Larry Craig reveals that he'd decided to leave long before he decided not to.

Notes from the political sidelines.
April 10 2008 3:54 PM

Coming Home

Larry Craig reveals that he'd decided to leave long before he decided not to.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Twist and Shout:When the news broke last August that Larry Craig had been arrested in a restroom sex sting, he had a ready answer: The Idaho Statesman made him do it. He claimed that the Statesman's monthslong investigation into whether he was gay made him panic and plead guilty. Otherwise, he said, he feared that what happened in Minneapolis might not stay in Minneapolis, and the Statesman would make sure the voters of Idaho found out.

Craig's jihad against the Statesman didn't go over too well in Idaho, where people are more likely to read the newspaper in the restroom than worry about it afterward. On Monday, the Statesman was named a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting for what the committee called "its tenacious coverage of the twists and turns in the scandal involving the state's senator, Larry Craig."

The story took yet another strange twist and turn this week. For the past six months, the entire political world has been wondering why Craig promised to resign when the scandal broke, then changed his mind a few days later. In a rare interview Wednesday with the congressional newspaper the Hill, Craig finally found someone to blame for staying in the Senate: The people of Idaho made him do it.

According to the Hill, Craig said "support from Idahoans convinced him to reverse his pledge to resign last year." This was news to most Idaho voters, who have viewed the whole affair with shock, outrage, embarrassment, and dismay. But Craig didn't stop there. The Hill reports that he also said his decision not to run for re-election "pre-dated the controversy."

Last fall, Craig stunned Idahoans by insisting he was not gay, not guilty, and not leaving. Now he says it's our fault he never left, he was leaving anyway, and if he's not running, it's not because we don't believe him when he says he's not guilty and not gay.

Unfortunately, Craig's latest explanation casts some doubt on the excuse he gave last fall. If he had already decided long ago that he wasn't running for re-election, he had less reason to panic over his arrest, and much less to fear from voters finding out about it back home. In September, he made it sound as if he pled guilty to a crime he didn't commit to avoid a political firestorm back home. If politics were of no concern, he had every reason to fight the charges in court. For that matter, if he was so sure he wouldn't run again, he could have announced his decision early last year, which might have staved off the Statesman investigation before it got started.

Craig's latest revelation undermines his defense in another way as well. If he is telling the truth that he had made up his mind not to run before his arrest, that would be the best explanation yet for why he risked putting himself in a position to get arrested. Eliot Spitzer's re-election prospects plunged long before he got caught, too.

Nothing can fully explain why public figures like Craig and Spitzer would flagrantly risk arrest. But we can rule out political suicide if they'd already decided their political careers were over. ... 3:55 P.M. (link)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

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B.Looper: Learned reader Kyle Sammin recalls that Idaho's Marvin "Pro-Life" Richardson has nothing on 1998 Tennessee State Senate candidate Byron "Low-Tax" Looper. Besides changing his name, Looper also murdered his opponent. Under Tennessee law, the names of dead candidates are removed from the ballot. So even though he was quickly charged with homicide, Looper nearly ran unopposed. The victim's widow won a last-minute write-in campaign. Looper was sentenced to life in prison.

Bloopers: The Pittsburgh Pirates are now the most mediocre first-place team in baseball history. In their season opener Monday night against Atlanta, the Bucs provided plenty of evidence that this year will turn out like the last 15. They blew a five-run lead in the ninth by walking four batters and booting an easy fly ball. Pirate players said they'd never seen anything like it, not even in Little League. For an inning, it looked like the team had gone on strike to demand more money.

But to every Buc fan's surprise, the Pirates won, anyway—12-11 in 12 innings—and with no game Tuesday, Pittsburgh has been above .500 for two glorious days. New General Manager Neal Huntington e-mailed me on Monday to promise that the team's new regime is determined to build an organization that will make the people of Pittsburgh proud again. That might take a while. For now, we're content to make the people of Atlanta feel really embarrassed. ... 1:35 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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Larry Craig

Danger Is My Middle Name:Outgoing Senator Larry Craig can take consolation in one thing: out in Idaho, everyone wants his seat. Fourteen candidates have filed to run for the Senate, including eight Republicans, two Democrats, two Independents, and a Libertarian. Hal Styles Jr. of Desert Hot Springs, California, entered the Republican primary, even though he has never been to Idaho. "I know I'll love it because, clean air, clean water and many, many, many mountains," he says. "My heart, my mind, my body, my soul, my thoughts are in this to win."

The general election will likely be a rematch between former Democratic congressman Larry LaRocco and Republican Lt. Gov. (and former governor) Jim Risch. If Idahoans find those two insufficiently embarrassing, however, a number of fringe candidates have lined up to take Craig's place. According to CQ, one Independent, Rex Rammel, is a former elk rancher who is angry that Risch ordered state wildlife officials to shoot some of his elk that got away. The Libertarian, Kent A. Marmon, is running against "the ever-expanding Socialist agenda" he claims is being pushed by Democratic congressmen like John Dingell.

But by far the most creative third-party candidate is Marvin Richardson, an organic strawberry farmer who went to court to change his name to "Pro-Life." Two years ago, he made that his middle name and tried to run for governor as Marvin "Pro-Life" Richardson. State election officials ruled that middle names couldn't be used to make a political statement on the ballot. As plain old Marvin Richardson, he won just 1.6% of the vote.

Now that "Pro-Life" is his full name, the state had to let him run that way on the ballot. He told the Idaho Press-Tribune that with the name change, he should win 5%. He plans to run for office every two years for as long as he lives: "If I save one baby's life, it will be worth it."

As the Press-Tribune points out, Pro-Life is not a single-issue candidate, but has a comprehensive platform. In addition to abortion, he opposes "homosexuality, adultery, and fornication." He wants the pro-life movement to refer to abortion as "murder," although he has not yet insisted pro-choice candidates change their name to that.

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