"A victim of circumstance"

Having announced his resignation, Larry Craig mounts his defense.


Tim Grieve
September 4, 2007 6:10PM (UTC)

When Larry Craig announced Saturday that he was stepping down from the Senate, he said that he was doing so because to "pursue" his "legal options" would be "an unwanted and unfair distraction of my job and for my Senate colleagues."

Pursue his legal options? So far as we know, Craig doesn't have a whole lot of "legal options" to pursue. With the senator having pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in the Minnesota men's room incident, Craig's legal case is over and done with unless he can somehow show that his plea arose out of some "manifest injustice" -- i.e., that he didn't understand that he had the right to an attorney, a trial, etc., or that he didn't understand the charge against him. If Craig thinks it was embarrassing to be caught playing footsie under a men's room stall, we can't wait to hear how a sitting U.S. senator would explain that he didn't understand that criminal defendants have constitutional rights. And as for not understanding the charge against him? Craig admitted that charge, under oath and in writing, and we're having a hard time seeing how he argues now that he didn't understand it then.

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Memo to Craig: Not understanding that a guilty plea would come back to bite you isn't the same as not understanding the guilty plea in the first place.

So what "legal options" is Craig really pursuing? What he really meant, surely, is that he hoped to avoid the "legal problems" he was going to face if he stayed on in the Senate. The Senate Ethics Committee was ready to launch an investigation into Craig's conduct, and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Ensign was already raising the specter of public hearings. With Craig on his way out the door -- his last day on the job will be Sept. 30 -- it's unlikely that the Ethics Committee will do anything more than fade away on this matter.

Craig? Not so much. As Roll Call reports, the soon-to-be-former senator has hired a "crisis team" to help him "lift the cloud he's been operating under." Billy Martin will handle communications; Stanley Brand will deal with the Ethics Committee, if necessary; and Minneapolis attorney Tom Kelly wil see if there's any way to undo that guilty plea.

In the meantime, Craig has his adopted kids on the case. In an appearance on "Good Morning America," Craig's son Michael said he and his brothers asked Craig "what exactly happened in that bathroom." "We just wanted to talk to him about it because we were shocked by what we were reading in the media," the younger Craig said, adding that he and his brothers were "trying to kind of break down definitions of what words mean." Among the inquiries they made: "The definition of what sex is, maybe it wasn't sexual intercourse, but were there sexual actions? Were there sexual feelings?"

"We wanted to know exactly what had happened, and after speaking to our dad, we know exactly what happened," Michael Craig said. And what was that? The senator, his son said, was "a victim of circumstance ... in the wrong place at the wrong time."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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