Maddocks: Craig’s political fortunes buoyed by revelations of other wrongdoing

Philip Maddocks

Sen. Larry Craig is reconsidering his decision to resign after he discovered that his phone number had appeared in the "'D.C. Madam’s" phone list, his spokesman said Tuesday evening.

"We don’t know how his name ended up there, and frankly we don’t care. Thanks to this revelation, it's not such a foregone conclusion anymore, that the only thing he could do was resign," said Craig's spokesman.

"We're still preparing as if Senator Craig will resign Sept. 30, but the revelation that he may have consorted with prostitutes may prove to be enough to rescue his political career."

Craig, a Republican who has represented Idaho in Congress for 27 years, announced Saturday that he intends to resign from the Senate on Sept. 30. The announcement came after his arrest in a Minnesota airport sex sting became public. But since then, he's hired a prominent lawyer to investigate the possibility that he may be implicated in the "D.C. Madam" scandal, said the spokesman.

He said the senator’s lawyer is also looking into whether the FBI would consider raiding his home and make him the subject of a criminal investigation into bribery.

"We’re certain that Ted Stevens isn’t the only senator out there who should be under investigation by the FBI," said the spokesman, referring to the Republican from Alaska who remains head of a top Senate finance committee even he is the subject of a criminal investigation into bribery. "We’re not certain that Senator Craig is one of those who should be under investigation, but it never hurts to ask."

Once his other crimes were revealed, senior Republicans raced to reassociate themselves with Craig, including presidential hopefuls John McCain and Mitt Romney, whose White House ambitions Craig had supported. "'Frankly, what I said about Larry, earlier, was disgusting," Romney said of the man who had been his friend and colleague at the start of last week, an enemy at the end of it, and a fallable yet trustworthy leader on his team again at the beginning of this week.

"This is the Larry we’ve come to know and love — in a heterosexual, masculine, senatorial way, of course. He’s one of us again. It’s great to have him back," said Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who just last week was calling on Mr. Craig to quit and had called the Senator's conduct "unforgivable."

 The sheer graciousness of the Republican reaction has even led to expressions of disbelief from some unusual sources. Religious conservative Pat Buchanan — hardly a stranger to party fickleness — spoke out in shock.

"Rarely has a United States senator fallen so fast from grace or been so completely abandoned and then so thoroughly embraced," he said.

Former top Republican Tom DeLay also backed Craig and said he was now being fairly hounded. Such sentiments carry a lot of weight since DeLay had  been forced to resign in 2005 amid charges of violating campaign financing laws.

In most scandals, the target tries to ride out the storm. Denials are issued. But Craig’s new admissions are threatening to open a new page on political scandals and how to deal with them.

"Apparently, in the view of the Republican party, there is nothing more serious than a member attempting to engage in gay sex, and nothing more supportable than one who has attempted to engage in any other ungay activity," said a spokeswoman for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

It all came to a beginning again under a clear blue Idaho sky. Senator Larry Craig, who started the week as a party pariah, ended it as a stalwart of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, once again. Standing before the harsh gaze of a dozen TV cameras, the senator denied he had done anything right except not having attempted to solicit sex from a man in a Minneapolis airport toilet.

Craig has steadfastly denied that he is either gay or was seeking sex in the Minneapolis airport. He said that the whole thing was a misunderstanding, claiming he thought he was accepting a bribe from a contractor who would build an addition to the senator’s home in return for some government business. His hand movements, he said, had merely been a result of reaching down to retrieve some toilet paper on which he had written some kickback figures.

Louisiana senator David Vitter, who was caught using prostitutes, was impressed by Craig’s version of events.

"I'm just disappointed in you, sir, for not admitting your guilt in these other offenses sooner. I mean, people vote for you. You’ve got to give them what they want," said Vitter.

On Saturday Mr. Craig bowed to the inevitable, saying: "These are serious times of war and conflict, times that deserve my presence in the Senate and the full nation's attention on my acceptable crimes."

Though he had previously denied any wrongdoing, insisting he had mistakenly pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charges, he did apologize on Saturday "to my wife and my family, for not apologizing earlier for those other wrong things I had done."

The senator then excused himself for a "bathroom break."

- Natick (Mass.) Bulletin and TAB