Idaho constituents have learned a few things about Sen. Mike Crapo over the past couple of days. He has shown three things: That he is human, that he can make a mistake and that lemonade is not the strongest drink in his glass. At the moment, he also has something more on his mind than the fiscal cliff.
What happened to Mike Crapo in the early morning of Dec. 23 can happen to a lot of people, especially during the holiday season. He attended a social gathering in Alexandria, Va., had a few drinks and drove home. Maybe he didn’t realize he had too much to drink when he left the social event.
But running a red light got the attention of the police, and failing the sobriety tests clearly showed that Crapo had no business driving. He spent a few hours in jail to go along with his personal shame, but it could have been worse.
Some of us here have known Crapo since his days as an up-and-coming state senator from Idaho Falls in the 1980s. We followed his rise to Senate president pro-tem, and his 20-year congressional career. He has maintained a reputation of integrity and decency, which doesn’t always happen after so many years in high political office.
One mistake does not erase an otherwise honorable career. It’s a good guess that the embarrassment anybody might feel for him is nothing compared with the embarrassment he feels for himself. It’s bad enough that Crapo has to explain himself to his wife and family. It’s worse when he has to explain himself to 1.6 million constituents, many of whom have viewed Crapo as an example of what American politics should be about.
Crapo’s “mistake” was not on the same level as former Sen. Larry Craig’s “mistake” at a Minneapolis airport bathroom in 2007. It was worse. Crapo could have killed himself, or somebody else — which is a lot more serious than toe-tapping in a restroom stall.
But there is a difference in how they handled their mistakes. Craig blamed everybody but himself; Crapo knows the DUI arrest was nobody’s fault but his own, and took responsibility for his actions.
It would be unfair to judge Crapo, or anybody else, on one mistake. But it is totally fair to evaluate him according to where he goes from here and what he does to turn this matter from a negative to a positive.
He could hire a lawyer who would ask for leniency based on his record as a senator and a “good Mormon.” We’d be more impressed if he did not, and instead used his standing as an example of the personal costs associated with such a mistake and to speak up about the dangers of drinking and driving.
There are many questions Idahoans could ask of Crapo — it’s more in character for him to be a designated driver than drunk behind a wheel. We hope he will provide answers before the questions come in.
In the meantime, we can learn something from Crapo’s experience as New Year’s Eve and more holiday parties approach. If you plan to drink — even a little — then have a designated driver or call a taxi. Police are watching. Don’t try to outsmart them.
In other words, don’t make the same mistake Crapo made.
“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org.