Craig, Hanging On Too Long

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Id) is performing a Kabuki dance around the scandal he’s enmeshed himself in, now saying that he may not resign on September 30 as he announced he intended to only last Saturday. 

Craig’s announcement – as I wrote shortly after it on Saturday – was so carefully parsed in lawyerly terms that it was impossible for anyone to not smell the proverbial rat.  Now, having consulted lawyers and looked at the possibility of reneging on his guilty plea to the Minnesota airport mens’ room incident, Craig is saying he may not resign.

In a press gaggle earlier today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said he’d spoken to Craig this morning. Here’s an excerpt of the transcript of McConnell’s statement:

Now, I heard from Senator Craig this morning.  He called me to give me an update on where he is in order to dispel, as he put it, any confusion that might exist with regard to his intentions.

He said that he is going to try to get the case in Minneapolis dismissed; that if he is unable to have that disposed of prior to September 30th, it is his intention to resign from the Senate as he expressed last Saturday.

If he is able to get the case favorably disposed of in Minneapolis, it would be his intention to come back to the Senate, to deal with the Ethics Committee case that he knows that he will have, and to try to finish his term.

So whatever confusion may have been created the last few days, as of this morning, that is his view about where he is headed.  As you know, the leadership last week, as we’ve already discussed, and as you’ve written, has already referred the matter to the Ethics Committee.   

Craig’s attorneys have written a letter to the Ethics Committee challenging its jurisdiction over the case.  A Senate source told me earlier this afternoon that the Ethics Committee would respond, perhaps today, telling the lawyers that they are wrong and that the Ethics Committee would be going ahead.

One Republican senator I spoke to today was emphatic and unprintable in his response to my question about whether Craig would be allowed to return.  Suffice it to say his response was in the negative.

The Larry Craig matter is a wound that Senate Republicans have to close.  If the bleeding continues into next week, the Senate’s energy and attention – which should be focused entirely on the Iraq war testimony of Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker – will be diverted to the Craig dans macabre. 

With his Senate colleagues and the White House united against him [with the usually confounding exception of Arlen Specter (R-Pa)] Sen. Craig should get the message and make clear his decision to resign and not wait for September 30.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter should help Craig reach this decision, and then announce the date – before September 30 – on which he will announce the name of Craig’s successor.