Craig announces plans to resign on Saturday, but by Tuesday senator declares he may stay and fight
It appears to be anybody’s guess what Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho plans next as he continues to wade through the toilet sex scandal in which he has mired himself, his family and the Republican Party.
Just last week, on Saturday, Sept. 1, Craig announ-ced that he “intended” to resign on Sept. 30 from the Senate seat he has held for 17 years, even though he continued to maintain his innocence. In a stunning turnabout three days later, a spokesman for Craig announced the 62-year-old senator might reconsider that plan.
Craig reportedly decided to reconsider resigning after Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania urged him to fight to clear his name rather than to step aside as most Republicans are demanding.
Craig has represented Idaho in Congress for 27 years. Rumors that he was a closeted gay man have followed him throughout his political career, but they exploded in the media after it was learned he had pleaded guilty on Aug. 8 to trying to seduce an undercover police officer in a Minneapolis airport men’s restroom.
Craig, who is an outspoken opponent of LGBT rights, was arrested on June 25. The police report alleged Craig had used hand and foot signals commonly employed by men in restroom stalls to arrange sexual liaisons. He claimed the policeman had misconstrued his actions. But in a tape recording of the senator’s interview with the police officer, Craig claimed he had been entrapped.
The announcement that Craig may reverse course dismayed Republicans, including Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas. “Sen. Craig broke the law and violated the trust of his people,” Schlein said. “He should resign as a way of taking responsibility for his actions.
“His term ends next year, and it is highly doubtful that voters of Idaho would re-elect him. For his state, and for his political party, he should follow through with his resignation.”
Oddly, the limited public sympathy coming Craig’s way seems to be originating in the camps of political enemies. Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said that even though he believes Craig is a hypocrite, he is concerned about the legitimacy of the senator’s arrest.
“It’s hard to feel sorry for an individual who spent decades condemning and legislating against same-sex relationships when he pleaded guilty to searching for a same-sex encounter in a public bathroom,” Garcia said. “But there is a part of me that sees the injustice done to this senator, who was caught trying to solicit but never actually had sex or exposed himself in a public place.”
Garcia noted that Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter admitted to using a call girl service but has suffered no consequences from his colleagues, nor has he been charged with a crime.
“Sen. Craig was forced out because the Republican leadership is concerned about winning next year,” Garcia said, noting that Republican leaders are concerned their constituencies will forgive them for sinning, but not for being hypocrites.
“And in the end, that’s all they are hypocrites,” Garcia said.
Craig is married, and he has three grown stepchildren whom he adopted and raised after marrying his wife. His wife has stood beside him at press conferences and his children have spoken out publicly in support of him.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 7, 2007