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Idaho Senator Larry Craig Resigns

From Monday to Saturday is a remarkably quick fall from power to powerlessness.

Today, just five days after the story broke of his arrest and guilty plea on a disorderly conduct charge in Minnesota, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig resigned his Senate seat.

At his resignation press conference, Craig said, “The people of Idaho deserve a Senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and effort to critical state and national issues. Therefore, it is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate effective September 30.” Craig made no mention of the arrest or the guilty plea, but said his plans seek legal counsel could take away from his duties as Senator.

“I am deeply sorry,” he said, “I have little control over what people choose to believe, but clearing my name is important to me and my family is very important also.”

Craig’s resignation comes at the end of not only a week of speculation about his sexuality, but a very long 25 years. From the congressional page scandal in 1982, when Craig declared his innocence even though nobody had yet publicly accused him, to this week, the rumors of Craig’s homosexuality and anonymous sex episodes persisted, ending with a humiliating arrest at the hands of a plainclothes police officer who was investigating sexual solicitation in a men’s bathroom in the Minneapolis airport.

A sunny day in the City of Boise was the backdrop for Craig’s resignation speech at the Boise Train Depot, with the Senator surrounded by his wife Suzanne and children, Gov. Butch Otter, State School Superintendent Tom Luna, among others. About 250 people were in attendance, about half of them citizens and half of them local and national media.

Some citizens raised signs in protest. One of the protesters, Krystal White, said, “This is not about being gay. Let the Larry Craig supporters send their 12-year-old boy into that bathroom stall and then let them say they support him.”

The protesters were balanced by the many Craig supporters.

Will Hart, Craig’s regional director in Boise, said after Craig’s speech, “We’re loyal to Senator Craig and his constituents. We’ve never had any reason to believe anything bad about our boss. He has apologized to us for his mistake and we’ve forgiven him for that. We look forward to his legal council taking over this issue.”

Born on the family ranch near Midvale, Idaho, Craig’s attraction to leadership positions came at an early age, when he was state chair of the Future Farmers of America. He went on to become student body president at the University of Idaho and was elected to the Idaho House in 1974, where he served three terms before winning the 1980 race for Congress from Idaho’s first district. He was re-elected four times before winning the U.S. Senate election in 1990 and was re-elected to the Senate in 1996 and 2002.

It will now be up to Gov. Butch Otter to appoint someone to take Craig’s seat. The word is Lt. Gov. Jim Risch is the frontrunner for the appointment but Congressman Bill Sali, and Congressman Mike Simpson have also been floated as possibilities. On Tuesday, Aug. 28, the domain name was purchased and registered.

Otter’s spokesman Jon Hanian said Friday that the governor hadn’t made any decisions yet. Whoever takes the seat will be up for an interesting race in 2008, the end of Craig’s term. Democrats, who have been utterly silent during the week, have Larry LaRocco in the front as a candidate for Craig’s seat.

Toward the end of his career, Craig was a powerful senior member of Congress with numerous committee chairmanships, all of which were taken away from him this week as his Republican colleagues distanced themselves from Craig and the unfolding scandal.

“I hope you do not regret the confidence you have placed in me for all these years,” Craig said Saturday.

When news broke Monday, Craig immediately removed himself from Sen. Mitt Romney’s campaign and Romney was immediately unsupportive of Craig, telling CNN on Thursday that Craig’s alleged conduct was “disgraceful” and stopped just short of calling for a resignation. He said, “I think at this stage, the right course is for him to make this decision looking at his own conscience, talking to the people of Idaho, talking to his colleagues in the Senate.”

Other top GOP leaders were reportedly drafting a letter from the party Friday calling for a resignation.

Craig’s denial of both the long-standing rumors and the allegations of the solicitation in the Minneapolis airport have been quick and unrelenting. In a public appearance in Boise on Tuesday, Craig said, “I am not gay and never have been gay.”

Craig said he made the decision to plead guilty in the case, because of ongoing speculation about his sexuality and the pressure of a months-long investigation by the Idaho Statesman into his history and the many stories circulating about his involvement in anonymous same-sex affairs.

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

The Statesman had not published any of the fruits of the investigation until after news of the arrest had spread. Then Tuesday, the lengthy piece, with exhaustive coast-to-coast reporting came out, further fueling the nation-wide media blitz about Craig’s arrest and the history that may or may not have lead up to it.

On Tuesday, Craig called the Statesman, investigation a “witch hunt.” The Statesman’s managing editor Bill Manny said, “As our story today demonstrated, we followed leads and asked questions. We worked hard and behaved responsibly, not publishing a story until it was ready. We didn’t print anything until the senator pleaded guilty. Our story outlined what we’ve done and it speaks for itself.”

Click here for the full text of Craig’s resignation speech.

About Jill Kuraitis

Jill Kuraitis is an award-winning journalist who specializes in news of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West. Her B.A. in theatre management is from UC Santa Barbara, and she went on to work in theatre, film, and politics before writing became a career. Kuraitis has two excellent grown children and lives in Boise with her husband of 30 years, abundant backyard wildlife, and two huge hairy dogs.

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  1. Good riddance!

  2. The registrant for RISCHFORSENATE.COM is interesting — a squatter? Or a 3rd party providing obfuscation (whether intentional or not)?

    Garrett, Spencer, apparently d.b.a.
    Night Owl Publishing, Inc. in Ocean Springs, MS

    (I used to look it up.)

  3. See if any of the following quotes ring a bell:

    ”¢ “I am not a crook”
    ”¢ “I did not have sex with that woman”
    ”¢ “I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport”

    Yes- here we go again.

    Politicians never seem to learn the most important lesson of public life: tell the truth and tell it right from the very start. Never lie. Never. Because you will almost always be caught. And, as we’ve seen so many times in the past, the lie becomes worse than the act you sought to conceal.

