Larry Craig, the irrational member who goes on forever with no solution.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Oct. 5 2007 3:08 PM

Word Problem

Larry Craig, the irrational member who goes on forever with no solution.

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Friday, Oct. 5, 2007

Bad Loan: The slogan of the Idaho Hall of Fame, which Larry Craig will enter next Saturday, is "Idahoans on Loan to the World." Thanks to Craig, Senate Republicans can plainly see that there's a crisis in the subprime sector.

Nobody really wants to be installed next to Craig, but two fellow inductees will find next Friday's ceremony especially awkward. Gov. Butch Otter has been waiting six weeks to name Craig's successor. He released a long list of all the Idahoans who've expressed interest in the job and reportedly settled on a replacement just in time for Craig's announcement that he's not resigning. Another inductee, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, desperately wants Craig's seat and will soon announce his attention to run in 2008, even if Otter doesn't nominate him.

Even Boise State coach Chris Petersen, whose Fiesta Bowl-winning razzle-dazzle earned him a place at this year's ceremony, doesn't have a trick play good enough to rescue Craig's busted snap. The Hall of Fame was right to worry that the concept of "real life heroes has been lost"—although when it set out to find inductees with "pages of life experience to inspire our up and coming generations," Craig's pages weren't the ones it had in mind. But it's all about the kids—and tickets are still available!

Senate Republicans can't catch a break: The colleagues they hate to lose are retiring, and the one guy they want to retire isn't budging. John Ensign, who has the unpleasant task of heading the Senate Republican Campaign Committee for 2008, doesn't mince words: "Senator Craig gave us his word. … I wish he would stick to his word." Like most Idahoans, Craig's colleagues take his backtracking personally. If a man's word is his bond, it's time to call the bounty hunter.

Out in Idaho, one citizen has stepped forward to answer the call. Brad Bristol, a nonaligned voter from Nampa, Idaho, just launched an Impeach Craig Web site. As the Idaho Statesmanreports, Bristol was already mad that Craig supported comprehensive immigration reform, and couldn't take it anymore when the senator refused to leave as promised. Bristol hopes his Web site, Idahopower-less.com, can get the job done in 120 days, but admits that Craig is not much for deadlines. Craig's Senate colleagues can rest assured—their signatures will be kept confidential.

The Idaho Post-Registercalls Craig a "serial liar," and nothing the man does can surprise anybody anymore. Even so, folks are scratching their heads about the excuses their allegedly intelligent senator gave yesterday for staying. Craig claimed that the past three weeks showed him he could continue to represent Idaho effectively. He said a replacement couldn't match his seniority or prime committee assignments, neglecting to mention that his colleagues have stripped his seniority and made clear that his only prime assignment will be to appear before the Senate ethics committee.

Craig ended his press release: "When my term has expired, I will retire and not seek reelection. I hope this provides the certainty Idaho needs and deserves." That's just what Idahoans and Republicans wanted to hear from Larry Craig—another promise. ... 3:05 P.M. (link)

Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007

Ol' Blue Eyes: Now that Minnesota Judge Charles Porter Jr. has rejected Larry Craig's request to withdraw his guilty plea, a nation of tabloids is rushing to print with headlines about his demise. But here at the Craig War Room, we take a different view. In his order, Judge Porter actually says the nicest things anyone has said about Craig since the scandal broke back in August.

The judge rebuffs Craig's "illogical" legal arguments and offers Craig's lawyer, Billy Martin, only a backhanded compliment for conceding an obvious point. Judge Porter politely dismisses the ACLU's defense of Craig's rights to free speech and free sex, explaining that the real issue was the disorderly conduct of the defendant's "eyes, hand, and foot."

Yet Craig is used to having his motions denied. By all accounts, his lawyers will take his case to the Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court. Today's setback is just the first step in a legal strategy of three-taps-and-you're-out.

In the meantime, Craig can bask in all the high praise from the bench. For starters, Judge Porter goes on for 27 pages without telling a single joke at Craig's expense (unless you count a wry statement of fact, "The Defendant did not flush the toilet"). Jay Leno and David Letterman can't restrain themselves for 27 seconds.

Even as he tosses out Craig's arguments, the judge finds a way to toss him compliments as the reason. When Craig's defense team contends their client was rushed, the judge applauds the senator's "calm and methodical" behavior in the pre-plea period. While Craig's lawyers portray a client intimidated by the police, Judge Porter sees "a degree of confidence" in the senator. The judge even brings up Craig's "blue eyes"—twice.

As grounds for rejecting the motion, Judge Porter sets out to prove that Craig's boneheaded, career-ending admission of guilt was, in fact, an "intelligent plea." As a result, the ruling is full of praise for Craig's thinking, calling him "an educated adult" and repeatedly noting how smart he is: "The Defendant, a career politician with a college degree, is of, at least, above-average intelligence." If that's the case, Lake Wobegon may finally have found its senator.

Judge Porter goes out of his way to mention a detail most of us missed: When he sent his guilty plea to the prosecutor, Craig attached a handwritten thank-you for his cooperation.

Any Idaho mother would be proud. The late-night comics may say Larry Craig is a dumb, disorderly peeper. But the judge says he's smart as a hack, with blue eyes and good manners to die for. ... 4:59 P.M. (link)

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Monday, Oct. 1, 2007

I Said No, No, No: Newsweek's cover story concludes that "the politician Romney has been chiefly interested in organizing and packaging himself into is a man who seems to have no history, and, as a result, no heart." If only he had a much-loved ad campaign about his past  …

One Romney supporter seems to have a history—the unsinkable Larry Craig. You can always judge a man by his arrest report. As the sergeant who busted Craig recalls: "I pointed towards the exit. Craig responded, 'No!' " Now it's happening again. State, party, and country are using every known signal to point Craig toward the exit—but, once again, the senator is dragging his feet and saying, "No!"

Craig can't even leave his houseboat, let alone go to the bathroom, without a press posse present. His solution: He's not going anywhere.

A month ago, Craig promised the people of Idaho that he intended to resign by Sept. 30. As we begin a new fiscal year, he seems to have voted himself a continuing resolution. According to Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman, many leading Republicans in the state now believe that Craig will serve out the remaining 15 months of his term.

Popkey points out that if the Minnesota judge rejects his plea for a new trial, Craig can delay his departure six months by appealing the ruling to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and another nine months by appealing to the Minnesota Supreme Court. As Popkey explains, "At that point, assuming his guilty plea stands, Craig can say he fought the good fight. Meantime, he will have remained in office, continued to collect his salary, and boost his pension that's based on years of service." Humiliation is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Thanks to his home state, Craig does have one place to go. Next week, Sen. Craig will be inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame.

Most Idahoans would be a little embarrassed to know we have a Hall of Fame, let alone that Craig will soon be a member. The senator will find himself in an elite group that includes such other famous natives as Chief Joseph and Sacagawea.

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