October 1, 2007

Too Bad You Can't Stay

The calendar has moved to October, and that presumably meant that Larry Craig would head home to Idaho and allow a replacement appointment to take his seat. Unfortunately for the Senate Republicans, embarrassed by Craig's guilty plea to disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis airport restroom, Craig has decided to extend his tapdancing. Since he won't commit to resigning, his GOP colleagues plan on holding a public ethics hearing to shame him out of the Senate:

The Senate hearing would examine the original charges in Craig's case, including the allegation of "interference with privacy," for peeping into the bathroom stall occupied by an undercover police officer. One senior Republican aide imagined "witnesses, documents, all in front of the klieg lights." The committee also could look for "a pattern of conduct" -- which means combing court records in other locales to discover whether Craig had prior arrests that haven't come to light.

The call for a public hearing is not unprecedented. In 1995, the Senate narrowly rejected holding an open forum to examine sexual misconduct allegations against Bob Packwood (R-Ore.). The Democrat who called for the open Packwood hearing? Barbara Boxer (Calif.), the current chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

Once again, Craig has no one to blame but himself for his predicament. He should not have pled guilty to the disorderly conduct charge if he thought he did nothing wrong, and there's some question as to whether the police have been overzealous in their attack on gay panic in the Lindbergh Terminal. Having taken the plea after having two months to think about it, going back in front of a judge to say that he pled guilty in a "panic" is ludicrous. It's almost as bad as announcing one's resignation publicly and then rescinding it.

Has this man ever made a decision and stuck with it? Has he ever stood up for himself when it counted? How did he get elected in the first place?

All of that said, one has to wonder why the Republicans are in such a hurry to see him out the door. They certainly didn't put David Vitter through this, even though Vitter admitted to a nebulous set of "sins" when his number appeared on phone records at a DC brothel. That's at least as illegal as what Craig is accused of doing, and yet no one seems all that anxious to toss Vitter out of office. Neither act really relates to their work in politics, unlike, say, Jerry Lewis, who faces a federal corruption probe and yet still remains on the House Appropriations Committee.

It's a curious case in which to draw a bright line. The Republicans seem determined to run Craig out of town on a rail, and had they been consistent in doing so, it would be laudable. However, under present circumstances of both parties -- with William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson still serving in the House -- it just looks curiouser and curiouser.

UPDATE: Misspelled "curiouser" twice in my Lewis Carroll reference. Thanks to reader Mark M for the correction.


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