    Think how the course of history might have changed if, the morning after the Watergate burglary, President Nixon had called a press conference and said something like this:

    “Last night some people working for me did a terrible thing. They broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to help my re-election effort. I take full responsibility for their actions and beg every American’s forgiveness. I promise this will never happen again”.

    Just think: we would have been spared two years of agonizing investigations, a constitutional crisis that almost wrecked our government and Nixon would have gone down in history as one of our great presidents, instead of holding the dishonor of being the only president forced to resign in disgrace. It’s also possible Jimmy Carter would never have been elected President, since much of his support came from people disgusted with Nixon’s dishonesty.

    Ditto for Bill Clinton. If he had admitted his little indiscretion with Monica right at the very beginning, he would have pre-empted all the investigations and avoided any talk at all of impeachment. It’s also quite likely that George W. Bush would never have been elected President. Remember, Bush’s 2000 campaign was largely based on “restoring integrity” to the White House. In the closest election in U.S. history, it wouldn’t have taken too many votes to give the victory to Gore.

    Which brings us to Sen. Larry Craig. He did something really stupid in the men’s room at the Minneapolis airport last June. By his own admission, he reached under the toilet stall partition and touched the man in the stall next door. That man, of course, turned out to be an undercover cop.

    Like Nixon and Clinton before him, Craig panicked. He entered a guilty plea to a charge of disorderly conduct, in the hope no one would ever find out. Of course, someone always finds out. Even if the local news media is asleep, as they apparently were in this case, your political enemies will find out. And in politics, there are always enemies waiting for a chance to bring you down.

    So what does Craig do? He calls a news conference and tells the world he did nothing wrong. He says it was all a misunderstanding. He admits his foot strayed under the partition, touching the foot of the guy in the next stall. And he admits reaching down with his hand, under the partition. But he says he was only trying to pick up a piece of paper from the floor. Jay Leno nailed that one the other night when he said: “I don’t even like it when my shoelaces touch the floor” in the men’s room. Even his fellow Republicans said Senator Craig’s explanation “was not credible”.

    What should Craig have done? I’ll offer the same advice I’d offer any public official in a similar situation:

    1. Talk to your lawyer. That’s why you hired him.
    2. Talk to your family and prepare them for what is to come.
    3. Tell your political associates so they’re ready when the news breaks.
    4. Tell your staff.
    5. Last- and most important- tell your constituents. Call a press conference and confess. Tell the whole truth and accept the blame completely. Don’t try to blame anyone else and don’t make excuses. Just admit you made a mistake that you really regret and then beg for everyone’s forgiveness.

    A funny thing happens when you do that last step. People will forgive you. Voters actually admire public officials who have the enormous courage to admit their shortcomings because everyone knows how difficult it is. So instead of earning everyone’s disdain, you wind up earning their respect.

    No, it’s not easy. Yes, you’ll feel humiliated for a few days or a few weeks. But you’ve ended the ordeal. It’s over. And you and everyone else can and will move on.

    The public loves stories of redemption. You just have to find the courage to give them the chance.

    For more:

  4. I wonder why the Dems haven’t demanded William Jefferson from LA to resign? Remember the 90K found in his Frig?

  5. Truth from politicians? You have got to be kidding:

    [In paraphrase] “Saddam has weapons of mass destruction”
    [inability to discern truth] “Good job Brownie!”
    [propaganda lie] “Mission accomplished”

    If you really want a laugh: “America at its best is a place where personal responsbility is valued and respected.” – George W. Bush, 2001

    It wasn’t always like that: Republican Convention 1964:

    “My God! He’s going to run as Barry Goldwater”. – anonymous reporter

    Some laughed at him then for speaking the truth as he saw it, but who since had the last laugh?

    Now the wonder boys at the RNC took us from “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice!” to “Extremism in the defence of vice is no liberty.”

    So now we are freed of yet another Culture Warrior in kneepads and maybe the Republicans will come back to the GOP of bygone Libertarian days when they stood for something real.

  6. I found the letter to the Washington Post by James McGreevey (which the Statesman reprinted today) to be one of the more valuable things to come out of Craig’s misfortune. He went through the same “coming out” experience and resigned as Governor of N.J.; now he’s in seminary, and offered a very Christian prayer on the subject:

    “I pray that the tide of American history continues to sweep toward the inevitable expansion of freedom that recognizes the worth and dignity of every individual — and that mine is the last generation that is required to choose between affairs of the heart and elected office.”

  7. Craig needs to go, but not because he might be gay or has sloppy restroom habits. His obstructionist positions on wilderness and environmental issues in the northwest are ample grounds for his getting the boot. Good thing he’s pulling the plug himself, though, because we can’t count on Idaho voters to get rid of him, given their past proclivity to re-elect him.

  8. More on Craig. In my experience with restrooms, you’d have to be pretty agile to get your foot far enough under the stall divider to actually make contact with the foot of someone in the next stall. Unless of course that person was also a bit of a gymnast… perhaps the question that we should be asking is what was the detective doing with HIS feet? Did he also employ a “wide stance”? Or was he sitting there innocently, minding his own business?

  9. What a sad man…complete embarassment to himself, and to the human race…unbelievable to watch his selfishness in holding onto his seat like a child who won’t let go. It’s been breeding for years in him and it’s a disgrace. For holding a public office and doing this, I believe he deserves worse punishment than just “giving his seat up.” I can see his actions are catching up with him finally. This stuff has been brewing in his past for years and he is facing consequences. Looks like he will continue to have to face the fallout from this in other ways too – lawsuits, legal fees…I hope his wife finds from strength in this time and it must be unbearable to be with somebody who betrays you so much…good lord this man is in so much trouble no matter what is happening with the office he held…