Larry Craig

Our View: Craig has only himself to blame for political mess

During a brief — and largely defiant — public appearance Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Larry Craig apologized for bringing "a cloud over Idaho."

We're sorry, senator.

This cloud does not belong to the people who have elected you for the past 27 years. It's all yours.

It stems from your mistakes.

Now, in contemplating Tuesday's apology, Idahoans must also gauge the enormity of their senior senator's misjudgments.

Craig was arrested in a public restroom in a Minnesota airport, widely reputed as a hangout for men seeking anonymous sexual encounters. According to an undercover police officer, Craig made sexual advances toward him.

Nearly two months later, he entered a guilty plea, albeit to a lesser charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

And for 11 weeks, Craig failed to mention the arrest to his family, his friends, his staff or his constituents.

Craig shed little new light Tuesday on his arrest and guilty plea; he did not provide Idahoans with the full account they deserve. Instead, a business-as-usual Craig indicated he planned to serve out his term. He said he would not deviate from his plan to announce, sometime next month, his plans on seeking re-election.

Idahoans have a lot to think about while waiting to hear what Craig says next. Including his rhetoric and record on social and gay-rights issues:

Three weeks later, when two counts of impeachment fell shy of the needed two-thirds majority, Craig said, ‘‘My state doesn't support Bill Clinton on many of his policies, and they have rejected his personal lifestyle choices. ... It was not a difficult vote for me to make.''

Does Craig's arrest and subsequent guilty plea contradict his public comments about infidelity and homosexuality? When Craig tells Idahoans, "I am not gay and never have been," will they buy it?

Craig's political mess is one of his own making. And the least of Craig's problems may be with the gay-rights activists who have taken to the blogosphere to call him a hypocrite. A bigger problem may be with the Idaho social conservatives who have been among the quickest to call for his resignation.

And when politicians try to turn social and sexual issues into fair political game, they invite scrutiny of their behavior. Craig did not establish these rules of political engagement, but he operated under them.

It's all part of your cloud, senator.

"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, e-mail