Friday, February 15, 2008

Senate reprimand should humiliate Craig, but doesn?t


Idaho Sen. Larry Craig made a startling statement this week after the Senate Ethics Committee reprimanded him for conduct that reflected poorly on the U.S. Senate and for using $200,000 in campaign funds for his lawyers without Senate approval.

Craig rebuked his colleagues' findings, ignored any oblique nudge to resign, and vowed, "I will continue to serve the people of Idaho."

Denial is too wishy-washy a word to describe the trance-like reverie of Sen. Craig and his aloof detachment from reality. Delusional is better.

Since his arrest last year in a Minneapolis airport bathroom in a sex sting and his guilty plea to disorderly conduct, Idaho's three-term U.S. senator has tried mightily to reverse the tide of events that has brought scorn on him in the U.S. Senate and at home among voters who expected more decency of their senior Washington delegate.

Yes, he would resign. No, he wouldn't resign. Yes, he's guilty as charged. No, not guilty as charged because he didn't understand the law.

This isn't a comedy sketch. These are the mental gyrations of Sen. Craig, who expects Senate colleagues and Idahoans to accept them without guffaws and continue to accept him as a rational thinker.

Sen. Craig does not serve the people of Idaho or their best interests by remaining in the Senate. It's all about his ego, about Larry Craig. He is an outcast, cold-shouldered by colleagues, stripped of his chairmanships and still the ready grist for late-night TV comics.

Craig is lucky the clubby Senate committee was reluctant to come down on him harder and did not order his expulsion.

A sense of personal shame might otherwise be reason enough for Craig to finally resign, as did Sen. Robert Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat, after he was admonished for merely accepting improper gifts from a supporter. But a sense of honor is not one of Craig's strong character points. Lest, how could he possibly have acted as he did in that bathroom stall?

Loyalty to his Republican Party also seems to have been a casualty of Craig's all-consuming narcissism. Democrats are hoping to parlay Craig's stubborn hold on his office as an example of GOP disregard for the public trust.

In the end, Craig is not clinging to his job "to serve the people of Idaho." The sum total of his strategy is to increase the size of his pension and to wrangle a cushy lobbyist job in Washington, although one wonders whether former colleagues would dare listen to him after the way he's trashed the hallowed halls of the U.S. Senate.




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