Friday, August 31, 2007

The Larry Craig Mess

August 31, 2007 - WSJ

So now comes Idaho's Senator Larry Craig to verify one more time Mr. Dooley's truth that "politics ain't beanbag." Were it gentle beanbag, a long parade of troubled politicos caught in cars, tidal basins, on boat decks and inside cookie jars would have been left to God's mercy and their own demons. Even in the days of smoke-filled rooms, the boys knew there were some malefactors who had strayed to that place beyond their protective reach, which is to say, into the hands of the party faithful. Senator Larry Craig is in that place.

Senator Craig's incident inside the men's room of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is, at the least, bad timing on his part. His party, it might have occurred to him, had just lost control of Congress for reasons that Republican voters chose to call "corruption." The various corruptions included Representatives Mark Foley and Duke Cunningham, Tom DeLay and the K Street mob, the disgrace of earmarks and bridges to nowhere and whatever else GOP voters concluded had fallen outside the norms of established party principle.

Politicians like to buck obviously poor odds, but Senator Craig hasn't helped his with his decision-making. The incident at the airport occurred on June 11. Nearly two months later, on August 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct for which he received one-year probation from the court. He told no one. When all this became public days ago, Mr. Craig announced that the guilty plea was a mistake and that he should have called a lawyer.

It can be no surprise that the Senate GOP leadership referred the matter to the Ethics Committee, nor that they pushed him from senior committee posts. Senators John McCain and Norm Coleman, citing the guilty-plea standard for staying in office, have urged Mr. Craig to resign, as have Republican House Members.

Senator Craig was elected by the people of Idaho, and it is properly a matter between them and him whether he should finish his term. We agree, however, with those in his party who want the Senator to forgo re-election next year. The Republican Party needs to get its house in order. It is a mess. And that cleanup should include the living room, the library, the front porch and, we daresay, the restroom.

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