences may be - for resigning. That may sound awfully premature since no calls for departure have surfaced (that I have seen), but expect some to materialize, from anti-drunk driving activists if not elsewhere. Remember that in Craig's case, the chorus for resignation was deafening, not least from Idaho, and Craig's legal offense (while much more spectacular from a tabloid perspective) was lesser than Crapo's.
Crapo is being charged with a misdemeanor, however, so there's no legal requirement to leave. He appears ready to accept the consequences, which is all you can ask at this point. And we don't, or at least shouldn't, hold our officials to some standard of perfection. There's no reason Crapo can't, if he chooses, go on doing the job the voters of Idaho hired him to do.
There is something else, though, Crapo owes those voters, and in a looser sense (as a relatively senior senator, and top Republican on the increasingly significant Banking Committee) owes the rest of the country: An explanation.
At some point in the days ahead, as he has the chance to collect his thoughts and re-evaluate whatever needs to be evaluated, Crapo ought to open up about what's going on in his life and what led up to his driving under the influence - and, for that matter, being under the influence. This would not be an easy thing to do, and facing this up to his fellow Mormons would be awfully tough.
If Crapo wants to retain the support and confidence than Idahoans at least (and people outside the state as well) give him that allow him to function effectively in the Senate, then he needs to come clean about what's happening. And how he intends to deal with his challenges, so that he can do the job he was elected to.
A good deal of Crapo's support over the years has come from the sense that this is a man of strong and upright character. Now, in this moment of challenge, Idaho will get to see more clearly than it has before exactly what is the nature of Crapo's character - not so much in in the mistake that led to a DUI arrest, but in what he does from this point forward in response to it.