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A Senator's Wide Stance: 'I Am Not Gay'

Sen. Larry Craig, his wife at his side, tells a media mob how gay he's not. (By Joe Jaszewski -- Idaho Statesman Via Associated Press)

Heckling the disgraced lawmaker at that moment seemed over the top, but the question was a reasonable one. Craig didn't get into trouble for being gay; he got into trouble because he "engaged in conduct which I knew or should have known tended to arouse alarm or resentment."

Though he has been writing laws for the past 32 years, the senator spoke yesterday as if he lacked the most basic grasp of the legal system.

"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 hopes of making it go away," he said, blaming this on his failure to hire a lawyer. "I have now retained counsel, and I am asking counsel to review this matter and to advise me on how to proceed."

The retained counsel will have a difficult job, given the two statements that appear on the guilty plea right above the signature of one Larry Edwin Craig: "I understand that the court will not accept a plea of guilty from anyone who claims to be innocent," and "I now make no claim that I am innocent of the charge to which I am entering a plea of guilty."

Who is to blame for this fundamental misunderstanding by the veteran lawmaker? Of course: the media. In particular, the Idaho Statesman, whose article published Monday night quoted a man with close ties to Republican officials as saying he had a sexual encounter with the senator in the men's room in Union Station.

"My family and I had been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman," Craig complained. He was so mad about it, in fact, that the word "viciously" at first came out has "vicially."

The senator wore a casual, short-sleeve shirt tucked into a pair of khakis -- presenting a softer image than the mug shot that had been on television all day showing a severe Craig in business attire with an American-flag pin on his lapel. But no fashion adjustment would overcome what the senator acknowledged was "an issue that is not yet over."

That's a safe bet, considering that his Senate colleagues offered no support as they sent the matter to the ethics committee, and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on CNBC, dismissed the man who had until Monday been his Idaho chairman as "disgusting" and beneath "the level of respect and dignity that we would expect."

Twice in his statement, Craig, speaking beneath sunny skies, apologized for the "cloud over Idaho" caused by his arrest. Actually, the cloud is over Craig, not his home state.

But it's easy to see how Craig might overestimate the size of his shadow: He has a wide stance.


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