The Idaho Statesman editorial page begins today’s editorial with the sentence, “Sen. Larry Craig has spent 27 years in Congress with rumors about his sexual orientation following him almost from the outset.”
Craig “must speak candidly with the people who have hired him for more than a quarter of a century,” the Statesman editorial continues. “He owes this to voters no matter how difficult that may be for him and for his family. And voters owe Craig a chance to explain himself.”
Among the questions the Statesman editorial poses about the “bizarre case”: “If Craig’s actions in the restroom were misconstrued and he was not involved in any inappropriate conduct, as he said in a statement Monday, then why did he plead guilty?”; “Did Craig try to use his title to make the case go away?” (the editorial calls it “an inexcusable abuse of power” if, as reported in the police report, “Craig handed the plainclothes officer a U.S. Senate business card during an interview with police, and asked the officer, ‘What do you think about that?’); and “Why did Craig not come forward after the June 11 arrest? Did he honestly think this would never become public?”
“For Craig to keep this from his constituents, for 11 weeks, is not merely bad public relations,” the editorial goes on. “It’s an unacceptable breach of trust.”
The Statesman editorial also says voters deserve to know if Craig is gay: “Elected officials have a right to privacy, but also an obligation to tell the truth about who they are.”
Conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt wants Sen. Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho, to resign from office for pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport. “Craig’s behavior is so reckless and repulsive that an immediate exit is required,” Hewitt writes at his blog.
Reason senior editor Radley Balko says Hewitt has a double standard for Republican senators who engage in questionable conduct, because Hewitt did not call for Sen. David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, to resign after Vitter admitting to using an escort service. “Guess there’s some sort moral distinction between cheating on your wife via anonymous gay sex and cheating on your wife by paying for hetero sex with a prostitute,” Balko writes at Hit and Run, Reason’s staff blog.
Conservative blogger “Captain Ed” Morrissey isn’t sure that Craig should resign, and he thinks Hewitt is wrong to distinguish between Craig and Vitter. “At the least, he should confirm that he will not run again,” Morrissey writes at his blog, Captain’s Quarters. “I’m not convinced that Craig did more wrong than David Vitter, though — both of them broke laws.”
Hewitt isn’t the only person engaging in hypocrisy, says Reason editor Nick Gillespie. Craig himself “voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, a clearly anti-gay measure, and he supported the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage,” Gillespie writes at Hit and Run. He continues:
America is the land of opportunity and more power to Craig if he wants to have consensual sex with men in toilets … But I find it despicable that Craig would deny the option of matrimony to gay men who want it.
In somewhat of a surprise for a scandal involving a Republican, liberal bloggers have been less outraged by Craig’s behavior. Mark Kleiman, the U.C.L.A. public policy professor who blogs at The Reality-Based Community, thinks Craig’s guilty plea isn’t even newsworthy. Kleiman counts the ways in which the story bores him:
1. It illustrates one of the sad consequences of “family values” homophobia. No real news there; we all knew that.
2. It illustrates what seems like a waste of police resources. Yawn.
3. The conduct involved is inconsistent with Craig’s proclaimed stance on sexual issues. Yawn.
4. Craig had earlier denied rumors about his sexual activities, so this makes him a liar. Yawn. He had a perfect right to lie about something that wasn’t the business of anyone outside Craig’s social circle.
Scott Lemieux, a political science professor at Hunter College in New York City who blogs for The American Prospect, isn’t sure we should be even talking about Craig’s behavior. “Indeed, discussing the Craig scandal at all poses a bit of a dilemma,” Lemieux writes at Tapped, the Prospect’s staff blog. “I don’t have much sympathy for him, given his relentlessly anti-gay voting record, but it seems pretty clear to me the arrest of Craig wasn’t justifiable.”
Robert Stein, a former editor of McCall’s and Redbook and a self-described “blogtogenarian” who posts at Connecting.the.Dots, says the indignation by some over Craig’s behavior is evidence of the limits of “our supposedly enlightened age.”
“Craig’s solicitation of sex in a public place is a reminder that anonymous homosexual encounters in ‘tearooms’ are far from a practice of the past,” Stein writes. “Moral outrage seems to be the reaction of choice to this kind of behavior. Sadness might be another.”
Who will be the next attorney general? Matt Cooper, the Washington editor of Portfolio who gained renown during the investigation and trial of Scooter Libby, recommends his attorney in the C.I.A. leak case: Ted Olson, the former solicitor general. Cooper writes at Capital, his Portfolio blog:
Olson is an extraordinarily smart jurist and his conservative politics are a good fit for the administration in which he’s already served as Solicitor General. Being Attorney General would be a fine capstone to his career. I think any aspirations he might have had to be on the Supreme Court are now gone. He turns 67 on September 11, the day, tragically, his wife Barbara was killed six years ago on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Olson is supporting Giuliani this cycle and if the former New York Mayor is elected president, he can keep Olson in the job. Olson is the kind of distinguished attorney who can restore credibility to Main Justice, as the RFK building is known.
If not Olson, Cooper recommends Larry Thompson, the deputy attorney general under John Aschroft. “It would give Bush the chance to appoint the first African-American attorney general,” Cooper writes, later adding, “It’ll cement Bush’s legacy as a racial pathbreaker — See Powell and Rice — and Thompson is well liked.”
As for the floating of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Cooper doesn’t buy it: “I can’t believe in the end they would really pick Chertoff who has the Katrina disaster on his watch.”
The Los Angeles Times editorial page, however, doesn’t think Chertoff would be so bad. Its editorial states:
Chertoff is hardly apolitical. In the 1990s, he was counsel for Senate Republicans in the investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Whitewater real estate deal. He has been an evangelist for the administration’s immigration proposals and the target of valid complaints about the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina. But Chertoff is also a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, and a former judge who once headed the Justice Department’s criminal division. He, or someone with similar credentials, would be the un-Gonzales — which is exactly what the demoralized Justice Department needs.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page puts forward yet another name as its favorite for the nomination:
A better choice would be Laurence Silberman, a Deputy Attorney General during the 1970s when the executive branch was similarly under siege from Capitol Hill. Now on senior status with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Silberman also knows the terror issue, having served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s Review Panel and as co-chair of the Robb-Silberman commission that looked at Iraq intelligence.
As for Chertoff, the Journal editorial says he would be “fine with us,” but the editorial also underscores why wouldn’t be the smartest pick: “[W]e wonder why Mr. Bush would want to fight two confirmation battles or revisit Hurricane Katrina.”