Saturday, September 01, 2007

Craig's most honest statement: He's a distraction

When Idaho Sen. Larry Craig announced this morning he will resign his position at the end of September, it was an unfortunate end to a politician who had worked mainly in the best interest of the West and agriculture for the past three terms and been in the public service for 33 years.

“I have little control of what people choose to believe,” Craig told a swarm of media as he was surrounded by his family, Idaho’s head of the GOP, Gov. Otter, and a public crowd of supporters as well as protesters.

Craig added he was resigning “with sadness and deep regret” and he apologized “to the people of our great state” that he wouldn’t be able to complete his whole term representing those who elected him.

For many people, it might not be just what they believe, but how they accept his overall handling of the situation in terms of openness and timeliness with his family, his political party and the public.

The public demands and deserves a lot more from its high-profile elected officials.

Craig’s political career spiraled into turmoil this week when is was disclosed he had pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge in a sex sting done June 11 by police in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport men’s room.

When the police released the audio recording of the arresting officer as he confronted Craig after the incident and accused Craig of attempting to solicit gay sex, many believed Craig’s fate was sealed as an exasperated officer bluntly tells the senator that he believes Craig is lying to him and that it was “disgraceful” and “embarrassing.”

Months later, the situation has grown to be more than just embarrassing. It has become political suicide.

“Clearly my name is important to me and my family is very important also. Having said that, to pursue my legal options as I consider to serve Idaho would be an unwanted distraction,’’ he told the press conference.

“These are serious times. The people of Idaho deserve a senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and his effort to the critical issues of our state and the nation.”

This was perhaps the most honest statement heard by the senator in the last week.

He — and the whole sordid mess — have become a big distraction when the nation should be talking about other problems. It’s been two years since Hurricane Katrina, yet many people are homeless, helpless and hopeless. Each day newspaper headlines carry stories of how many more brave American soldiers and Iraqi citizens have perished in a war where no end seems in sight. People in different parts of the nation are attempting to cope with floods, fires and severe drought. We should also be curious who will be appointed to key roles surrounding the president and offering him advice during the rest of his term.

As for agriculture, it loses one of its strongest representatives on issues such as grazing on public lands, forest fires, AgJOBS, the Farm Bill, and so many more relevant to the West.

The Craig case will not disappear soon. Asked if he still denies these accusations, he told a CNN reporter Saturday morning that his legal department would announce more later Saturday, and that he would continue to be “fighting this like hell,” despite the guilty plea he gave against the disorderly conduct.

Shortly after the press conference, President George W. Bush phoned Sen. Craig. The president said it was a difficult decision but wished Craig well, and said it was the right decision that was made to resign. Right for his Idaho constituents, the Republican party, and his family.

“I apologize for what I have caused. I am deeply sorry,” Craig said in his meeting with the press today.

Apologizing might not be enough, as the West and especially the agricultural community scrambles to figure out the ramifications of what it means to lose an influential politician in Washington.

From the Western perspective, it seems like there was a lot more flushed down the toilet that day.

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