Hot potato.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Aug. 31 2007 5:57 PM

Hot Potato

Republicans can't drop Larry Craig fast enough.

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The newspaper interviewed more than 300 people who've known Craig—neighbors, childhood friends, and 41 of his University of Idaho fraternity brothers. In May, a few weeks before the Minneapolis arrest, the Statesman interviewed Craig and his wife, and played a tape from the man who made the online allegations.

The report is exhaustive, interesting, and inconclusive. Read it for yourself, and the one thing you can be sure of is that Larry Craig's favorite epithet is "Jiminy!" He told the Statesman, "I don't go around anywhere hitting on men, and by God, if I did, I wouldn't do it in Boise, Idaho! Jiminy!" After his wife listened to the tape and told the newspaper she was incensed it would "consider such a piece of trash as a credible source," Craig let loose with, "Jiminy God!"

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At a press conference Tuesday, Craig blamed his guilty plea on the pressure he felt from what he called the Statesman's eight-month-long "witch hunt." Craig might have been better off claiming his layover was entrapment by the common enemy so many Idaho flyers love to hate, Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines.

Garrison Keillor once said that folks in Lake Wobegon believe in forgiving their neighbor, but first they want to hear details. Idahoans are in no mood to forgive Craig. But—Jiminy God!—we've heard enough details. ... 6:37 P.M. ( link)

Monday, Aug. 27, 2007

Nowhere To Go But Up: As one final coda to a warrantless career, Alberto Gonzales said Monday he has lived the American Dream. Torture, spying, and partisan conspiracy were once the province of the elite few. Now anyone can grow up to be a puppet, apologist, and laughingstock.

President Bush, Gonzales' last defender, is the only Republican in Washington even pretending to be sorry to see him go. Bush said Gonzales "did an outstanding job"—as the greatest fall guy since Michael Brown dined alone.

When Karl Rove left, the White House wondered how to replace the irreplaceable. With Gonzales, the challenge is just the opposite: how best to replace someone so easily replaceable. If the key to success in politics is choosing your predecessor, Gonzales' successor will be the luckiest person in America.

The biggest headache for the White House is that after the nightmare of Gonzales' congressional testimony, Senate Democrats will try to turn his successor's confirmation hearings into a rerun, not a sequel. The last Cabinet member to be run out of town was Donald Rumsfeld. His successor, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, spent the entire confirmation process answering variants of the same question: Are you now, or have you ever been, Donald Rumsfeld?

That was with a Republican Congress and a war going on. This time, a Democratic Congress won't worry all that much about who'll run out the string at Justice, because it hardly matters: For the most part, the next attorney general will have to serve out Gonzales' probation.

There's no rational way to predict Gonzales' successor, since under the normal laws of political gravity, he would have disappeared long ago. Democrats secretly hope Bush will find someone who can keep any thread of the Gonzales story line alive. Harriet Miers wasn't ready for the Supreme Court, but she could easily be the next Alberto Gonzales. A confirmation hearing for John Yoo might finally give Democrats a chance to appreciate the joys of torture. And if the White House has forgotten, Democrats can recommend several highly qualified former federal prosecutors who are recently out of work.

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