The return of Larry Craig?

He's lawyered up and he's got Arlen Specter on his side. Pop the popcorn, and pull up a chair.

By Joan Walsh
Published September 5, 2007 5:23PM (UTC)
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It keeps getting more interesting. At the end of the day Tuesday a spokesman for Sen. Larry Craig said wait a minute, not so fast. That resignation announced as news Saturday? Not a done deal. "It's not such a foregone conclusion anymore, that the only thing he could do was resign," Craig spokesman Sidney Smith told the Associated Press, adding that the "outcome of the legal case" will "have an impact on whether we're able to stay in the fight and stay in the Senate."

Suddenly on cable news they're parsing Craig's Saturday "resignation." CNN's Jeffrey Toobin is admitting he didn't notice that Craig merely announced his "intent" to resign that morning. (I didn't either.) Roll Call has printed a transcript of a voice mail Craig left Saturday morning, reportedly for his attorney Billy Martin (but he actually got a wrong number):

"Yes, Billy, this is Larry Craig calling. You can reach me on my cell. Arlen Specter is now willing to come out in my defense, arguing that it appears by all that he knows that I have been railroaded and all that.

"Having all of that, we have reshaped my statement a little bit to say it is my intent to resign on Sept. 30. I think it is important for you to make as bold a statement as you are comfortable with this afternoon, and I would hope you could make it in front of the cameras.

"I think it would help drive the story that I'm willing to fight, that I've got quality people out there fighting in my defense, and that this thing could take a new turn or a new shape, it has that potential. Anyway, give me a buzz or give Mike a buzz on that. We're headed to my press conference now.

"Thank you. Bye."

Indeed, Specter came out over the weekend in Craig's defense, while Martin is telling reporters that "very serious constitutional questions" had been raised by Craig's men's room arrest, and that the senator "has the right to pursue any and all legal remedies available as he begins the process of trying to clear his good name."

No one knows exactly what those remedies are, since Craig pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charges. But you don't hire Martin -- Michael Vick's attorney, who also represented Monica Lewinsky -- and a wider team of legal all-stars and P.R. handlers if you're just going to skulk away to rehab with Rep. Mark Foley, or to gay rehab -- "reparative therapy" -- with the Rev. Ted Haggard, two Republicans whose gay scandals preceded Craig's. Is Craig ready to stand up for gay civil rights and against entrapment? Not likely. Is he fuming that Sen. Mitch McConnell called his situation "unforgivable" and tried to railroad him to resign? (I'd love to see the meeting in the men's room between those two.) Is he angry at the GOP hypocrisy that greeted prostitute-patronizing Rep. David Vitter with applause when he returned to Washington? (And is Specter trying to mess with his enemies in the party's "Club for Growth" right wing by cheering Craig on?)

No one knows yet. Martin's probably telling his client not to talk, but Craig doesn't seem to know how to keep his mouth shut, so we'll likely hear more soon. I'm not going to pretend this isn't fun. A lot of glass houses -- maybe even closets -- could be shattered if Craig starts throwing stones, and it's hard not to think that that could be a good thing for the country.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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