THIS CAN’T BETHE MIKE CRAPOWE HAVE KNOWN
Our take: Sen. Crapo should be judged according to how he handles himself from here. In the meantime, he has many questions to answer and much explaining to do to his 1.6 million Idaho constituents.
Sunday morning found U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo in the last place you’d expect, engaged in behavior you’d never believe.
As a state senator, congressman and U.S. senator, Crapo was Idaho’s political Boy Scout, with a reputation so impeccably wholesome, he was practically a nerd.
Yet here he was at 12:45 a.m. in Alexandria, Va., some distance from his Washington, D.C., residence, getting booked for drunken driving.
Police said Crapo ran a red light, failed a field sobriety test and registered a 0.11 percent blood alcohol content. The legal limit is 0.08. After a few hours in the Alexandria jail, Crapo was released on an unsecured $1,000 bond. He’s due in court on Jan. 4.
So once again, a prominent Idaho politician is dragged into the national spotlight in an unflattering way. Last time, it was Crapo’s former colleague, former Sen. Larry Craig, who pleaded guilty after being arrested in a gay-sex sting at the Minneapolis airport.
But, as the Idaho Statesman noted, Craig’s crime endangered no one. Crapo stands accused of putting himself and others at risk of injury and death.
That’s not to say his predicament doesn’t draw a pang of sympathy, if not collective guilt, from the thousands of others who have overindulged, gotten behind the wheel of a car and then avoided both mayhem and arrest.
Still, we are talking about a 61-year-old man who has been elevated to the nation’s political elite on the basis of his judgment.
Crapo is a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has portrayed himself to his constituents and the country as a teetotaler. Even when he promoted tax cuts for small beer brewers, he promised to toast its success with a root beer.
To find him in an Alexandria jail, more than 30 hours after the Senate’s final vote prior to recessing for Christmas, invites the inevitable line of inquiry: Does Crapo have some sort of a secret life in Washington, D.C.?
How far it deviates from his public persona is now a reasonable cause for speculation. At issue is the core of Idaho’s senior senator and his values.
To his credit, Crapo has been straightforward about the matter. He issued a public apology: “I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter. I will also undertake measures to ensure that this circumstance is never repeated.”
Still, Crapo’s staff hasn’t offered any details into the incident. After a string of minor to serious scandals — from former state Sen. John McGee’s bizarre drunken driving arrest and subsequent sexual harassment charges to former state Tax Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow’s brush with prosecution — it’s no longer enough for Crapo to issue an apology and move on. Idahoans’ faith in their public officials has been betrayed too often.
So it’s imperative for Crapo to come home, meet with his constituents and the media, and then answer the uncomfortable but obvious questions:
Æ What was Crapo doing in Alexandria at that hour of the morning? Who was he with? How much did he drink?
Æ How long has Crapo been consuming alcohol? How much and how often does he drink? Does it affect his work?
Æ How does he square that behavior with claims that he abstains? And if he lied about drinking, is there anything else he’s not telling us?
Æ Do his family and associates know about the drinking?
As disappointing as this episode is, it is not a career-killing offense. If the facts are as Crapo’s statement suggests, there’s every reason to expect the Idaho Republican could continue his exemplary Senate service.
Provided, of course, he gets ahead of the story now and gives a complete, transparent account to the people who for the better part of 30 years thought they knew him.