Senators to Larry Craig: Time to quit

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s political support eroded by the hour on Wednesday as fellow Republicans in Congress called for him to resign and party leaders pushed him unceremoniously from senior committee posts.

The White House expressed disappointment, too — and nary a word of support for the 62-year-old lawmaker, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge stemming from an undercover police operation in an airport men’s room.

Craig “represents the Republican Party,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the first in a steadily lengthening list of GOP members of Congress to urge a resignation.

The senator’s spokesman declined comment. “They have a right to express themselves,” said Sidney Smith. He said he had heard no discussion of a possible resignation.

Craig said Tuesday he had committed no wrongdoing and shouldn’t have pleaded guilty. He said he had only recently retained a lawyer to advise him in the case that threatens to write an ignominious end to a lifetime in public office.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota joined Hoekstra in urging Craig to step down, as did Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida — and others who joined them as the day wore on.

McCain spoke out in an interview with CNN. “My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn’t serve. That’s not a moral stand. That’s not a holier-than-thou. It’s just a factual situation.”

Coleman said in a written statement, “Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator.”

For a second consecutive day, GOP Senate leaders stepped in, issuing a statement that said Craig had “agreed to comply with leadership’s request” to temporarily give up his posts on important committees. He has been the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee as well as on subcommittees for two other panels.

“This is not a decision we take lightly, but we believe this is in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the ethics committee,” said the statement, issued in the name of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader, and others.

On Tuesday, the leaders jumped in ahead of Craig’s appearance before television cameras in Idaho to announce they had asked the ethics committee to look into the case.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, “We are disappointed in the matter,” without specifying exactly what was causing the discomfort.

He said he hoped the ethics committee would do its work swiftly, “as that would be in the best interests of the Senate and the people of Idaho.”

In Craig’s home state, Republican Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter said his longtime friend “is an honorable man and I am confident that Larry Craig will do what is best for him and his family and the state of Idaho.”

For the most part, Democrats studiously avoided involvement with an unfolding Republican scandal.

“We at least ought to hear his side of the story.,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, like McCain a presidential contender who spoke on CNN.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said his party stood to gain. “All of these people who (are) holier than thou are now under investigations. … I think the Republican Party will find itself in a great peril next year,” he said.

McCain’s call for a resignation was the first among GOP presidential rivals.

Sen. Sam Brownback, also seeking the White House, said Craig’s declaration that he had pleaded guilty to make the issue go away “doesn’t work in these jobs.” Still, the Kansan said it was premature to call for Craig to resign.

That wasn’t how it was seen by Coleman, a senator facing a potentially difficult re-election contest next year, or by Hoekstra, who signaled a concern about the impact on the party generally.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hoekstra called Craig’s explanations “not credible.”

“I think it’s important for Republicans to step out right now and say, ‘No, this behavior is not going to be tolerated,'” he said.

Hoekstra, a conservative from western Michigan, said he reached his decision on his own and had not consulted with party leaders.

“It’s not a judgment on gay rights or anything like that. This is about leadership and setting a standard that the American people and your colleagues in the Republican Party can feel good about.”

Other Republicans dwelt on Craig’s guilty plea, but Hoekstra’s mention of homosexuality reflected a separate concern.

“I am not gay. I never have been gay,” the senator said on Tuesday, but that stood in apparent contradiction to the police report that led to his guilty plea, submitted on Aug. 1.

Craig was arrested on June 11 in the Minneapolis airport men’s room after an undercover officer observed conduct that he said was “often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct.”

Craig was read his rights, fingerprinted and required to submit to a mug shot at the time of his arrest.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and signed papers that included a notation that the court would not accept a guilty plea from anyone claiming to be innocent.

In his public appearance on Tuesday, Craig said he had “overreacted and made a poor decision” after being apprehended.

“While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct in the Minneapolis Airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, an openly homosexual member of the House, said Craig was a hypocrite on gay rights issues but he didn’t think the Republican senator should resign.

“This is the hypocrisy — it’s to deny legal equality to gay people, but then to engage in gay behavior,” Frank said.


Associated Press writer Todd Dvorak contributed to this story from Idaho. Matthew Daly, Ken Thomas and Andrew Miga contributed from Washington, and Jim Davenport from Columbia, S.C.


  1. yarply

    I must say that after reading the transcript of his
    arrest I would have to admit some doubts to his guilt.
    It seemed more like he was badgered into an admission in which it appears he did not realize what he was admitting too, even though he did sign that he did understand. The main reason for this is the contrived manner in which the cop acted and also how after all the media coverage, that the actual account of what was said and done is not as clear cut as some would have us believe. I think Craig was scared of the damage the case, if taken to court would do him, and as he said he had/has been accused of being gay by the Idaho statesman. In light of all this, I must say that
    he may be telling the truth, but the guy was stupid as hell to cop a plea on this issue.

  2. geyser

    This is getting out of hand. Politicians and Men of the Cloth or almost, getting outted in the worst snd embarrassing ways. The Republicans have in all intent and purpose ruined their own motto and mantra. They can not refer to themselves as the “Family Values” party, continuing to do so, will further damage their reputation and make true the hypocrits they say they’re not. It also shows the trait that has grown in leaps and bounds, making them
    pathological liars.
    Senator Craig, completely lost his cool. He paniced when confronted with the Police and the charge. He is a Lawyer, he should know, never speak without a Lawyer present and what was giving the Police a Business Card, saying he is a Senator then saying, “What do you think of that? What did Craig have in mind, I’m a Senator and above the law?
    Craig is a jerk, I wouldn’t put it past him to have dropped to his knee’s and try to do the cop to get off scott free.
    He can’t get out of this clean, dirt will get on him and stay. He will need the Iowa voters to believe he is not gay. I don’t think Iowans are ready to accept Gays as part of the human race. His re-election will count on it.