By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 18, 2007 10:37 AM
My reactions to Larry Craig sitting down with Matt Lauer:
What is Senator Wide Stance doing giving an interview?
Does he think repeating yet again that he didn't mean to stick his hand under the bathroom stall divider is going to help his public image?
Why is he subjecting his wife to this?
Didn't Craig tell the world he was resigning? Is this a new strategy when you're under fire: Announce you're quitting, wait till the furor dies down, say never mind and hope everyone is too bored with the story to care that you're still there?
How badly do Hill Republicans want him to go away?
How uncomfortable was Lauer, having to plumb the details of men's room hand signals?
"These are very difficult questions to have to ask," he told Meredith Vieira. "It's an embarrassing subject, even to ask the questions."
Seems to me the "Today" co-host asked the questions that needed to be asked: Was Craig aware of the Minneapolis bathroom's reputation? Why didn't he tell his wife about the arrest? Doesn't he know that few people believe him? Is there anything terrible about being gay?
Philly Inquirer blogger Dick Polman can hardly believe the Idaho Republican is hanging around:
"Is Larry Craig secretly working for the Democrats, or what? The GOP's albatross surfaced yet again last night (on Matt Lauer's NBC show), and again this morning (on the Today show), defending his john habits, pleading convenient memory lapses, and wallowing in lame denials.
"At least Mark Foley was wise enough, last year, to quit his House seat and disappear. This guy, by sticking around and keeping himself in the news cycle, threatens anew to damage the battered Republican brand during the runup to '08. 'Matt, I use bathrooms for bathroom's sake . . . False rumor and innuendo . . . I go to the bathroom to use the bathroom for bathroom's sake . . . The facts have just got covered up . . . It didn't happen . . . I don't recall that . . . I don't agree with the (gay) lifestyle. And I've said so by my votes over the years . . .' One hour of this.
"But my favorite part was when Lauer asked whether his fellow senators were shunning him. Lauer asked, 'They're not parking in your parking spot?' Craig: 'They better not.' What better metaphor can there be, for an entrenched Washington politician who has pled guilty, has refused to accept the ruling of a state judge, and has compromised his party's purported 'family values?' What better boost to GOP morale can there be than to have a tainted Republican incumbent fighting in defense of his parking spot?"
Tom Shales didn't think much of the interviewer:
"For Lauer, self-important co-host of NBC's 'Today' show, the interview was obviously seen as a potential career- and credibility-builder, but even when he did ask an arguably tough question, he essentially apologized for it. He prefaced a question about whether the senator might be bisexual by saying to Craig, 'You're going to have to forgive me for this.'
"What? This is a journalist practicing journalism? Lauer's like a virgin veteran, an old hand who seems inexperienced. Diane Sawyer, to name one example, would have done a much better interview. Anyone on '60 Minutes,' Wallace or another member of the vaunted team, would have done a better one. Lauer's former 'Today' co-host, the much-maligned Katie Couric, also would likely have done a more effective job."
But HuffPost's Rachel Sklar rides to Matt's defense:
"Now I get what Lauer meant, how it must have felt to quiz Craig on the litany -- the long, long litany -- of gay-themed allegations (cruising, pickups, trysts) from throughout his political career and even from before, all while his wife was sitting there. Lauer did a good and deft job on this, and the Craigs candidly addressed it all head on, but the end result was the feeling of 'no smoke without fire' and wow was there a lot of smoke. Not that there's anything wrong with that! The saddest part is how, if it's true (and if they're just rumors, well, there sure are a lot of them, from a lot of different sources), this guy has felt the overwhelming need to hide it and rail against it for his whole life . . .
"To my mind, that was precisely the right approach: Sympathetic, respectful, but persistent, putting each episode to Craig for his response, which created an overall effect of so many dominoes leading to that inevitable and sad moment in that airport bathroom. What Shales doesn't get is that Craig's had MONTHS of hard-hitting and confrontational -- the cable shows, the late-night punchlines -- the last thing that would have drawn him out would have been an antagonistic interviewer. When Lauer cited 'cruising' and followed it with 'whatever that means,' Suzanne Craig laughed -- breaking the tension of an uncomfortable moment and keeping it as comfortable, really, as it was ever gonna be. This interview didn't need to be hard-hitting; as I mention above, just the litany of episodes and innuendos, presented to Craig again and again, had a far more quietly damning effect."
Andrew Sullivan says Craig is both a victim and, with an anti-gay voting record, a victimizer:
"It was excruciating. Beyond embarrassing. Extraordinarily painful -- especially for his wife. Why on earth they decided to subject themselves to prolonging this agony is a question worth asking. And the answer, I think, is: they have to. At this point in their lives, to allow the possibility that Craig is indeed homosexual, that he has sustained, lived, internalized a fundamental lie for his entire life, and involved his wife and children in that lie, would be to destroy themselves. I am not going to exonerate the man from hypocrisy because it is impossible."
This just in: The president is still relevant.
"A year after he pledged to find 'common ground' with the Democrats who now control Congress," the NYT reports, "President Bush on Wednesday delivered a scathing assessment of their performance, accusing lawmakers of dragging their feet on legislation ranging from trade deals and domestic surveillance to federal spending and children's health. . . .
"At one point, the president complained bitterly that Democrats had failed to negotiate with him over the health bill, a different version of which had been advanced by the administration in its budget. 'We weren't dialed in,' he said, adding that he was using his veto pen because 'that's one way to ensure that I am relevant.'
"The remark echoed one by Mr. Bush's immediate predecessor, Bill Clinton, who proclaimed after Republicans took control of the House in 1995 that 'the president is still relevant here.' "
That was the first thing that came to my mind, too.
