The Note: Craig’s ‘Cloud’


Collecting the reasons that Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, didn't do it:

1. "Wide stance."

2. "He said/he said."

3. Roaming toilet paper.

4. He's a commuter.(?)

5. "Witch hunt."

6. "Jiminy!"

7. "I am not gay. I never have been gay."

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8. "I am not gay. I love my wife."

Craig also, apparently, loves political reporters. (Imagine what the next 36 hours will bring. And is he holding out the possibility of becoming gay in the future?) From the moment he thanked reporters for "coming out today" to his press conference, his surreal public appearance in Boise yesterday afternoon displayed all you need to know about why Craig has approximately zero friends left in political circles -- and why the GOP is praying that he steps down, or at the very least steps aside before facing reelection next year.

How's this for loyalty? Craig's chosen presidential candidate, former governor Mitt Romney, slapped him down even before Craig even appeared in public, comparing him to former Rep. Mark Foley and -- maybe worse for a Republican -- Bill Clinton. Craig's Senate Republican colleagues preempted his press conference by calling for an ethics investigation. And the right-wing blogosphere is afire with a near-singular call: resign.

Even Foley, R-Fla., didn't get this kind of treatment this fast -- maybe the GOP has learned some lessons after all. But this is a body blow to a party that could hardly afford another setback. "It was a bizarre spectacle, and only the latest in a string of accusations of sexual foibles and financial misdeeds that have landed Republicans in the political equivalent of purgatory, the realm of late-night comic television," writes Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times. "We are approaching a level of ridiculousness," said GOP strategist Scott Reed. "You can't make this stuff up."

"Larry Craig is going to fight for his job -- a classic Craig response to adversity -- but the fight may be uphill," writes the Idaho Statesman's Rocky Barber. "Already, some powerful friends are raising public questions about the veteran Idaho U.S. senator's conduct, casting doubt on his future in politics."

Few were quicker to condemn Craig than Romney, R-Mass., who welcomed the Idaho senator as "co-Senate liaison" for his campaign before cutting him loose within hours of the criminal plea being made public. "Frankly, it's disgusting," Romney said on CNBC. "I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton."

Campaigns love the upside of endorsements, but they're seldom prepared when bad news comes. Craig's arrest "is one more reminder of the potential downsides for candidates: guilt by association, questions about judgment in the friends they pick, and several news cycles of bad publicity," writes The Boston Globe's Brian Mooney. "To avoid lasting damage, campaigns try to move quickly to limit the fallout" -- which is why, of course, Romney isn't waiting for this to play out any further.

If there's a benefit for the GOP, the "cloud over Idaho" Craig talked about yesterday is overshadowing the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush visit the Gulf Coast today, after the parade of Democrats who blasted the Bush administration's response to the disaster have cleared out of town.

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