Mr. Craig Stays

Sunday, October 7, 2007

THE SORDID saga of Larry Craig in the bathroom stall seems certain to continue, now that the Idaho Republican senator has reversed his decision to resign and said he will serve the remainder of his term. Mr. Craig's zigzags have only added to the circus atmosphere: First he said he'd quit; then he said he'd remain if his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea succeeded; then -- after a judge, as expected, rejected that move -- he said he was staying put anyway. We suspect that many, if not most, of Mr. Craig's constituents would have preferred that he had stuck with Plan A. Certainly, his Republican Senate colleagues, who have enough trouble without having to endure bathroom jokes, are none too pleased.

All that said, this was Mr. Craig's call and he is entitled to make it. For the same reasons that we had qualms about the basis for his prosecution, we think demands that he leave or be ousted from the Senate are overblown and unwarranted. Mr. Craig's behavior in a Minneapolis airport restroom was almost certainly the prelude to something criminal -- not homosexual conduct but sex in a public place -- but we are sympathetic to his argument that the ballet of toe-tapping did not rise to the level of criminal disorderly conduct.

The Senate ethics committee will now have to deal with the case and consider whether it warrants disciplinary action and, if so, of what magnitude. This is bound to be an uncomfortable process. The phone number of one of Mr. Craig's colleagues, Louisiana Republican David Vitter, recently turned up in the records of a woman accused of running a prostitution ring. Mr. Vitter wasn't charged, but he acknowledged committing a "very serious sin." Does the ethics committee really intend to scrutinize Mr. Craig's case while ignoring that of Mr. Vitter?

Mr. Craig's lawyer, Stanley Brand, notes that the ethics panel has never taken up a case involving a misdemeanor, much less one that has nothing to do with a lawmaker's official duties. The ethics committee should think more than twice before getting involved in an investigation of Mr. Craig's unseemly escapades.

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