The Note: GOP Disarray


Let us pause to consider the (wide) stance the GOP finds itself in 14 months before Election Day:

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, wins his own stall in the rogue's gallery that is the Republican caucus in the 110th Congress. He can share notes with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and swap wacky law-enforcement tales with senior colleagues such as Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

In the House, weary veterans are simply retiring. Over in the executive branch, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been hounded out the door, following Karl Rove on a long road back to Texas that won't free either of them from legal scrutiny.

And the 2008 field is a bunch of men in search of fresh starts, from Sen. John McCain (who does Leno tonight and wants his 72nd year -- which starts tomorrow -- to be happier than his 71st) to former senator Fred Thompson (next time, have enough staff consistency so the same person can deny all the rumors of internal turmoil) to former mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former governor Mitt Romney (who would love to selectively edit their governing records to get a dispirited base to trust them).

Late in the summer after Republicans lost control of Congress, the scandals have metastasized, the "culture of corruption" has spread, the Iraq war continues, and the GOP turns its lonely eyes to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- the party's best chance at unity. It's just enough of an opportunity for Democrats to squander -- and they have the congressional approval ratings to make that a real possibility still.

The Craig revelation, broken yesterday afternoon by Roll Call, pushed Gonzales (mostly) out of mind after barely eight hours of a single news cycle. The actions that earned Craig the disorderly conduct charge -- stemming from an incident in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport -- have enough details to ensure that a once-obscure senator will be memorable (at least until he faces the voters again next fall).

No reason to tap our legs and go through the particulars of the "he said/he said." Craig pleaded guilty, though he now says that was a mistake (watch that "stance," senator). And this, per Roll Call's John McArdle: "At one point during the interview, Craig handed the plainclothes sergeant who arrested him a business card that identified him as a U.S. Senator and said, 'What do you think about that?' the report states." Oh, the possibilities . . .

Craig in May "told the Idaho Statesman he had never engaged in homosexual acts," the Statesman's Dan Popkey reports. In a lengthy report that reveals far more than you ever wanted to know about Craig's sex life, the newspaper reports that a reporter interviewed a "professional man with close ties to Republican officials" who said he had oral sex with Craig in Union Station. Craig said in May, "I don't do that kind of thing. I am not gay, and I never have been."

Craig last night resigned his post as "co-Senate liaison" to the campaign of Romney, R-Mass. Politico's Jonathan Martin noticed that a video where Craig declared his support for Romney was suddenly removed from YouTube's public realm. (It's not the only YouTube video that the Romney campaign would like labeled "private.")

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