As for those domestic battles, 81 percent in a new CBS poll say they're in favor of expanding the SCHIP program for children. Bush, you'll recall, just vetoed a $35-billion expansion.
Have you noticed the spate of articles about how Barack Obama just isn't cutting it, most recently this one in The Washington Post? Joe Klein calls the story, "about Obama's difficulty selling bipartisanship to the Democratic Party's base . . . flawed because bipartisanship can't be a blanket strategy. There are issues where Democrats and Republicans have differences. It's entirely appropriate for Democratic voters in Iowa to be ticked off about Bush's SCHIP veto--an act of purposeful, incendiary partisanship--and it would be appropriate for Obama to express some anger about it . . .
"The fact that the two leading Democratic candidates, Obama and Clinton, are essentially running moderate campaigns--and that John Edwards' populism hasn't exactly caught fire--is an indication that the Democratic base isn't nearly as partisan as the Post seems to think it is.
"In any case, I'm not so sure that the Obama campaign's stasis has been a consequence of his bipartisan pitch--it's more a result of his inability to find an issue that he owns, an issue where he has taken a substantially different position from Clinton. It's also about his cool, cool style: a certain amount of inspired ranting about the Bush debacle would certainly be justified (and might find eager auditors among independent voters)."
A very different take from the New Republic's Noam Scheiber (who's now blogging the campaign, along with the rest of the world):
"On some level, I'm not sure how credible Obama's promise to change (in this case 'challenge') our politics is. I personally believe in him--there are times when I hear him speak and think he could do pretty much anything. But when I consult his biography the way an ordinary voter might, I don't see any evidence to suggest he's capable of changing politics in some fundamental way.
"Yes, he reached across the aisle to pass some bills in Illinois. And he did work as a community organizer in Chicago. But there are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of people who could boast those achievements. Other than that, what is there?
"It would be one thing if like, say, John Kerry, Obama had helped lead a movement to end a war. Or if, like Rudy Giuliani, he had some non-traditional, non-Washington experience that was nonetheless pretty extraordinary. (You can quibble about how much credit Giuliani deserves for reviving New York City, but it still sounds pretty impressive.) But if there's nothing that immediately jumps off your resume like that, I'm not sure you can persuade voters it's suddenly going to happen when you get to Washington. Maybe Obama means to suggest that running his campaign is itself experience leading a movement, but I think that's a little too clever.
"There's something ironic about all of this: One impetus behind Obama's changing politics theme is to compensate for his perceived lack of experience relative to Hillary Clinton . . . But you arguably need more, not less, experience if you want to change politics, albeit a different kind of experience. And it's not obvious from Obama's resume that he has that experience either."
I've never heard John McCain talk about religion on the trail, but he does so with the Christian Science Monitor:
"John McCain does not believe in destiny. God, he says, gives us life, shows us how to use it, and leaves it to us to carry out as we choose.
"In other words, the senior senator from Arizona does not believe that in surviving the ordeal of 5-1/2 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, including torture and extended periods of isolation, he has somehow been tapped by God to become the next president of the United States.
"But Senator McCain, now in the thick of his second run for the Republican presidential nomination, does believe that he is still alive for a purpose. 'There is no logical reason for me to be on earth, if you look at my life, so I should spend this time trying to serve a cause greater than myself,' says McCain in a Monitor interview."
He doesn't particularly like to bring up his POW experience either, but he's earned the right to do so if he wants.
Interesting tidbit from Valerie Plame's forthcoming book:
"After reading a Washington Post editorial criticizing her husband, Plame writes that she 'suddenly understood what it must have felt like to live in the Soviet Union and have only the state propaganda entity, Pravda, as the source of news about the world.' "
Here's a story that got wayyy out ahead of the facts. Bull Dog Pundit picked up the initial report:
"Randi Rhodes, host of her own talk show on Air America was viciously attacked by a mugger while walking her dog outside of her Manhattan apartment. Jon Elliot, late night host of another Air America program, said the following when reporting the incident.
"Pointing out that Rhodes was wearing a jogging suit and displayed no purse or jewelry, Elliott speculated that 'this does not appear to me to be a standard grab the money and run mugging.'
" 'Is this an attempt by the right wing hate machine to silence one of our own,' he asked. 'Are we threatening them. Are they afraid that we're winning. Are they trying to silence intimidate us.'
"What kind of lunatic is this guy? How in the hell does he take what appears to be a random mugging and turn it into some vast right wing conspiracy. Geez, dude - paranoid much?"
That question takes on even more resonance from what happened hours later, as blogger Ben Greenman reports:
"Then the story got even stranger when it turned out that Rhodes was never beaten or mugged, not by the right-wing hate machine or anyone else. Evidently, she fell while walking her dog and was hurt. Elliott has apologized for his irresponsible speculation, saying that he was simply upset to hear about a friend's bad luck. No matter how this turns out -- maybe Rhodes got tangled in the leash and fell, maybe she was drinking, maybe she has the beginnings of a bad flu, maybe she slipped on a banana peel left in the street by Glenn Beck -- the way it has played out underscores one of the problems with political rhetoric in the country, and one of the many dangers of irresponsible polarization, whether it comes from the right or the left."
The story got mugged by reality.
Oh, and remember the O.J. story? How he just wanted his souvenirs back?
"O.J. Simpson wanted armed men with him when he confronted two sports memorabilia dealers, according to a co-defendant who has agreed to a plea deal agreed to testify for the prosecution in the armed robbery case.
" 'O.J. said 'Hey, just bring some firearms,' ' Walter Alexander told police in a transcript of his tape-recorded statement obtained by The Associated Press."
The Juice, being less than truthful about a criminal case?