There just seems to be no end to the bizarre saga of Larry Craig, the Republican senior U.S. senator from Idaho who was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this last summer after he allegedly tried to solicit gay sex in a bathroom stall.
Three months later, once news of his arrest and subsequent entering of a guilty plea had surfaced, he held a press conference during which he insisted, “I am not gay,” and said--or so listeners thought--that he would relinquish his Senate seat by the end of September. Craig’s Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, still reeling from last year’s election-tipping scandal involving congressional pages and Representative Mark Foley (R-Florida), and battered more recently by news that Louisiana’s junior U.S. senator, Republican David Vitter, had been a client of prominent “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s escort service, appeared relieved that they could dispense with the Craig mess so quickly, without public hearings. Tom DeLay, the disgraced former U.S. House majority leader from Texas, smugly declared on Chris Matthews’ Hardball show that Republicans purge their bad apples from Congress, while Democrats rally behind theirs.
Yet within days of his news conference, Craig began backtracking from an apparent willingness to leave office early. He’s since sought to convince a Minneapolis judge that he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, on the grounds that it was somehow entered under pressure (the judge denied Craig’s motion), and has announced that he will serve out his present Senate term. This, despite the fact that it will likely drag on for months the coverage of behavior that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)--also rumored to be gay--has already called “unforgivable.” As the Associated Press phrases it, “Now Republicans are powerless to stop a process almost certain to do more political damage to the party in general than to a retiring senator.” (I bet Idaho’s minority Democrats are salivating at the prospect of making Craig the poster boy for their state’s GOP failures in the next election, no matter who the actual Republican nominee for his seat turns out to be.)
If all of this idiocy and hypocrisy (Craig being one of the U.S. Senate’s leading homophobes) weren’t enough to bewilder Idahoans and other Americans alike, today brought Larry Craig’s induction into the Idaho Hall of Fame. Apparently, the decision to so honor the second-term senator was made last March, well before he started demonstrating his “wide stance” in a Twin Cities john. More than a few of his constituents thought Craig’s induction into the ranks of Idaho’s renowned citizens ought to be reconsidered, among them Kootenai County Republican precinct committeeman Phil Thompson. “Maybe in 10 or 15 years we can think of this hall of fame stuff. Now is not the time,” Thompson was quoted as saying this week. “It’s a sad day to be a Republican.”
Regardless of such understandable concerns, Craig joined 11 others in Boise this evening for their joint induction into that Hall of Fame. As one reader of the Idaho Statesman newspaper put it in commenting on the event, “I have never been more ashamed to be an Idahoan.”
READ MORE: “Embattled Sen. Craig Honored in Idaho,” by John Miller (AP); “Craig Humbly Accepts Induction Into the 2007 Idaho Hall of Fame,” by Katy Moeller and Heath Druzin (Idaho Statesman); “The GOP’s Crowded Closet,” by Joe Conason (Salon).