Bell has tolled for Sen. Craig, Otter tells CNN

Governor acknowledges the senator's difficult situation and says Craig will ‘get it worked out.'

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comAugust 31, 2007 

Gov. Butch Otter on Thursday stopped short of calling for Sen. Larry Craig's resignation but said Craig and his family are in for a long and unsettling period if Craig keeps up the fight for his political life.

In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Otter declined to suggest Craig should resign. "Larry's gonna have to work that out himself," Otter said.

But Otter said Craig faces a difficult time as he fends off calls for his resignation from Republican colleagues and prepares for a Senate ethics committee inquiry.

"Nobody likes these kinds of problems, 'cause these kinds of problems ... you just can't get rid of, and you can't get rid of with simple explanations, and it takes a long time," Otter said. "And then you never really unring the bell, and the bell has been rung. And so, as we go forward, I suspect there's gonna have to be additional consideration by Larry and his family on where exactly they're going."

On Tuesday, Craig said he was still considering a run for a fourth term in 2008. Since then, he has declined any comment and is said by his staff to be vacationing with his wife.

But a growing number of Republican members of Congress are calling for Craig to resign now. They include GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and John Ensign of Nevada, who chairs the GOP's Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Bash asked Otter if he was politely suggesting Craig should resign.

Otter replied: "No. I did not say that. Don't put those words in my mouth. What I said was it's a tough spot for Larry, and it's a tough spot for his family, and as this thing drags on, and we already know that there's going to be congressional hearings on it — ethics committee, as is appropriate and proper — that it takes a long, long time for these things to work themselves out."

Otter said he was disappointed with Craig's guilty plea for misdemeanor disorderly conduct in connection with a lewd conduct investigation in a men's room at a Minnesota airport.

"Well, of course," Otter said. "It's unsettling whenever these sort of things happen. But once again, Larry's gonna get it worked out. He's gonna go forward with the decision-making process."

Otter also lamented the loss of clout for Idaho after Craig was forced from his position as the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee and two subcommittees — one that appropriates money for scores of Idaho projects and a second with jurisdiction over federal lands and forests.

"Well, of course, it's problematic, and I'm sure Larry — I'm sure Larry and his family are gonna take those things into consideration as they go forward with their decisions," Otter said.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438

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